More than 8 million people from all around the world made it a point to visit Morocco's incredible city of Marrakesh in 2016 alone, and that's absolutely no surprise. Its perfect location allows visitors to enjoy both the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains, and many make the journey specifically for the opportunity to delve into the city's rich history and culture. Regardless of your reason for visiting Marrakesh, you'll definitely want to make a stop at the immensely popular Jemaa el-Fnaa a priority during your stay.
About Jemaa el-Fnaa
Perfectly situated in Marrakesh's old city, also known as the medina quarter, is the huge square and marketplace that is known as Jemaa el-Fnaa. It's been an important part of the city since the 11th century, and it offers a wonderful mix of Moroccan cultural traditions brought all together for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. Art, music, religion, food, crafts and entertainment may be found in this busy triangular square, and a visit to this special marketplace is a truly wonderful experience. In fact, Jemaa el-Fnaa is so important that it is protected under a special UNESCO project that is known as the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The square is active all day and often well into the evening hours, and you'll find that you can spend a great many hours in the square and not see the same thing twice because the activities change as time goes by. You may also feel safe and comfortable during your exploration of Jemaa el-Fnaa because the entire square is closed to any motorized traffic.
Those who arrive early in the morning may expect to enjoy traditional Moroccan breakfast items from the many food vendors, and there's always fresh orange juice and water available for purchase. The snake charmers are also on site first thing in the morning, and these are real snakes being brought out of their baskets to the sweet sounds of music. If you want to prove yourself to be the bravest person on the planet, then the snake charmers are happy to take a picture of you with one of the snakes around your neck.
In addition to the snake charmers, there are many different types of performances offered throughout the day. These are just a few of the most popular.
- Chleuh dancers
- Berber musicians
- Poetry readings
- Senthir players
- Gnaoua dancers
- Magic shows
While most people travel all over their home city to access the services that they may need on a daily basis, the square brings many common services together in one place. These are just a few of the services that you may encounter during your day in Jemaa el-Fnaa.
- Produce stands
- Food vendors
- Dental care
- Traditional medicine
- Henna tattooing
- Fortune readings
The square is brightly lit as night approaches, and the food vendors comes out in full force. It's a show in itself to watch them all set up, and you'll definitely want to try some of the freshly prepared traditional foods that are offered. Just follow the delicious scents of food being prepared, and you may expect to discover such delights as lamb kebabs with fresh vegetables, cups of olives, fresh-baked bread, fried shrimp, squid and catch-of-the-day fish, lamb chops, chicken kebabs and the best homemade almond cookies in the world. Many of the vendors have tables set up for you to sit down and enjoy a full meal, but it's also fun to try something small from several vendors to see if you discover a new favorite dish.
Around the Square
While you'll find plenty to keep yourself occupied with inside of the square, there are also many things to do and see nearby. The traditional Marrakesh souk is set up just outside of the main square, and you'll find fresh fruits and vegetables and just about any other item you could possibly want or need available for purchase. On the other side of the square are some beautiful gardens with walking paths and several cafe terraces where you can sit down for a meal or a drink and enjoy a little people watching. If you feel like a walk, then you'll also find several narrow streets and alleyways to explore.
If you think that you've seen this square somewhere other than directly in Marrakesh, then you probably noticed it on either the big screen at the movies or on the little screen on your television set. Jemaa el-Fnaa has a few famous connections, and it's been immortalized on popular television programs that include “The Amazing Race” and “America's Next Top Model.” It also made an appearance in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”