Friday, 3 January 2014

Jamaa el Fna at night

Jamaa el Fna is a huge square
at the entrance to the souks
in the centre of the medina or old town of Marrakech.

You can sit high above the square
watching the crowds, listening to the noise,
but eventually you must be brave
and dive into the seething mass of people.

Come with me - it is noisy and chaotic
but there is so much to see.

There are stalls where you can eat cheap food.
Stall holders will greet you in rhyming slang
"How are you, me old china?
Are you Starvin' Marvin?'"

You have to step outside your comfort zone.
Mustapha's snail broth at Stall 1
is reputed to be delicious.
Next time, maybe.

You might prefer fresh orange juice,
dates, nuts or tiny Turkish pastries.
Or salted popcorn, sliced pineapple
hulled corn cobs or flat breads.

You will be inveigled to buy with promises
"Cheaper than Harrods,
More expensive than Asda,
Just same as John Lewis!"

If you are not hungry there are fortune tellers,
henna artists, story tellers, musicians,
exotic water carriers, tests of skill,
magicians, belly dancers, snake charmers.

And there are sellers of hats, shoes, coats,
balloons, toys, and lamps.

The world and his wife and his children
and his motor bike and his donkey
pass through Jamaa el Fna every night.

The noise and lights and steam enfold you
as long as you can bear it
and when you begin to feel claustrophobic
you can step back into the darkness
and let the life swirl on without you.

It is a truly magical place.


Jamaa el Fna is a UNESCO World Heritage site:
a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Extract from the first proclamation, 15 May 2001
"The spectacle of Jamaa el Fna is repeated daily and each day it is different. Everything changes — voices, sounds, gestures, the public which sees, listens, smells, tastes, touches. The oral tradition is framed by one much vaster — that we can call intangible. The Square, as a physical space, shelters a rich oral and intangible tradition."


  1. i'm so glad to know it is there
    i think you for the tour
    and am most glad i do not have to go there myself
    phobic as i am.

  2. Not sure that I could bear the thought of the snail broth, but the rest sounds like lots of fun and very interesting! xx

  3. "hulled corn cobs"? As a food item?

  4. I've been told multiple times that Marrakech is a fascinating place. If I weren't so scared of snakes I'd visit it.

  5. I loved this post and it took me back to our trip to Egypt where the locals greeted us with cries of "luvverly Jubbly"

  6. Rhyming slang - there? Gulp. Things have changed since I was there more than forty years ago...


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