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It’s the bustling hub of activity in Marrakech — an attraction for both locals within Marrakech and across Morocco as well as foreign visitors. It’s a place where there’s something to see and do from morning to night. By day, snake charmers and henna ladies dot the square and scout for customers. As evening falls, the stalls are busy, the musicians attracting large crowds and children playing various games. Welcome to Jemaa El-Fnaa!
Smoke rises from the grills, some 40 grills in total, as the touts use their best lines to get amazed tourists to dine at their stalls. While the experience may be overwhelming, the best dining tip we can provide is to select a stall where the locals are eating. Head to stall number 14 for the best calamari and fried fish with cooked salads in the square. But you’ll find the best street food in the city here — merguez sausages, grilled meats, and even maakouda potato cakes. The food is rather inexpensive and commensurate the dining experience. Just follow the locals.
Whether Berber music, Arabic folksy rock or even Gnaoua beats, musicians performing a variety of musical styles attract groups large and small as they solicit the audience collecting monies before starting the show. Astrologers sit quietly by their gas lanterns, waiting to provide passers-by with insights (bring a local to translate for some serious explanations). And in other areas, monkey handlers are known to place a diapered monkey on their shoulder to grab attention.
With several orange juice stalls lining the outskirts of the square from morning until night, the options are plentiful. Each stall sells just one product — fresh orange juice and at the same price, too (4 Dirhams). But with all stallholders doing their best to attract potential customers, we can’t help but think they are really all the same. Just be sure the prices noted are the prices charged. Then sip and watch the street theatre around you.
Head to one of the surrounding cafes for a mint tea or café nouss nouss (meaning half-half as the drink is half coffee, half milk), and enjoy some of the best people watching in the city. During the day, acrobats perform in front of the busy Café de France and throughout the main square. Around 4pm head on up to the rooftop terrace of Café Glacier to watch as the boys pull carts through the main square and set up the food stalls for an evening of trading. As the sun sets, be sure to have your camera ready as the muezzin calls the prayer, and lull comes over the city as the musicians and performers take a short break and the sky is filled with magical reds, oranges and pinks, marking the end of another fabulous day in Marrakech.