Most people have heard of Jemaa el Fna before they arrive for a holiday in Marrakech, even if they don’t know how to pronounce it! The square is the historical heart of the Marrakech medina and remains the number one landmark of the city.
By day it has a somewhat deserted feel to it – its great expanse sits empty while around the edges you’ll find snake charmers, monkeys, fresh orange juice carts, ladies offering henna tattoos and the colourfully-dressed, traditional water sellers wandering about.
Come 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and suddenly the Jemaa el Fna square is filled with young men busily constructing kitchens, tables and seating for what becomes the biggest open-air restaurant in the world.
Each night the area is taken over by food-stalls selling various Moroccan salads, grilled meats and fish. Some stalls specialise in snails, or sheep’s head, or lentils and beans.
Each food-stall generally has a charismatic front man to draw in the customers with his friendly banter.
Away from the food-stalls, storytellers and other entertainers draw crowds of locals around them with tales of mystery, music and sometimes a boxing match.
Around the sides of Jemaa el Fna are shops and restaurants, most with terraces providing an eagle’s eye view over the events below. Most of these restaurants offer standard Moroccan fare – it’s inexpensive and pretty decent.
The Jemaa el Fna is not to be missed and actually it’s quite hard not to stumble upon it as all routes in the medina eventually lead back here.