Summer roadmap: follow our guide to the best festivals of 2018

From Roman amphitheatres to the midnight sun, we take a look at music events worth travelling to

Resized-Unite with Tomorrowland Dubai at Festival City Arena. Courtesy of  Tomorrowland Dubai *** Local Caption ***  al22ma-crowns-p4.jpg
Powered by automated translation

While the summer months mean the cooling down of the UAE music season, in Europe and across the region it is about to heat up. From June to August, some of the biggest and most interesting music gatherings will take place, ranging from big rock and Arab music festivals to boutique jazz and hip-hop events in idyllic locations. As the UAE is one of the world’s busiest aviation hubs, no city is too far away if you do some forward planning. So, without further ado, here are 10 great festivals to consider for your next trip away.


May 30 (Wednesday) to June 3: Primavera Sound

Where: Barcelona, Spain

Headliners: Arctic Monkeys, The National, Bjork, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Why go? This is arguably Europe's best big rock festival after the UK's Glastonbury, but with better weather. For four days, the coastal Catalan city will host some of the biggest and most influential names in rock, with performance sets stretching to almost dawn. An important note, however, is that unlike other festivals of its kind, Primavera Sound is held in the city and there are no camping options, so if you are planning to go you had better snap up a hotel room quick.

How do I get there? Flight time is seven hours and 10 minutes. For details go to


July 5 to 7: Pohoda Festival

Where: Trencin, Slovakia

Headliners: The Chemical Brothers, St Vincent, Ziggy Marley and Yasmine Hamdan

Why go? A relatively big event that not many people have actually heard of, Pohoda is Slovakia's largest open air festival and is held at Trencin Airport. As well as the chance to discover one of Europe's hidden tourist gems, the festival boasts a strong line-up of artists spanning different genres and regions. From dance and rock to reggae and Arabic indie-rock, Pohoda Festival has got it covered.

How do I get there? Flight time is six hours and 15 minutes and then it's an hour and 15-minute drive to Trencin. For more information, go to


July 13 to August 15: International Festival of Carthage

Where: Carthage, Tunis

Headliners: Kadim Al Sahir and Majida El Roumi, with a full announcement soon

Why go? It is one of the region's classiest events, and is held at the ancient Phoenician city that has ruins dating back to the 8th century. The festival is spread over a month and is held at an outdoor Roman amphitheatre. While the only artists announced at this stage are the Iraqi crooner Kadim Al Sahir and the Lebanese soprano Majida El Roumi, the festival will soon reveal its full line-up of regional and international acts. It also occasionally invites western pop acts. Soul singer Lauryn Hill, reggae star Shaggy and rock group OneRepublic have all performed at the event in recent years.

How do I get there? Flight time is just over six hours. For ticketing details go to


July 19 to August 8: Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts

Where: Jerash, Jordan

Headiners: Ahlam (above), Assi El Helani, Yara

Why go? This Arabic music festival has a sense of history in more ways than one. Now in its 33rd year, the event remains Jordan's biggest cultural drawcard, with performances held at the ancient city of Jerash, with its breathtaking mix of Greco-Roman architecture and old oriental glamour. The concerts, most of which are outdoors, are performed on stages surrounded by ancient ruins, thus guaranteeing a feast for the eyes as well as ears.

How do I get there? Flight time is three hours and five minutes, with a further hour's drive from Amman Airport to Jerash. For ticketing details go to


June 21 to June 24: Secret Solstice

Where: Reykjavik, Iceland

Headliners: Slayer, Bonnie Tyler, Stormzy, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Why go? If that eclectic list of performers didn't spark your interest, then watching them in a beautiful city where the sun never sets during summer should seal the deal. Under the almost-24-hour daylight of Iceland's sun, this colourful bunch of acts will provide a suitably kooky atmosphere.

How do I get there? Flight time is 10 hours and 20 minutes. For more details go to


June 22 to June 30: Mawazine Festival

Where: Rabat, Morocco

Headliners: Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, French Montana and Saber Rebai

Why go? It is one of the world's biggest music festivals, with up to five eclectic concerts held simultaneously each night across the Moroccan capital. With stages dedicated to pop, world, African and Arabic music, Mawazine is a great place to discover new sounds, and Rabat is also worth exploring.

How do I get there? Flight time is eight hours and 20 minutes. For details go to


July 20 to 22 and 27 to 29: Tomorrowland

Where: Boom, Belgium

Headliners: Martin Garrix (above), Armin van Buuren, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Hardwell

Why go? The granddaddy of dance music festivals, Tomorrowland boasts more than 100 acts spread across up to 10 stages, each dedicated to dance sub-genres. This is the event to go to in order to hear all of your favourite DJs play in a mammoth festival setting with more pyrotechnics than a Kiss concert. UAE clubbers who can't attend can watch sets from the event, which will be beamed live at the spin-off Unite with Tomorrowland dance festival at du Forum on Saturday July 28.

How do I get there? Flight time is seven hours and 25 minutes, followed by a one-hour drive. For details go to


July 10 to 12: Fresh Island

Where: Novalja, Croatia

Headliners: Wiz Khalifa (above), PartyNextDoor, Vince Staples and J Hus

Why go? It is one of the best hip-hop oriented festivals outside the United States. Fans of the more commercial side of the genre can see stars perform in a pristine beachside setting. With the festival held mid-week, there are also lots of official pre- and post-festival parties to guarantee you a full week of fun and beats.

How do I get there? Flight time is six hours and five minutes, then it's a three hour drive to Novalja. For details go to


June 14 to 19: Cappadox

Where: Cappadocia, Turkey

Headliners: Mulatu Astatke, Yazz Ahmed Quartet and Nicola Cruz

Why go? Keep your eyes and ears on this festival. Running for its fourth year, the event is growing from strength to strength. Set in the amazing rocky surroundings of Cappadocia, Cappadox is an arts festival that also boasts a strong contemporary culinary stream. But it positively shines on the music front with an expansive selection of jazz acts, led this year by the legendary Ethiopian composer Mulatu Astatke, the father of the Ethio-Jazz movement.

How do I get there? A flight to Istanbul takes four hours and 55 minutes. Once arriving in Istanbul you catch a domestic one hour, 25 minute flight to Kayseri Airport. For details go to


August 15 to 19: Waking Life

Where: Crato, Portugal

Headliners: DVS1, Andy Stott, Inga Mauer and Anthony Linel

Why go? When reading about this event, you will be wondering whether you are going to a music festival or a health retreat, but that's pretty much the aim of this boutique festival held in the small town of Crato. More than a dozen DJs, spanning the range of techno, will perform in an intimate stage beside the lake. If the music is not your thing, then you can wander around the site and watch dance performances and check out some of the cool art installations.

How do I get there? Flight time is eight hours and 10 minutes followed by a two-hour and 20 minute drive to Crato. For details go to


Read more:

Give it a listen: 10 bold and unlikely musical collaborations

The best albums to look forward to in 2018

Why Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer win means so much