Jemaa el-Fnaa Place guide



Jemaa el-Fnaa

The first thing on any list of what to see in Marrakech is the “square” of Jemaa El Fna – market place and city forum almost since its foundation 1,000 years ago.


Marrakech’s cultural and physical heart

The first thing on any list of what to see in Marrakech is the “square” of Jemaa El Fna – market place and city forum almost since its foundation 1,000 years ago. The urban clearing is crowded day and night with a carnival of local life, an essentially Moroccan space big and vibrant enough to absorb its visitors without bowing to them. 

Jemaa el-Fnaa  at Marrakech’s core is the city’s most popular sight, and – together with the neighboring Koutoubia mosque – most easily located landmark

The central square of Jemaa El Fna was special enough to be given UNESCO recognition for its place in humankind’s oral heritage. Its must see Marrakech storytellers have long been part of its magic, and to this day, can be seen casting their spell on crowds. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a wizened man in a cloak telling a tale in classical Arabic with an egg and rope – one of a dying breed.

Daytime: Wander between sellers of herbs and spices, orange juice, shoes, and alarm clocks as well as fortune tellers or public scribes awaiting clients under umbrellas. 

The wildly grinning snake charmers, monkey tamers and gnaoua musicians with their giant metal castanets will charge you a small fortune if you make the mistake of taking a picture with them!

Other attractions include henna artists and games like golf putting, or ‘hook the ring over the cook bottle’. Astrologist-soothsayers have been known to trace out their diagrams of the future with chalk on the tarmac. 

Eat from hand carts piled high with dates, dried figs, almonds and walnuts freshly picked from the countryside. Aphrodisiacs come in the form of cinnamon and ginseng tea served with little dishes of black, powdery slilou – a spicy sweet paste.

Pickpockets and con artists run rampant, so keep your wits (and wallet) about you; make sure you have plenty of change handy for entertainment, snacks and orange juice. 

Thankfully, the plain clothes Brigade Touristique are on the watch against the hassling of tourists by false guides. That, however, might not prevent a snake from getting draped around your neck...

Early evening: Have some change ready as you move from spectacle to spectacle. “La Place” takes on a carnival atmosphere, staging troupes of performers the likes of cartoon-costumed acrobats, transvestite dancers, and underage boxers. 

Retreat to the rooftop cafes of Argana or Cafe de France if you’re fine with balcony seats. 

Open-air food market: As acrobats and musicians vye with storytellers for the attention of the crowds, the rest of Jemaa El Fna becomes a maze of makeshift food stalls. The square becomes a huge open-air dining area as dusk falls, the air filled with plumes of cooking smoke spiralling into the night. Beneath the glow of a single bulb, families laugh and eat to the sound of the dying muezzin. 

Marrakech’s food stalls on Jemaa el Fna are arguably the most famous in the world. Dining here is without a doubt an experience not to be missed, but do remember to retain your sense of humor when there! Don’t be put off by vendors waving menus in your face and herding you towards their stall; don’t be afraid to try something new. 

Moroccan street food favorites include snails or sheep’s head at Mustafa No.1; merguez sausages, kefta (spicy meatballs), hearty harira soup (lentil, chickpea and tomato), grilled fish served with lemon, fries and green chili, and succulent chicken brochettes. Eat with your hands!

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