We spent only two days in Marrakech before embarking on a guided tour to Erg Chebbi, the Sahara sand dunes where we spent New Years Eve. Too little time to see everything the city has to offer, but enough to get a feeling of the city. We stayed in a riad in the medina and, while I was overall disappointed by our guesthouse, I loved its location only five minutes walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa.
Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main square and market place of Marrakech, busy day and night with locals and tourists, hawkers and passerby’s. While crossing the square you will encounter orange juice stalls, snake charmers, henna ladies, monkeys on the leash and horse carriages.
Late in the day the traders start setting up their stalls at the food market, the square becomes even more crowded, the sounds of drums and people rise as the night falls.
Flanked by the Koutoubia Mosque on one end and the maze of souks and alleyways of the Medina on the other, the sprawling cobblestone Jemaa el-Fnaa is an overwhelming – but very worthwhile – sensory overload. [Sensory Overload]
I made a short video on Vine to give you an idea of what it feels like to be in the square.
There’s nowhere on Earth like the Jemaa el Fna, the square at the heart of old Marrakech. The focus of the evening promenade for locals, the Jemaa is a heady blend of alfresco food bazaar and street theatre: for as long as you’re in town, you’ll want to come back here again and again. [Rough Guide]
We weren’t adventurous enough to eat at one of the stalls at Jemaa el-Fnaa food market by ourselves, so instead we booked a Marrakech Food Tour with a local guide to eat at the most authentic food joints of the medina.
I couldn’t resist a visit to the tourist hangout Café de France.
The cafe is not particularly renowned for food or service, but the views are unbeatable. Its roof terrace is an amazing place to drink mint tea while watching the sun set behind Koutoubia Mosque.
I arrived at 4pm to secure the best table on the terrace and stayed there until 6pm, when the sun had gone down and the sky was all shades of red and orange.
I watched the square get busier and louder, observed the people at the other tables (a mix of locals and foreigners) and listened to the Adhan, the call of prayer that is played from the mosque’s speakers five times a day (a muezzin still climbs the minaret at the Koutoubia Mosque to make the call).
It was a fantastic experience and one of my favourite memories of Marrakech and Morocco. After watching the sunset we came back down to the square to meet Amanda and Youssef for a food tour of Marrakech and a taste of the city’s best dishes, starting from Jemaa el-Fnaa food market.