Like most of Morocco’s cities, Marrakech has two sharply contrasting personalities, in the shape of the modern, commercial quarter of Guéliz and the original walled medina.
One of five Moroccan medinas included for their architectural richness on the Unesco World Heritage list, the medina of Marrakech, packed with grandiose monuments and an extensive souk, is built around the celebrated Jemaa El Fna, a thronged, pulsating square in the very heart of town.
Surrounded by labyrinthine alleyways amid tightly packed houses, Djemaa El Fna is the starting point for accessing the apparently endless maze of souks selling everything from cheap souvenirs and trinkets and spices to beautiful carpets and finely-crafted wood and metal artifacts, including traditional jewellery. All day long refreshments in the shape of freshly-squeezed orange juice and delicious Moroccan dates are available from a plethora of vendors in and around the central square.
Step back in Time
As you reach the Djemaa El Fna, you enter a world far removed from the present day, its unique atmosphere created by a cacophony of street sellers, beating drums and the hypnotic rhythms of the snake charmers’ pipes. Here you’ll find story tellers and street performers, including acrobats, musicians and healers peddling secret potions and traditional remedies. It’s a scene that has changed little, in essence, since medieval times.
Place Jemaa at Night
After sunset the magical circus that is Place Jemaa changes from a place primarily of entertainment into a vast, open air restaurant lit by the gas lamps of a host of food stalls, the air filled with the smoke and smells of a hundred barbecues. This is your chance to experience authentic Moroccan cuisine, from couscous and tagine to stewed snails and sheep’s heads.
Whatever you think of the place, the vibrant buzz generated by the Jemaa el Fna is an amazing, unforgettable experience.