Friendship Fest 2006 drew overwhelming numbers of some 220,000 Moroccans, more than double the crowd turnout from last year's milestone event. The weekend festival that brought American Christian and Moroccan music artists on to one stage was hailed as a "testament to religious tolerance and mutual respect among people of vastly different cultures."
Held in Marrakech, Morocco, Friendship Fest followed its first successful event in May 2005 with another lineup of award-winning top Christian artists who took center stage with Moroccan musicians. Returning to the ancient city at the second invitation of the regional president, Abdelali Doumou, festival organizers from America were met with a hospitable welcome.
"We were simply overwhelmed by the warmth of the reception we received from the Moroccan people," said Tim Landis, co-founder of America's Creation Festivals, Inc., in a released statement. "Each of the artists performing at the event had stories of new relationships that were developed as a result of Friendship Fest. Those in attendance truly encouraged us with their heartfelt and enthusiastic support."
The already widely-publicized cultural exchange had been preceded by advance promotional exposure on the public streets of the Arab city. The festival opened on Friday with 30,000 and jumped to huge turnout of over 100,000 the second night which featured Christian songs sung entirely in Arabic by The Crabb Family. Moroccan attendants echoed back "May God's Peace Be With You" as they followed the Dove-award winning family in song.
"This was one of the most incredible evenings of my life," said Adam Crabb.
Joy Williams made a second visit to the predominantly Muslim city, commenting on the warm hospitality of the indigenous people. "It was truly a gift to be embraced again so warmly by the people of Marrakech. They have truly touched my heart in a way that I will never forget," she said.
Although the Christian artists mainly performed in English, Harry Thomas, co-founder of the Creation Festivals, described an enthusiastic and responsive crowd that jumped and sang along.
"The only thing that was translated were the introductions of the performers," said Thomas, according to a released statement. "The universal language of music translated itself."
Doumou commented, "Over the past three days, we have seen music unite our people and cultures in a way that is both gratifying and encouraging for future cultural and economic exchanges. From the size of the crowds, and their positive reaction, it was obvious to me that our people were very grateful to receive this gift of beautiful music.
"The goals of Friendship Fest were most definitely achieved. We strengthened our relations with our American brothers and sisters and set the stage for ongoing discussions and future cultural exchanges between our countries. We truly believe that this event represents an historic opportunity for Americans and Moroccans to celebrate together, through music, in friendship and peace."
Bob Thompson, volunteer press coordinator for the Friendship Fest and festival director for Atlanta Fest, expressed his hopes for a third invitation to continue the celebration of community and friendship.