When in Marrakech, the first thing you should do is experience the sights, sounds and tastes of Jemaa el-fna. It is a huge public and market square in the centre of the old medina and at first glance there’s really nothing much to see but people. But, wait until it gets dark (at least during Ramadan and after iftar), the plaza turns into one crowded place with a cacophony of sounds, lingering smell of food and spices, and an inviting displays of colourful assortments.
The plaza can be spelled in three ways: Jemaa el-Fnaa, Djema el-Fna, and Djemaa el-Fnaa. It used to be a square for public executions, thus, its Arabic name means “assembly of the dead.”
I doubt that these photos below give justice to what I truly experienced there. This is one unique thing you have to encounter to believe. This potpourri of live-action entertainment in different areas of Jemaa el-Fna is happening everyday – and they don’t do it for the tourists (ok, maybe, just a bit). Even without the tourists, the show will go on. Locals do go out at night and hangout at the plaza. Usually, entertainment here starts at 10 in the morning but during Ramadan, however, the place gets crowded after everyone break the fast (iftar).
Experiencing the sights, sounds and tastes of Jemaa el-Fna Plaza is like watching TV but live. You don’t sit on a couch but you go around from one entertainment to another – like channel surfing if you say so.
First, there’s an animal show – National Geographic Wild Animals, perhaps?
The snake charmers eke out a living by blasting their oboes to keep the hissing cobras’ attention at still.
There’s a game show, too.
It’s like fishing for a drink! And it’s hard to get one. 😀
There’s storytelling of ancient myths and legends.
Belly-dancing is never gone out of style.
I suspect that the “women” behind the coloured burqa-style costume are actually gays / trans.
They’ve got talent shows, too.
You should never miss the old folks singing with great passion.
Children and women are given the privilege to sit on the benches around the performers.
Here’s your sports show!
In this photo, two women are in boxing gloves! Bravo, Moroccan ladies! Bravo!
They’ve got everything you want. They have men hawking fake iPhone 6S plus and other branded products. And yes, you can get a temporary henna tattoo, too!
Would you like to buy and bring home Aladdin’s lamp?
They have unique assorted products that you might be tempted to bring home – like these colourful lamps and lanterns.
How about some food, oh, glorious food?!
They have many kinds of pastries for your sweet tooth.
And they’re freakin’ expensive for tourists. If you know a local, let him buy for you and keep your distance.
For dinner, try one of the many food stalls in the area.
Warning / Be Careful:
Do not eat on stall number 23 and 35. They’re liars and tricksters. They let us pay for the bread, olives and sauce they put on the table – which we didn’t order. We thought it was part of meal, just like any restaurants in the area. So, whatever they put on the table which you didn’t order, make sure to ask if it’s free. Or better, just refuse to have those food on your plate. They’ll trick you and say “language barrier” misunderstanding when the bill arrives. If that happens to you, do not pay for what you didn’t order.
Get ready with your coins. Once these performers see you taking photos, they’ll quickly come and ask for money. I usually handed in Mad5 but they’re not happy. MAD10 (1Euro) is a good tip for them.
For a bird’s eye view of the square, there are few restaurants and cafes with rooftops on the northern side of the square that offers panoramic view.
There are many things to see in and around the square. I stopped taking photos because I ran out of coins. 😀
Where to Stay in Marrakech
True to its name, Rainbow Hostel is the most colourful hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It’s right in the medina and a few minutes walk to Place de Jemaa El-fnaa. They also have a tour desk. You can book it via HostelWorld.
Not into travelling solo or alone? Discover Morocco via Intrepid Travel. They have tours that aren’t crowded but limited participants. Choose from the different itineraries they have, exploring part of or the whole country. You’ll love their tours!