Djemaa El-Fna - the busy main square at night
Here in this huge square in the medina is the focal point of Marrakech.
Many would agree with Paul Bowles, (probably the bestknown foreign writer who lived in and wrote about Morocco, immersed in Morocco's literary scene for about 50 years) who had said that without this square and the spectacles that go on in it Marrakech would be just another city.
Other than the souks this is where everything happens - not just the tourists here as the majority of the huge and lively crowd drawn here to entertain and be entertained are locals.
Lively at any time of the day it largely comes into into its own from dusk
- rows and rows of open air food stalls with cooking aromas and smoke filling the air, attendants jostling for customers - and this is one of the 'to do's' when in Marrakech ie pick from the tapa style assortment of dishes for a meal. If you see lots of locals at a stall you know its regarded as good and clean - or it might be a popular goat or sheep head stall ha ha! I have eaten a couple of times at these stalls but I prefer to eat at Cafe Toubkal next to the big carpet shop that you can see from the centre of Djma Elfnaa.
Here in the square you will also find all sorts of entertainers each surrounded by spectators moving from one group onto the next - jugglers, musicians, story tellers, acrobats, snake charmers, performing monkeys - all trying to earn a few dirham for the show (and they are rather assertive and very quick to pounce for money if they see a camera pointed in their direction!...try to keep your response light and good natured but be assertive - eg its not uncommon for the snake handlers to ask for 150 dirham when they see your camera!...they do not have the only snakes in the world so keep cool and just offer what you think is reasonable esp if you want good photos - this is their livelihood, their occupation so to speak so it is fair to get some money for it - perhaps 5 or 10 dirham is quite okay).
Same with if you join the locals in a circle around some entertainment - a hat will appear for you to put some money in. Its a good idea to keep dirham coins handy - for here and for any beggars that you feel to donate to. Also when here after sundown this is pretty much the only place in Morocco that I have had to quite forcibly fend off bum groping and pinching! and had to use my elbows!
In amongst this are the water sellers, henna ladies, knick knack sellers, watersellers, Gnaoua dancers, cake and snack sellers....all livening the place up but looking for the opportunity to earn their keep.
On the outskirts are the orange juice and fruit wagon stalls - excellent orange juice!, music stalls - great for picking up the music that Moroccans like to listen to - Berber and Moroccan music, Algerian and Egyptian... and the surrounding restaurants and rooftop cafes in which you can retreat to absorb the atmosphere from the distance - great to sit up there for sunset and watch the crowds swell for the evening.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Djamaa el Fna.: storytellers and great food.
Djamaa el fna is the place to be at night in Marrakesh.
It's beaming with life and has street artists and storytellers everywhere.
There is lot's of food and drink on the square (no alcohol) and the place has a magic feel to it that i have never seen anywhere else in this world.
An evening visit to Djamaa el Fna is a must.
- Food and Dining
Not a clubbing town
Marrakesh bars may disappoint you. The city is split into old and new sections. Most of the attractions are in the old town (inside the walls) hotels like the Atlas Medina are a good walk from there. (for a man its a very safe town to walk around) club med have the prime spot beside the town square. Both have plush 4 star hotel bars- nice but dull, if you can't generate your own fun you find it in them.
there are nightclubs out in embassy land for the expats and diplomats.
Marrakesh has a hidden pub and club scene, but for most tourists you won't see many bars and clubs. It's not a dry country, its not far off...
Paradise,Kempinski hotel’s night club: The Paradise,The Fiesta is not ready to stop!
After some steps withing the Palace of the Congresses, the nightclub PARADISE is the embassy of FIESTA.It's the marrakech nightclub "with international vocation". The people have made their kingdom for more than 15 years...
And the adventure is not ready to stop! The PARADISE will still make this year the beautiful nights of Marrakech. The largest artists and people of planet spent their sleepless marrakech's nights there. The new concept of the PARADISE marrakech clubbing makes it possible to pass in a few minutes only of the lounge mode to that marrakech Clubnight which can receive nearly 1000 people.
With a clean identity and programming, the PARADISE is the marrakech nightclub which knew to keep his statute of a Marrakchi nightclub.
- Luxury Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Cinema Eden: could this be paradise?
This backstreet cinema, the nearest to Djemaa al Fna, inspired a famous Spanish book of the same name. It was also featured in London's Financial Times article on "Morocco's magical movie houses". This mud-walled building is definitely one of the weirdest cinemas I have seen anywhere in the world
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Chez Ali: Feasting and Fantasia
The Chez Ali experience has been established now for over 25 years! This purpose built 11 hectare arena, a few miles from Marrakesh offers the chance to experience the sights and sounds of Moroccan musicians and dancers, while eating a 5 course meal in caidal tents.
Afterwards, a mock up of a traditional Fantasia is held, with acrobatic horsemen, parades of horses, belly dancers, singers, fireworks, music and the sight and sound of charging horsemen simultaneously firing their rifles into the night sky!
Most of the tour groups offer trips to this night time spectacle, well worth a visit!
Yes, it is a tourist attraction, geared up for tour groups, but It's quite well presented.
Dress Code: As it was January, it was quite cold. The caidal tented rooms are heated, but the Fantasia is held outside, so I was glad of my coat, gloves and warm socks!
I'd dressed up a bit more than usual (It was my birthday, So I wanted to feel a bit smarter!)
Some diners entered into the spirit of the night by wearing jellabahs and 'toureg' style head wear ( Don't know if they'd come prepared, or had bought these items on arrival)
Photos taken as you arrive 20dh, but bring your own camera too!
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Theater Travel
- Family Travel
Chez Ali: Dining Fantasia!
Fantasia of Chez Ali is a place where you get to dine in royal tents and have dancers from all over morroco dancing infront of you in their lovely colourful clothes....then you get the chance to watch the traditional folklore horse back riding with colorful display of horsemanship.
And make sure you starve yourself before going their because they serve you soup,then half a lamb barbequed(yes I know it`s a lot) and then Cuscus(moroccan national dish)then fruits.
Don`t forget to take your vedio camera with you,unfortunatly we didn`t,there are lots of action going to happen that only photos are NOT enough!
Dress Code: Anything you feel comfortable in,but I have to whisper something to you,beacuse my husband and I where very well dressed our giude managed to get us the front Royal seats,where we could see the horsemen the best;-)
If your visiting marrakish by winter have a jacket with you it gets cold in the night and it`s an out door dining.
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
- Adventure Travel
Jemaa el fna.: City limits.
Jemaa el fna. or the City square, everything happens around this area, people watching from the cafes around the square, music, snake charmers and dancers in belly dancing outfits and scarfs, I think the dancers are young men as they wouldn't let the ladies do this,
Dress Code: Keep the ladies covered, or you will be frowned upon.
Montecristo Marrakech: Brilliant Live Music
This venue is 3 bars and a restaurant in one. On the ground floor is a bar with live music and the band are brilliant! They were an African band singing in both English and French. They interacted with the crowd by leaving the stage and getting everyone singing, so much fun! There were some people up dancing too but most of the dancing happens on the second floor where there's a club and on the top floor on the terrace is a lounge bar. Think comfy booths, good cocktails, belly dancing and shisha. I got the impression that this was the place to be seen, some people looked very glam!! There was an older man there and we were told that he was a musician (he seemed a bit like the Godfather!!) and he sang me happy birthday in French, English, Arabic and Berber! Brilliant!!
Dress Code: It seemed that there was no dress code in the down stairs bar, the men didn't seem overly smart but the ladies were mostly in dresses. The lounge bar is quite fancy so dress nicely!
Djamaa el Fna: Not to be missed
If the Djamaa el Fna is a performance by day, at night it becomes a spectacle. If like us you approach from the Koutoubia Mosque / Avenue Mohammed V side, your first sight of the square will be the glow of a myriad lights, with against them the dark silhouettes of what appear to be thousands of people, and above these the smoke rising from a hundred barbeques at the many food stalls. As you approach, and start to immerse yourself in that milling crowd, you will find every sense stimulated.
Your eyes strain to make out what is happening in the shifts from darkness to pools of brightness, and dart from sight to sight – performers with locals and tourists jostling for position around them, women crouched over a few handicrafts they have brought to sell, stalls with steaming glasses of tea, family groups gathered in a circle to talk and eat, a couple in their best and most colourful djellabas on a celebratory night out …
Your ears ring with the chatter around you, the drums beating incessently, the haunting music of the street performers, the sound of stall holders calling out to passers-by and extolling the wonders of the menu on offer at their food stall. Occasionally the voice of the muezzin rings out from the several minarets that surround the square, but it seems only a minority pause for prayer among this multi-cultural, multi-faith gathering of mankind.
You can smell the kebabs and spicy sausages grilling, fish frying, cinnamon and ginger from the tea stalls, and your mouth waters, longing to taste them too. People squeeze past, brushing against you (watch those belongings, although usually it is simply the crush of the crowds throwing you briefly together).
There are two ways to enjoy this spectacle, and ideally everyone should try both. One is as above, immersing yourself in and becoming part of the show. The other is to find a good vantage point on one of the several café or restaurant roof terraces around the edge of the square and settling down to watch. My photos were taken from the el Alhambra on the far side of the square to Koutoubia, allowing the minaret to feature in the background. A tripod would be useful, but a well-placed railing and a timed shutter release are almost as good. Alternatively find a seat at ground level, perhaps on the terrace of the Café Glaciers or Café de France, and watch the world go by from there – certainly it will seem at times as if the whole world is in the Djamaa el Fna.
Dress Code: Dress casually and, if visiting any time other than summer, warmly – hot days give way quickly to chilly evenings here and a fleece or warm shawl will be very welcome
join the locals!: Pubs
Prices for drinks can vary from 12 Dir to 70 Dir (for just Bailey's!) depending on where you go in the city. Avoid the new town (Gueliz) if you cant afford to splurge.
My friends and I randomly walked into a bar in Gueliz and found it devoid of customers save a few others. The dance floor was bare and the music extremely loud, as if it were an attempt to make up for the lack of customers. Perhaps it was our bad luck, but if you want to check out the bars in Marrakesh, be sure to do your VT research first for a good recommendation or two!
Chez Ali , otherwise known as The Fantasia is a much publicised evening outside of the township in the desert which comprises around 4 hours of both a 4 course dinner with drinks in large Berber tents being entertained by belly dancers and musicians, camels, horses and their riders and ending with fireworks. Some think it a too touristy, but really it is something quite unique anyway.
Prior to the show, you can take camel rides of the few that are paraded around the arena. While the days can be warm, even hot in Marrakech, be careful of the nights especially in the desert. In May, the evening at Chez Ali was quite cool and I wish I had taken a jacket.
- Historical Travel
The scene is quite dark at times until more are in the arena with more lights on them. The final scene is all the horses and their riders charging and firing their rifles in unison as they come to an abrupt stop in front of the wall which is repeated for effect. The whole scene is described as some kind of a war ceremony, a fantasia.
- Historical Travel
After the meal you are taken outside to sit on hard wooden bench seats around a large arena to await showtime. The show started with Berber charging horsemen stampeding down to the end of the arena and circling back around tumbling and hanging off their horses as they go and amazingly changing horses while on the go. The horses are usually Barb or Arabian Barb stallions
- Historical Travel
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