Jemaa el Fna Square, the vital heart of Marrakech

Jemaa el Fna Square

   Located next to the Koutoubia Mosque, the Jemaa el Fna Square is the true heart of the city of Marrakech. Here you can feel the pulse of a people that exhibits its uniqueness. We are facing a huge public space that brings together crowds of people, locals, and foreigners, who remain wide-eyed contemplating its animation. There are snake charmers, monkey tamers, dancers, letter writers, and water carriers… And, all this, next to a succession of cafes and restaurants in which people of all ages and conditions are settling, and that also are crowding the square, both day and night. It is one of the places where you can eat in Marrakechthe typical Moroccan cuisine. No wonder Unesco declared the Jemaa el Fna Square, in 2001, an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Jemaa Fna square in Marrakech

The history of the Jemaa el Fna Square

  The Jemaa el Fna Square has existed at least since the 11th century when the city of Marrakech was founded, and since then it has been one of the central focal points of religious, cultural, and traditional life in Morocco. It is, in any case, the meeting point of the local population with those who come from outside, no matter where they are from.

   Throughout the day, and well into the night, a multitude of services is offered in the square, from the dentist who arrives with his tools in a briefcase to the healer with his herbal teas, through the card throwers, the henna tattoo artists, the traditional water carriers of the desert and those who sell in their stall the fruits and vegetables they have harvested in their garden. Also typical are the carts that offer dates or fresh orange juice to the public for less than half a euro.

   Moreover, in Jemaa el Fna Square the show is always assured because there are always storytellers, poets, snake charmers, Berber musicians, dancers, and actors. The oral expressions of popular culture here are transmitted from one to another, and continue to generate a lot of interest judging by the circles that form around the reciter, so there is no risk that the legends that are transmitted by oral tradition disappear. At least, for the time being.

What to do and what to see in the Jemaa el Fna Square

   Jemaa el Fna Square changes its appearance and its activity according to the time of day. Therefore, it is advisable to stroll around the square both day and night, because, depending on the time, you will discover a different atmosphere, always lively, but with different decorations.

Jemaa el Fna Square by day

    There are plenty of unique characters, such as dentists ready to pull teeth without any prejudice, the traditional snake charmers, monkey tamers … and numerous street stalls that will offer orange juice, snails, and spices to spice up the stews.

Jemaa el Fna Square
Snake charmers

The Jemaa el Fna Square by night

   The scenery of the square changes radically. With a warm light, the square is occupied by a large number of street musicians who improvise their melody, actors who take pride in their show … and, all this, along with new food stalls designed to feed the tourists and locals who come to the square. Jemaa el Fna is one of Morocco’s nightlife hotspots. Traditional Moroccan cuisine is available on the streets, and prices are also very reasonable. If you like kebabs and fried fish, you will have no trouble dining.

Jemaa el Fna Square
Night view of Jemaa Fna Square

Cafes in the square and what to eat

Visiting the Jemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech is a mandatory plan in any tourist getaway to the so-called “Red City”, but so is going up to one of the terraces of the restaurants or cafes surrounding the square. It is the best way to enjoy the heights of the coming and going of the people which makes the square a vibrant and sometimes deafening scene.

   One of the most unique restaurants in this square in Marrakech is Chez Chegrouni, which offers traditional Moroccan food at a good price, and has excellent views over the square. It is essential to try here the tajine, the pastilla, the traditional Harira, and couscous, but, yes, here you can not taste the alcohol. Instead, they offer a delicious mint tea, which modestly contributes to bringing a special aroma to the atmosphere of the square.

Jemaa el Fna Square
Stalls in Jemaa Fna Square

   But Chez Chegrouni is not the only restaurant in the square, because there are several places that have the same characteristics. This is the case of Café Glacier, Les Terrases de l’Alhambra or Café de France de Marrakech. Also, the Café Argana or Café de la Plaza are interesting places to have tea or a dish of traditional Moroccan cuisine while enjoying the spectacle that can be seen watching the square.

Jemaa el Fna Square, a perfect location

   The Jemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech is next to the Medina, in the historic center of the city, so it is very easy to access this public space, which is attended by virtually all tourists and many locals. It is very close to the Koutoubia Mosque, the Museum of Marrakech, the Medersa Ben Youssef, and the Dar Si Said Museum.

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