Jemaa el Fna square, the heart of the red city
In the heart of Marrakech, where two symbolic streets meet, such as Mousla Ismail and Mouassine, an open-air space opens up and breaths life into the buildings of the Medina. The so-called Jemaa el Fna square in French, also known as Yamaa el Fna, is one of the essential areas in your visit to the city. Located only 302 metres from the souk of Marrakech, 447 metres from the Koutoubia Mosque and 741 metres from the Ben Youssef Medersa, the pure Moroccan essence concentrates in this place and can be enjoyed from inside or with a panoramic view from the tea shops that surround the square with its terraces open all year round.
Its characteristic atmosphere gives the square a different feeling depending on the time of day at which you approach this central point of Marrakech. It is a crucial point of the city both by day and by night. One of the experiences that you cannot miss is visiting the Jemaa el Fna square at sunset; the sky gives a special colouring to the place and creates a landscape where passers-by, souks and vegetation are in perfect harmony.
SYNONYM OF ASSEMBLY OR MEETING
The fact that the name of the square actually means something and its meaning is very much related to a place of reunion and encounter, maybe after your visit it will come as no surprise due to the cosmopolitan, multicultural place it has now become. However, there are many theories regarding the true origin of the name of this main square in the medina of Marrakech. Some are of the opinion that the name of ŷâmiʻ al-fanâ means “assembly of annihilation” because, centuries ago, this space had been the place where criminals were decapitated and, following that, their severed heads were exhibited around the square, what might resemble a meeting in some respects, hence the relationship with the word “assembly”.
Another common theory point to the other meaning of the word ŷâmi, that is, “mosque”. This is because, in the past, a mosque could have been erected in the Jemaa el Fna square, and this space might have corresponded to the square that we know now.
BETWEEN THE ORANGE JUICE AND THE MOROCCAN CHEBAKIA
The square has a triangular structure and is surrounded by shops, stalls, restaurants and public buildings and is a meeting place for both locals and tourists. Orange juice is one of the products you can buy in Jemaa el Fna; its price is around 4 dirhams that correspond to 40 eurocents.
Nevertheless, it is not the only thing worth trying and it is almost impossible to leave the square with the feeling of being hungry. There are many stalls with typical clothes, lamps, hookah pipes… but above all, the city is known for its exquisite and rich gastronomy. Jemaa el Fna offers everything for everyone: from the most exclusive restaurants to the most modest ones that will not leave you indifferent due to the great variety of typical Moroccan flavors from the area. The contrast between sweet and salty will leave you speechless and, surely, tasting one of the star dishes of Moroccan cuisine such as the chicken pastela, the tajines, the couscous or the Moorish kebabs will turn into an interesting experience to remember for a lifetime.
To end your lunch or dinner, don’t forget to try a Moroccan Sellou that will be the icing on the cake of your trip. They are typical sweets made from toasted sesame seeds, fried almonds, honey and flour that, accompanied by a mint pipe, will be one more of those experiences that will be with you forever in your memory.
If eating in the stalls that fill the town square at dusk is too complex and cumbersome, there are restaurants around the Jemaa el Fna that offer spectacular views of the city skyline, where you can eat fresh local produce at affordable prices or drink a Moorish tea while enjoying authentic Moroccan flavor.
JEMAA EL FNA, AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE
Jemaa el Fna was officially recognised a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008. This kind of project is said to raise awareness of cultural heritage and encourage local communities to protect traditional forms of cultural expression, threatened by economic development pressures.
Marrakech is, without a doubt, one of the cornerstones of Moroccan culture. The old Moroccan and African capital is an essential point to make your trip an unforgettable experience with the Jemaa el Fna square being the ideal location to relax and soak up the atmosphere of this unique and endless adventure.