AP PHOTOS: Wedding festival is boon for Moroccan village

In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, Berber villagers shop for garments at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, a family stops at Isli lake, one of two famous lakes in the region, during the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, a Berber farmer rides his donkey at the annual festival of Imilchil, in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, young men play pool at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season.(AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, a caretaker cleans outside the mausoleum of Sidi Hmad Mghani, a local saint, at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, people make their way through the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, Berber merchants wait for customers at a cattle market during the annual festival of Imilchil, in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, a a bride who marriage was to be legalized during the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, a band plays traditional music to attendees of the annual festival of Imilchil, that takes place in a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for the tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, people have their hair cut at makeshift salons at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, Berber merchants selling utensils wait for customers at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, a mother carries her daughter as she walks to the annual festival of Imilchil, a village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, a couple wait to legalize their marriage during the annual festival of Imilchil, in a small village in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. Dozens of couples from places too small to have government offices gather every year to have their marriages legalized, while other young people hope to find partners. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, colorful rugs are put on display for sale at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, onion sellers wait for customers at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in the Morocco's Atlas mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, a man seeks a blessing at the mausoleum of Sidi Hmad Mghani, a local saint, at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, merchants negotiate near a stall for clothes, at the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, the sun sets over the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photo, a family prepares their truck before leaving the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 photo, a family drives home after buying good from the annual festival of Imilchil, a small village in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains. Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season.. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

IMILCHIL, Morocco — What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village tucked into in the foothills of Morocco's Atlas Mountains.

In recent years, the village has become an attraction for tourists, both foreign and Moroccan, drawn in by local folklore.

According to legend, a man and woman from different tribes fell in love, but were forbidden from marrying. Out of grief, they cried themselves to death, creating the nearby lakes of Tislit and Isli, meaning bride and groom.

Poor conditions and harsh geography have led many residents to seek employment in bigger towns, but the annual festival and the tradition surrounding it helps keep the village of 2,000 going. Dozens of couples from places too small to have government offices gather every year to have their marriages legalized, while other young people hope to find partners. It's a 10-hour, mountainous drive 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Rabat, Morocco's capital.

Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. For the local tribe of Ait Hadidou, this market is the main event, overshadowing the marriage ceremonies as it helps to sustain the small region for the next year.

It is also a chance to commemorate the local holy figure, Sidi Hmad Mghani, who is believed to bring blessings to political agreements between tribes and to the business transactions made in the large market.

The market, which spreads across a large valley a few kilometers outside Imilchil, provides an opportunity for farmers to sell their cattle, but also for now-settled nomadic groups to sell textiles and agricultural goods.

For most merchants of nearby towns, it's the busiest season of the year. For families, it provides an opportunity to stockpile food and provisions for the months ahead, as the mountain roads become become impassable during the snowy winter months.

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