The Famous Square
Djemaâ Lafna Square
It is without doubt the heart of Marrakech. Story tellers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, musicians, orange sellers and hawkers go to the square to the great delight of both natives and the tourists. In May 2001 Place Djemaâ El Fna was declared a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity” by UNESCO.
The idea of the UNESCO project Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity came from people concerned about the Jamaa el Fna. The place is known for its active concentration of traditional activities by storytellers, musicians and performers, but it was threatened by economic development pressures. In fighting for the protection of traditions, the residents called for action on an international level, to recognize the need for the protection of such places — termed "cultural spaces" — and other popular and traditional forms of cultural expression.
The vibe and rhythm of the square changes throughout the day. In daylight hours, Jemaa el-Fnaa is mostly a marketplace with water sellers, orange juice stalls and snake charmers. As afternoon takes over, the marketplace entertainment changes, the snake charmers leave and Chleuh dancing boys arrive on the scene. Storytellers share tales in Berber or Arabic; peddlers with medicines and magicians also become part of the entertainment. The square becomes more crowded as evening begins to fall. More food stalls appear when night descends.
The tradition of storytelling is a Moroccan practice which has been taking place in the central square of Marrakech for many hundreds of years. Across the corners of Morocco, storytelling or ‘Hakawti’ in Darija Arabic fuses comedy, music and local news. In Jemaa el-Fnaa,the beating heart of the red city, two renowned storytellers and friends Abdelilah Amal and Mostafa Dardak have been enthralling the crowds of the square for over 25 years.
Snake charming is an ancient skill in Morocco and those who practice this art can always be found in Marrakech’s central square, Jemaa El Fnaa. Although there are a myriad of remarkable sights to be discovered in the centre of the city, the small communities of charmers will perhaps be those you hear, before you see..
In the old days these people provided a real and valuable service and dispensed questionable water from a leather canteen to local traders and thirsty travellers but they are practically redundant now in their substantive role because sensible people prefer safe bottled water to the uncertain quality of the water in their satchels. Their job now is to have their picture taken with the tourists and charge 10 dirhams .
Oranges are easy to find in Marrakech, In fact anywhere in morocco. they grow in trees at the side of streets, parks and just about anywhere you look. The main square of DJemaa lafna is Flanked by the stallholders selling freshly squeezed orange juice at an unbelievably cheap price.