One day in Jemaa El Fna
The Jemaa El Fna square is the symbol of Marrakech since it was founded in the 11th century and it is a nerve center with more life than any other place. It has an immense multicultural space showing to the world the Moroccan culture and tradition. The popular traditions are exposed through the music and different artistic expressions there. In fact, it counts on official protection since 1922 and it was declared by UNESCO as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.
The meaning of Jemaa El Fna is still today unclear. The most extended says that it means meeting, and although it seems a simple word, actually it owns the name to the past when cut heads of the non-believers and criminals were exhibited creating an unpleasant place.
The square does not highlight precisely because of the beauty of the surroundings, but to the singularity of the people there, its essence and the sellers’ attitude.
The commercial activities are a touristic attraction, mixing foreigners with the local people. The ambience is a little difficult to handle for people who can’t stand the crowds and that is a point to consider if you are more of a calm person.
The big Minaret rises at one side of the square giving beautiful pictures, especially at sunset when the sun goes down and displays an awesome red color. At the north of the square you can access to Marrakech souk, an important shopping centre which is considered the biggest market of the whole Maghreb.
Walking during the day
The art of bargaining is a very common practice in Morocco, therefore don’t doubt doing it. Everyone offers services and products and you have to decide quickly if you are interested or not, or you will find yourself buying things you don’t actually need. The square is full of curious people, monkey tamers, snake charmers, dentists, traditional healers, preachers, water carriers with characteristic and coloured clothes, poets, story tellers, street artists and women tattooing with henna, so nothing is to be missed there.
The orange juice sellers let you see how they squeeze the oranges at the moment and are very well-known. You also will find stands with typical spices of the country.
The square is surrounded by restaurants and bars with terraces where you can watch the bustle and amazing scenes but also contemplate the beautiful sunset behind the minaret. Cafe de France, Cafe Argana, the Chez Chegrouni Restaurant and Terrases de l’Alhambra are the most famous places where you can taste a good mint tea of Marrakech.
The magic of the place changes as hours go by. It dawns with a pleasant peace and calm that has nothing to do with what happens at the end of the day, and with the last light of sunshine the chants of every mosque around sound to remind the locals that is time to pray.
The crowded night
At night arrives the big transformation and the place changes its appearance. The stands disappear and the street food vendors arrive invading the space. People go to dinner taking advance of the economical price, although it is not recommended for sensitive stomachs. If that is not your case, you must know that you can eat couscous, salads, fritters and a large range of typical food. Tables are disposed for people to eat comfortably, because thousands of passerbies stay for dinner popular meals that give off an unavoidable exotic smell.
Musicians and artists appear throughout the night offering spontaneous and funny shows that won’t leave you indifferent.
In conclusion, Jemaa El Fna is an essential place to visit in your trip to Marrakech to know and experience the culture and the ambience of the country.