The Jamaa el Fna Square is one of the most dynamic attractions in Morocco, and no trip to the country is arguably complete without a visit to this pulsating heart of Marrakech. The origin of this large square is unknown, as is the origin of its name, which can also be spelled Djemaa el Fna Square. Regardless of its relatively anonymous roots, the Jamaa el Fna Square is the main square in Morocco's most popular tourist destination. Both locals and tourists take to it on a daily basis, and the scene during the day is quite different from the scene at night.
During the daylight hours in the main Marrakech square, the western side tends to be relatively quiet. Other parts boast monkey handlers, juice stalls, various street musicians, snake charmers, and other interesting entertainers and purveyors of oft-curious products. Water sellers with bright red hats add to the atmosphere with their traditional water bags and brass cups, though travelers should steer clear of their product, as the cleanliness of the cups is to be questioned. As the day wears on in Jamaa el Fna Square, the scene starts to change and other interesting characters arrive to entertain the masses.
Come late afternoon, acrobats take to the central open square in Marrakech, and various musicians and jugglers often show up as well to entertain passersby. Among the most popular late afternoon acts in Jamaa el Fna Square are the storytellers, who often attract sizable crowds. Sometimes, a musician will accompany the storyteller as he weaves his tales. Unfortunately, the storytellers in the main Marrakech square tend to direct their stories towards the locals, who speak Maghrebi. That being said, it is not necessary to understand the words to enjoy the experience. While a daytime visit to this Marrakech square is very rewarding, many tourists and locals prefer a nighttime visit, at least those who have eating in mind. This is when the best dining opportunities are to be had.
Trying native dishes is one of the many joys to be had on a Morocco vacation, and there may be no better place in the country for an unforgettable dining experience than Jamaa el Fna Square. As the sun starts to set over this large, open-air plaza and market, clouds of smoke rise from the food stalls, filling the air with savory scents. Most of the chefs at the food stalls are friendly, and they often try to tempt visitors with mint tea and the promise of fresh ingredients. Dates, nuts, and cakes that are sweetened with honey are just some of the treats that visitors to the square can try on a late afternoon or evening visit, and the brochettes of beef, chicken, and lamb can be of specific interest to meat lovers. Couscous with meat and vegetables is one of the more traditional Moroccan dishes, and it is usually a safe bet when looking for something good to eat in Jamaa el Fna Square. More exotic dishes are available for adventurous diners, and they include sheep's head stewed with chickpeas and berbouch, which is a kind of snail soup.
Regardless of when you choose to visit the main square in Marrakech, bringing a camera along is a good idea. It's customary to tip any of the locals that you plan on photographing, in which case bringing along some small change is also recommended. Late afternoon is the best time for photo opportunities in Jamaa el Fna Square, as this is when the mix of performers is most complete.
There are many rewarding things to do in Morocco. Enjoying some drinks and a meal at one of the rooftop cafes that overlooks the main square in Marrakech is one of them. It is important to note, however, that the rush for a table can heat up quickly once late afternoon approaches. As such, travelers might want to see what the staff at their respective Marrakech hotel has to say about getting a good spot.
As is true in any busy area in Morocco, visitors to the Jamaa el Fna Marrakech Square should mind their belongings. Pickpockets are often on the lookout in the country's crowded tourist areas. As for the shopkeepers and guides that can found in Jamaa el Fna Square, they tend not to overwhelm visitors with pressure. Those who do are often reigned in by the city's Tourist Brigade. This renowned Marrakech square is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Morocco, and as such, the city has taken various measures in recent years to ensure a better overall tourist experience.