Jemaa el Fnaa is a marketplace in Marrakesh old city (medina) where both locals and tourists converge. During the day, the marketplace is occupied by stalls and snake charmers but before night fall, all the crazy stuff happens. The environment changes as the square becomes more crowded with Chleuh dancing boys, magicians, storytellers and vendors selling traditional medicines. As darkness falls, more food stalls appear from nowhere catering to both the locals and tourists.
Jemaa el Fnaa is an active concentration of different activities to showcase Morocco’s cultural traditions but it seems to be relatively safe because of discreet police presence. The spectacle of Jemaa el Fnaa is repeated everyday and it has become on one of the symbols of Marrakesh. All throughout the day as well as into the night, the square becomes the meeting place of the local population and people who come from all parts of the world.
There is no place like Jemaa el Fnaa in Morocco and we felt like interlopers because most of the crowds were local Moroccans. We were on a rooftop terrace looking down at the wonderful spectacle that looks so strange in our civilized world. I had this feeling of being in the center of a carnival of magicians, story tellers and acrobats amidst the circle of onlookers who will give a dirham or two for the experience. If you are ready for your hands and legs to be painted, you can take advantage of the henna tattoos which the artists claim will last from two to three months.
Refreshments were freshly squeezed grapefruit if you do not want the adulterated orange juice that is being peddled around the square. Dates and dried figs were in abundance which according to claims was picked up at dawn from the surrounding countryside. With dusk, the square smells like an enormous dining hall with stalls lit by gas lanterns selling traditional Moroccan cuisine.
I never imagined that there are places left in this world that are not tarnished with modern technology except by visitors like me who were all taking souvenir photographs through DSLR cameras.