The square is a fantastic experience but i would advise anyone not to give money to animal handlers. Extract from an animal charity working in Morocco
But, out of all the animal suffering in Marrakesh, perhaps the most shocking and upsetting of all is the monkey performers. Monkeys are kept in small and cramped boxes throughout the day where they can suffer from heat stroke and illness, due to a lack of space and high temperatures. When night fall arrives, monkeys are forced to perform whilst heavy chains are placed around their necks. As unknowing tourists walk by, monkey trainers throw the animals on to the shoulders of the tourists by wrenching the monkey by the neck and forcing them to climb the tourists body. Without showing any consideration for the suffering the monkeys endure, monkey trainers repeat this routine every single night.
Prior to becoming performers, monkeys endure several months of rigorous training which includes having chains placed around their necks whilst they are attached to a ceiling, which forces their bodies to adopt a straight posture. During this cruel process, handlers often tie a monkeys hands behind their backs and deny the animals food. While widespread suffering of cats, mules, donkeys, horses, snakes and monkeys is common in Marrakesh, there is one charity helping to make a difference.
The Fondation Helga Heidrich SOS Animaux helps rescue injured, abused and suffering animals from the streets of Marrakesh. The organisation also helps spay and neuter cats and dogs, to help combat the growing problem of overpopulation. The charity runs an animal sanctuary in Marrakesh which houses around 85 dogs, 30 cats and 36 equines.
Tourists can help combat the problems facing animals in Marrakesh by helping to feed stray animals and by avoiding giving money to horse and cart carriages, monkey performs and snake charmers. To add to this, tourists can urge animal handlers to treat their animals better, by providing their animals with more nourishment, by cutting the animals work hours and by stopping the physical abuse of their animals.
All the touristy books and guide books will tell you to do this - Ive done this a number of times and include it as a thing to do when taking or sending friends to Marrakech - a roof top cafe such as Cafe France, Cafe Glacier, Cafe-Restaurant Argana - where you can enjoy coffee or mint tea as the unfolding spectacle of the busy Djmaa elFna unfolds below you and the beautiful Marrakechi sun sets.
UNFORTUNATELY CAFE ARGANA WAS DESTROYED EARLIER THIS YEAR 2011 BY A BOMB THAT EXPLODED UP ON THIS FLOOR IN MY PHOTO KILLING A NUMBER OF TOURISTS FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES AND MOROCCANS - THE POLICE ARE STILL ACTIVELY ON THE HUNT FOR THOSE THEY HAVE BELIEVE ARE INVOLVED AS THIS IS A TREMENDOUS CONCERN TO THE GOVERNMENT TO MAINTAIN BOTH PEACE AND STABILITY AND CONTINUE WITH THEIR PUSH FOR INCREASED TOURISM
Djemaa el Fna is a square and market place in the old part of Marrakech.
The square dtes back to the 1070's when Marrakech was founded by the Almoravids. Much of the city was destroyed when it fell to the Almohads in 1147 and Djemaa el Fna was restored along with city in the years up to 1158.
It is still the main square of Marrakech dusy both day and night. By day you will find fresh orange juice stalls, snake charmers, monkey handlers and traditional water sellers in their traditional colourful costumes.
In the evening the pace changes. It is more crowded with musicians, dancers and magicians; the food stalls start up and the with the rising steam come tantalising aromas. Along one side of the square is the Marrakech souk and opposite you will find the famous terraced cafes where you can sit and relax above all the noise and confusion. If you are there at sunset the views over the square are fantastic.
I had a great trip in Marrakech!
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The heart and life of Marrakech, Djemaa el Fna is where everything happens! This enormous square occupies a central position in la Médina, the old city of Marrakech, and is the converging point of many of its streets and souks. It is an amazingly animated square, which is part theatre, part open-air restaurant, and part souk. It comes most alive in the evening when all the food sellers set up stalls for dinner. They cook harira soup, kebabs, tagines and other dishes in front of their clients for immediate consumption along tables and benches. Not too distant in the square, snakes and their charmers, monkeys, story tellers, orange juice vendors, drummers, and musicians all congregate and offer their services to the masses. Tourists are prime targets for them, but locals come here too. Beware, even taking pictures could cost you dirhams! The energy and sounds of Djemaa el Fna are just impossible to describe in words... but the video "Sounds of Marrakech" gives a glimpse of what it's like.
This place is located at Dajeema El Fna. It has a terrace from which you get a nice view of the square and the city lights. Getting there in the evening, after walking the whole day, to take a mint tea at the terrace was a real pleasure.
We got there quite late, and in spite of the fact that they were almost closing, they took us the tea, did not rush us to go, and in the end then they didn´t charge anything because the cashier had gone. I don´t mean you have to expect this to happen, but I do mean that they are really kind and considerate. After a day of being hussled and overwhelmed by vendors, this place was quite an oasis. They really earned a positive review!
Djamaa el Fna or Jemaa el Fna is the main square in the Medina and will probably be the centre of much of your sightseeing. Our first view of this huge area was straight off the bus from the airport. Amid the smoke from the barbecues of the night market and the fires and lamps of the stalls, there were musicians, snake charmers, and sellers of everything from fruit to souvenirs. We had dinner in the Argana Restaurant looking down on a scene of chaotic activity. In the daytime it is almost as spectacular. There are many restaurants and cafés around the square, plus many banks, pharmacies, and other businesses of a practical nature (I made urgent use of an optician). There is a bus stance nearby and boarding point for the horse drawn carriages. You are also near the New Town so if you are staying in that area you are still near the Jemaa El Fna. You are also at the entrance to the souks and other interesting parts of the Medina.
Excuse some of the photos, although I suppose they have a rarity value! Not often you'll see this place looking rainswept or empty!
The hub of the city and not to be missed. All kinds of vendors, snake charmers, monkey handlers, henna applicators and story tellers. Hustlers and con men too!
Don't allow a snake around your neck or a monkey on your shoulder unless you're willing to pay (and extra for a photo!)
Fun during the day, and hots up at night. It's worth having lunch/dinner/drinks/coffee in a place which has a balcony overlooking the action.
Sooner or later it seems, all paths in Marrakesh lead to the Djamaa el Fna. The name (sometimes spelled “Djemaa el Fna” or “Jamaa el Fna”) means “Assembly of the Dead” in Arabic but a visit here suggests life in all its vibrancy. To call this the city’s main square doesn’t begin to do justice to it. This is a meeting place, a shopping centre, a performance space, a happening. It is surrounded by restaurants and cafés, each with a roof terrace to offer a ringside seat from where to observe all the action, but better by far to get immersed in it all yourself.
Here is a snake charmer with a sleepy cobra waiting for tourists’ dirhams before luring him into action. Here is a man with a monkey wanting payment to pose with him perched on your shoulder. And over there a colourfully dressed water-seller is making more money from posing for photos than he ever will from selling water.
Rows of stalls sell dried fruits; others freshly squeezed orange juice. Women offer to decorate your hand with henna, and men to shine your shoes – even if you are wearing trainers. You can buy a leather handbag or a packet of tissues, a lantern or a cigarette lighter. Mopeds weave past pedestrians, men push carts and donkeys pull them, horses trot past with tourist passengers perched in the caleche behind.
Over it all towers the minaret of the Katoubia Mosque, the tallest building in the city, and at regular intervals the call to prayer rings out above the hubbub. But that one spiritual note barely seems to make an impression on all the secular activity at its foot, although the faithful no doubt pause briefly in their actions before returning to earthly matters of commerce and enterprise.
Come here with an open mind, and with your wits about you. If you are unused to travelling “out of your comfort zone” you may find it unnerving at first, but take your time, watch from the sidelines for a while, and you will soon get a sense of how best to experience this place. You will probably be hassled for money, and almost certainly to buy (juice, water, henna decoration …) but say no firmly and if necessary move away – there are many other tourists and the would-be seller will soon pass on to the next one. Of course you must watch your possessions, but that is true in any crowded city square, anywhere in the world. And remember that a small sum to you can mean much more here, so if you really want that photo of a snake charmer or water-seller by all means pay a fair fee – it will bring back great memories long after your visit so will be worth the outlay.
At night the square is even more vibrant – but that is a subject for another, Nightlife, tip …
I wasn't sure whether to put this under things to do or tourist traps! Obviously if you go to Marrakech you have to go to Jemaa el Fna. The Jemaa el Fna is the geographical, social and cultural center of the Medina full of the odd and unusual – but seemingly all geared to the tourist.
There are musicians, snake charmers, monkey handlers, etc. all trying to persuade you to give them money for taking a picture. Most of the activity is at night when food stalls set up and open, but there are still plenty of people around in the day and the souks are open during the day as well.
We walked through the square and before we knew it, a man approached Sandy, wrapped a couple of snakes around his neck, stuck a fez on his head, and waited for me to take a picture. Once we realized the game, we were able to avoid the scams. It’s really a shame because you can easily imagine what the square was like hundred of years ago. People gathered, there was food, and storytellers, and it was a true experience. Now it seems like a staged circus.
The maze of souks is still very interesting. All sorts of things for sale - loved the shoes and tangine crockery, the huge cones of spices, the buckets of delicious olives, etc. If you plan to shop do walk around and compare prices - the can really vary from stall to stall. At some the price was several times more than at another. However, if you see something you really, really want, buy it then because it may not be so easy to find the same souk again.
Try some of the olives or sweets, juices, snail soup, etc. One of the nicer experiences is going to the second floor of one of the open air cafes surrounding the JEF. Order a cappuccino and enjoy people watching!
Gueliz is the newtown area of Marrakech. The area was designed and built early this century by the French with wide streets and boulevards. Today it is a modern business district about as remote in looks from the old part of they city as you can get. There are numerous bars and clubs both in hotels and on Mohammed V Ave. The name Gueliz comes from a nearby small mountain.
If you are in Marrakech you'll have to try the fresh orange juice. It's only 10 dirhams for a big glass, it's good and it's healthy.
You can't miss the orange stalls at the Djemnaa el Fnaa. There are so many of them!
We always had our glass of vitamins at the number 25 stall, where a nice young guy runned this small company.
This beautiful gate is the traditional entrance to the Kasbah, named after the black slaves brought from sub-Saharan Africa.
The gate was built in 1185 and is one of the very few stone structures. It is in distinctive contrast to the mud brick city walls.
It was disappointing that our visit coincided with Ramadan religious festival as activity in the square during the day was considerably reduced. However there was still some business open and what surprised me was the hot bread cart was kept busy.
The photo shows the square as sparse, however we were informed that normally this square would be very active during daytime.
We visited the main square around lunch time during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Our guide informed us that Djemma el-Fna square normally would be a hive of activity, however due to religious fasting most food stalls and activities will not appear to sunset when the fast is broken.
We found the snake charmer with his 3 or 4 snakes in the middle of the square, the Cobras moving around under the "spell" of the music. Quite a sight and one that you have to pay for if you wish to take a photo. A few Dhiram will charm him and you can take a few photos. Beware if you do not give him some cash and attempt to take a photo.