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March 31, 2011
August 15, 2004
You can eat at one of the food-stalls. Each has a number so you can remember it next day. There are almost all type of food sellers: sheep heads, kebabs, orange juice, dried fruit sellers.
There are women making henna - don't worry, it will go off in two weeks if you wash as much as me.
There are the dentists, witch doctors to consult your troubles, singers, dancers, magicians, snake charmers and water sellers.
Beware that every photo you make here will cost you bucks. Especially beware the snake charmers who throw the snake on poor tourists and ask for a huge sum to take it back. If you want to eliminate the hassle, go up at one of the cafes around the square to watch the party.
From journal The mysterious city of Morocco
April 4, 2005
Virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages, Marrakesh protects its mysterious labyrinthine medina, which hides sultans' palaces, the ornate mansions of rich merchants, and some of the most colorful bazaars in the Arab world. Late in the afternoon, Moroccans as well as foreigners crowd the Djemâa el Fna to hear storytellers and musicians perform, to see acrobats, and watch smoke rise from the outdoor food stalls as vendors whip up a wild array of fried fish, meats, salads, and such Moroccan delicacies as goat brain!
This intoxicating city is for the eyes, a place where even the refined elements have a roughness to them, yet what is rough has its own refinement. Apart from the many things to see and do, one of the most refreshing things about Marrakesh is that time slows down here. The helter-skelter of mopeds, Mercedes, donkey carts, and pedestrians in the streets is really just a mirage; beneath it all, you can feel a languor in the way people walk and the way they take time to stop and talk to each other, conducting their daily affairs much as their ancestors did. With its dramatic beauty and unhurried rhythm, the Jewel of the South can beckon even the most seasoned traveler to stop moving and stay forever.
From journal Mysterious Morocco
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
October 13, 2004
The square has become the heart of Marrakesh. Jerome and Jean Tharaud once said "the soul of the South is here, in the groups of the onlookers who, from morning to night, gather and disperse around the street performers with the fluidity of smoke." At dusk, this square fills with jugglers and story tellers reminiscent of the griots of the Southern Sahara, Berbers who have come down from the mountains, men from the desert and fellahs from the plain deeply engrossed in their songs and dances performed with tame snakes. At this time of day, when the peaks of the distant Atlas Mountains catch the last of the sunlight, the atmosphere is disquieting. This spellbinding spectacle will encourage you to linger on the terraces of the numerous surrounding cafés. In the mornings, this vast square, located on the edge of the souk district and bordered by shops and workshops, is crowded with fruit and spice sellers, guerrab with their leather water bottles and metal drinking cups, basket sellers, ironmongers and barbers. In the afternoons come the Gnaoua dancers descended from former Guinean slaves, musicians, storytellers, snake charmers and entertainers with performing monkeys. Before starting their performance, they establish their halqa (imaginary circle blessed by a saint).
All around the square are tea houses offering mint tea and local sweets, like the filo pastry filled with mixed nuts.
For the adventurous, a favourite amongst the Moroccans is goat's brain, broiled in lamb stock and eaten with your fingers! It's chewy, like gum, and not at all as awful as I'd imagined. Another delicacy here are the local escargots, not the garden variety or the fancy French ones, but simply boiled in salt water and spiced with some herbs. These are tiny snails that are delicate and tender-and the soup is especially delicious, a must-try!
A five-minute walk from the square is Marrakesh's highest minaret from which the muezzin calls for prayer three times a day.
From journal Memories of Marrakesh
December 20, 2002
There are two ways to experience the plaza. One is to plunge headfirst into the hustle and the bustle. You can pretend that every local is like a solar eclipse, trying not to look them directly in the eyes or you will be "blinded" by sales pitches. The sights, sounds and smells of the city really surround you here, and it can be a bit disconcerting at the beginning. One of my colleagues mentioned that a snake charmer draped a live snake on her husband, and the charmer would not remove the snake until the couple had paid a fair ransom! All this excitement over a photograph! Carry lots of small change if you want to pay for lots of action shots, or discreetly click away amongst the crowd. If you want to eat in the square, plunk yourself down at one of the open-air food stalls that look appealing to you, although it may be wise to dine here only if you have an iron stomach.
The other way to experience the square is to climb to one of the rooftop decks for some excellent panoramic views. Not only will you get an overall scope of the plaza and its players, but you will see some of the surrounding buildings like the Koutoubia minaret and the silhouettes of the Atlas Mountains. If you have a zoom lens, there are excellent opportunities to capture the scenes below and afar. Some of the rooftop terraces at the Place Djemaa al-Fna are the Cafe Glacier and the Restaurant Argana. The Cafe Glacier has perhaps the best vantage point and the admission is basically the price of a beverage, but they have really dirty plastic chairs.
We traveled through Morocco during Ramadan. One of the most unique experiences was wandering through the Place Djemaa al-Fna as the afternoon was fading into dusk. Locals are quietly seated at the outdoor tables, with bowls of food sitting before them. Remember, these people have not had any food nor drink since before sunrise, and they are all waiting patiently for the official signal. Once it is announced that the daily fasting period is over, the feasting begins.
From journal Bill in Morocco - MARRAKESH
Tagines: aromatic stews concocted in conical earthenware dishesTerjla: the tart starter salad of tomatoes, garlic, spices, and of course, couscous in its myriad tasty mixtures.
As well as being delicious, mint tea is reputed to be the finest calmer of stomach conditions. Moroccans like their mint tea very sweet - the people here apparently consume more sugar per head than in any other country.
St. Augustine, Florida
October 24, 2011
From journal Week in Marrakech
January 10, 2010
From journal Marvelous Marrakesh!
There may be some locals chasing you to hire them at the entrance, but once in the souks, you should be left alone.
There are carpet souks, carpenters, dyers souks, spice souks where you can also see very unusual material which locals still use in witchcraft and mostly illegal in many countries (teeth, and parts of rare animals), babush (colorful slippers) souks can all be visited. You should have the courage to negotiate in souks. Even though I was told to pay half of the first told price, you may get in touch with reasonable sellers sometimes who tell you a good price at once. But once I could not find the appropriate price for a teapot. The prices I was told were mainly European prices. Fortunately, there is a big retailer in Morocco called Marjane, so I have found my teapot against affordable prices. So you can keep it as the last option in case souks are not for you but you’d still like to take something with you of this country.
Washington, District of Columbia
December 16, 2004
The places closest to the Djemaa el Fnaa are more aimed for tourists. The quality of products was not very good, and the prices were very high. You will have to make your way into the heart of the souks to find items of good quality.
I highly recommend the cloth found in Marrakech. The weave is well done, and the colors and patterns are quite captivating. One of my group members bought a beautiful piece woven of cotton, silk, and cashmere in gorgeous sunset colors that I have not seen elsewhere.
I would not, however, recommend buying many things here if you have a chance to travel to other parts of Morocco. I was able to find things, such as wood, carpets, and pottery, that were of much better quality and price when visiting some of the other cities. The merchants are very good bargainers and start out at often outrageous prices. Even though I already had an idea of the prices being charged in other places, it was very difficult to find a good deal.
From journal 2.5 weeks in Morocco