The heart of Morocco beats in Djemaa el-Fna, where everything happens, and everything has a price, in a non-stop touristy happening.
The size of the square, very uncommon in old Moroccan quarters may explain this intense merging of business and popular arts.
The square is a living stage, performing for tourist everything that may lead to a deal.
A visit to the square is a must when in Marrakech.The ambience of this place is amazing,with so many colours,sights and sounds which seem to change depending on the time of day.
If you visit during the evening (when most of the activity is) a good idea is to find a terrace restaurant where you will have great views of the square,and is also a discreet place for taking photos.
This seems like a popular place for the locals and it was nice just being able to mingle with them during the evening.Some of the activities that go on in the square i would not agree with,such as the snake charmers and monkey handlers,and you do wonder how these creatures are treated when out of public view.
Also surrounding the square are numerous stalls selling orange juice and dried fruits ... these guys are less aggressive since they work by themselves and can't leave the stalls to chase you ..... many will let you try 1 piece of dried fruit, but of course if you try more than 1 your buying it !!!!!!!!
We weren't interested in dried fruits but I wanted to try the orange juice ..... and WOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this was the best I have had anywhere in the world !!!!!! it was amazing and cheap .... a large glass for 4 dirhams $.50 US cents ..... it was sooooooooo good that I had 5 glasses of it even though I wasn't thirsty !!!!! it was soooo good that I just kept drinking it !!!!!! the vendor made the glasses right in front of me !!!!!!!!!
The vendor was real nice and even allowed me to take a photo behind his booth !!!!!! for a change he wasn't aggressive ......
A MUST DO !!!!!!!!!! too bad they don't sell it by the gallons, because I would have bought some .... I'm sure if you had a container they would sell it to you !!!! so come prepared because it's that good !!!!!!!
One of the facts in being Marrakech is the constant touts trying to get you to either buy something in there store or trying to be friendly just to try to take you to a store where they get commission for items ......
Same thing applies to the square at night .... 4 rows of food stalls become alive as soon as the sun starts to set ..... If you could only walk thru and not have these touts in your face and give you a chance to see what they are cooking the experience would have been the best in Marrakech but as soon as you start walking they stick menu's in your face... or stand in front of you to the point that if you don't step on them they won't move ..... they know all the phrases in English, Spanish, French, German ... you name it they know everything here ... amazing !!!!!
What I don't like is they grab your arm and try to get you to sit down at there stalls .... that's the most annoying part of Marrakech ..... We were finally able to see some interesting foods and actually weren't harassed since there stall was full of locals, there was no space so we were left alone for a change ..... once the locals got up were were seated and left alone to take as many photos and ask as many questions we wanted .....
My cousin was not convinced to try anything so I went ahead and had goat tongue .... and since my mother has cooked beef tongue for us since childhood I did not find it gross or anything like that ..... and for 20 Dirham about $2 US.... I found it pretty good .... also at this stall we had the best tea on our trio for a only 2 dirham a glass !!!!!!!!!!
Take your time going thru here and try.... even though its hard ... try to ignore the touts and try something different ... everything is cooked right in front of you .... don't be like some people that we saw eating "fish and chips" ... really you can't go 1 day without comfort food ?????? Be a TRAVELER NOT A TOURIST !!!!! Open your mind, you'll be surprised how well locals will interact with you if your open to there customs and foods ........
A MUST DO !!!!!!!!!
Much can be said about this square ..... but just be on your guard, plenty of pickpockets, and shady people trying to take your money via all types of entertainment !!!!!!! but don't get me wrong .... enjoy yourself for you have never seen anything like this anywhere in the world .... and this is the main attraction of Marrakech .. both during the day and at night ..... there is tons and tons of people at all times here ..... so your never in any type of danger but be careful of your possessions ....... a must do !!!!!!!!!
THE BAD SIDE:
Please be aware as romantic & exotic the idea of snake charmers may be there is much that is not charming about it. Firstly snakes are deaf and cannot hear the music - they are not charmed - they are rising up and adopting the classic cobra pose because they feel threatened. They sway along with the movement of the flute/flute player because this is where there threat is. You should also know that is common practice for snake charmers to rip out the snakes fangs/poison glands - this causes painful abscesses and a slow ad painful death. There have also been reports of snake charmers sewing the mouths of the snakes up to avoid surgery and its costs. It is reported that performing snakes last only a few months in the square - in the wild they can live to 15 years.
The macaques - there are men with macaques in nappies and on excruciatingly short chains which are forever being jerked to force the macaques to obey. These macaques are usually taken from their mothers, in the wild (Atlas mountains) and when not on the leash are kept in tiny cages.
Tortoises, lizards and other wildlife - are available for sale in miniscule cages/tanks. Usually over populated and in poor condition. I sadly saw many such animals who looked to be near dead.
*Please think very carefully before supporting these sellers and performers by purchasing from them or giving them money for photographs*
Djemaa el-fna is the main square and is certainly the focal point for the whole city. It is also a great place to start your explorations because you can get a sense of direction away from the tiny, winding streets and passageways.
Djemaa el-fna was everything I could have hoped for - it was a bustling hubbub of people, an explosion of smells, a concoctions of drums and instruments, an overdose for the eyes and a chaotic mixture of lively, African vibe and exotic Eastern charm.
There are performers and hawkers, food stands and stalls, locals, travellers, tourists, cafés and restaurants. It is a HUGE square that is chock-a-block full of opportunities for shopping, entertainment, people watching and photos as well, of course, of many opportunities to be relieved of your money. Yes there are many opportunities for people to make money from the visitors but there is an overwhelming sense that the square is not a tourist trap but still very much of local importance.
After walking around all day or for a couple of hours take a break and get some fresh OJ. There are plenty sellers in the main square. Most of them use bottled water and if you get a glass make sure they use it (although I do not think it is a problem as business would dry up quickly for them if they did not.
Other stalls or carts will sell dried fruit and nuts which we picked up some of for our trip to Zagora the following day.
I just came back from Marrakech and was bitten on the face by one of the monkeys. I had to cut my trip short and fly back to the states and go on two different antibiotics and antiviral medicine to prevent infection and a fatal disease called Herpes B virus! I've consulted a specialist at the CDC.
Before that happened, everyone in our party (8 of us) were all sickened by terrible travelers diarrhea.
I think Morocco is a great country and I wish our trip had been a better experience.
The main square is Marrakesh has a reputation for being the best night market in the entire Islamic World and despite its craziness and late night charm. Most of my friends have told me that this square is the best in the Islamic World and I can think of several others including the Imam Square in Isfahan Iran which would be way more interesting and traditional. Dubbing this square the best in the Islamic World shows that most people haven't really explored the Islamic World to great depths. The square is a bit a chaotic with its snake charmers, monkeys for hire and some of the most tenacious touts in the world.
The market in Marrakesh is world famous for its craziness, snake charmers, monkeys for sale among its food market, street performers and story tellers. Most travelers claim that this square is the best in the Islamic World but in my opinion others in Iran and Turkery are superior. One or two nights of navigating this madness is good fun but after that the tenacious touts for food and monkeys will take its toll. Overall, the square is great fun.
Djamaa el Fna is the central square of the old part of Marrakesh and a place that is out of this world.
The square really comes to live in the evening where the place is packed with musicians and story tellers who turns the square in to a surreal theater.
There are also dozens of food stands in the evening ob the square that are extremely colorful and serves good morrocoan food.
The square is also full of hustlers, but it's a part of the game there and as soon as you get used to having 50 guys shouting at you at the same time you will have a great time there.
We just returned from a phenomenal trip of Marrakesh. Al Moussika was our base to explore the medina and for trips to the coast and to the Atlas mountains. The riyad is a carefully and tastefully restored historical building which offers a quiet retreat after a busy day in the pulsating city. There are only six bedrooms and many additional sitting rooms including a well stocked library and a room with a grand piano. Breakfast is of very good quality and the lunches were among the best meals we had in Marrakech. The personnel is competent and very helpful and offers a friendly, personalized service. Restaurants and transportation are suggested on request and promptly organized.
With our Marrakesh self-guided map given by our riad ,we entered into the medina, the walled city section of Morocco’s capital, Marrakech, is nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. The souk contains booth after booth of wares, including local clothes, furniture, rugs, lamp fixtures, spices and exotic foods. Of all the adjectives that could be used to describe the souk, I think eclectic is the most fitting.
After adventuring around for a while in this, one of Africa’s most exciting destinations, (and exclaiming, “Wow! Come look at this!” around every corner), Medina is big, YES, you will get lost eventually, it’s normal. Many people don’t profit from Marrakech’s labyrinth streets, inside the markets (souks) and from many interesting places, because they will get lost. And no one likes to be lost specially in such a chaotic and different environment such as Marrakesh! Because of this,we hired services of a travel company advertising in the same map, named : Les secrets de Marrakesh, for the following day to take us through the lesser-known areas of the souk. Our Moroccan escort took us into the back, where the trades are made as Marrakech wholesalers negotiate with local venders and we got to see raw materials such as leather to make shoes, wool that would soon become a rug, dyes used for clothing, and animals that would soon be for sale. It was the staging area for the souk.
we went exploring a little more and in every direction we turned, there seemed to be a helpful Moroccan that would make sure that we knew where the centre of the souk was. This was where all the action was happening. When I approached the focal point, I saw there was a cock fight in one circle, a dancing monkey in another, a local playing a flute to a dancing cobra…It was nothing like I’d ever witnessed, either in Morocco, Africa or elsewhere!
After leaving this centre square, we asked a local about visiting a hamam-a local Turkish bath house. They pointed us in the right direction and made sure that we were clear on the door we should use so that we would go in the women’s bath, not the men’s. After we entered, we realized why: everyone in the hamam was naked. With a bit of a language barrier, we managed to communicate that we’d like a massage. We undressed and a local woman proceeded to lather us up with a gel-like soap and scrub us down. I was so relaxed after this experience I could barely walk. In fact, I walked right into a Berber gentleman crossing the street right in front of me. It was as though I were walking on a cloud and we opted to sit at a café for a drink before continuing on our journey.
Before leaving the souks of Marrakech, we opted to take one more look at the central square. It had completely transformed. The live dancing animals were no longer there; they had been replaced by a food fare, with some animal heads to be eaten (presumably from the animals that we had seen being traded earlier), some food that looked like worms, some that I recognized to be vegetables, and some that you would expect at a food stand in Marrakech, like your tagines, couscous and soups.
We left the medina with a whole bunch of souvenirs; some for us, some for friends and family back home. We also indulged in some of the more familiar food, some fresh vegetables, olives, cheese, a bottle of local wine and, of course, some fresh mint for after dinner tea, and had a wonderful picnic at our apartment hotel just outside the medina where it was little quieter.
All in all, our Marrakesh adventure proved to be a most wonderful experience.
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You cannot possibly visit Marrakech and miss wandering around the Djamaa El Fna City Square. This is where you'll find the Souks, food stalls, snake charmers, dancers, henna tatooists and a stack of other interesting stuff.
It's even better if you stay close by so that you can enjoy walking around in the evening. Another good idea is to have dinner on one of the restaurant roof terraces that overlook the square. Of course that costs extra but it is definately worth it for the view and pictures.
This square is the hub of all the happenings in the Medina.
Many restaurants here, stalls, and in the evening a huge number of food stalls as well.
Snake chalmers, Monkey handlers, Story Tellers and other entertainers abound here (for a fee of course)
It's great having a meal on the balcony of one of the restaurants over looking the square and observing things.