on January 10, 2010
At first glance, Djemaa al-Fna may look just like your ordinary everyday square. But upon closer examination, there is much to be interested about the famous square and market place of Marrakesh's old medina. The souks are located in one side of the square for those who may want to shop after a visit to the Square.If you stand in the middle of the square you will have a perfect, unobstructed view of the Kotuobia Mosque. One of the bigger and probably most famous mosque of Marrakesh.During the day, the famous orange juice carts line one area of the square providing thirsty tourists and locals their daily dose of Vitamin C while there are some dried fruits and nuts carts for those who may want their share of carbohydrates and proteins. What provides the day time charm of the Al-Fna square are the many special skills tourist attractions scattered all over the streets. The famous snake charmers play their flutes to the snakes. Once we caught a cobra nip the heel of their Moroccan master. Nothing to fear, as I surmise the fangs have been removed. There are also those who carry trained monkeys who will do tricks for a few dirhams. There are the Cheleuh boys dancing to Berber music. People often crowd around them to watch they gyrate to the beats. Tourists who take photographs must be prepared to shell out money should they be caught taking a snapshot. The peddlers will not let you get away with a picture as they will follow you around until you give them money. There are women who would do artistically crafted henna tattoos for a fee of 100 dirhams. Other vendors sell spices and herbs which one can use for cooking or magic spells.Djemaa al-Fna is a UNESCO heritage site, particularly for the storytellers who earn their living in the square. The stories they tell carry the history and mythology of Morocco. They are dwindling in number and there is concern that Morocco might lose their heritage of oral traditions.As the night approaches, a transformation occurs in the square. People come with carts which they will eventually transform into cooking stalls. Most of the square will turn into a night cafe with stalls selling traditional Moroccan cuisine, grilled food and vegetables and kebabs. The square is covered with smoke and scent of grilled meat that will make any meat lover's mouth water. If you walk by the stalls, be prepared for a deluge of waiters calling for your attention inviting you to stay in their stall. Sometimes they go as far as following you around. Once you choose to stay at a particular stall, do not be surprised if they start serving you bread, olives and tomatoes. They usually provide the appetizers for a minimal fee. However, you may assert for a different meal should you prefer something else. It would be best to do so before you are served the food to avoid confusion and some hard feelings. Though I still suggest you allow yourself one experience of having your appetizers decided for you.What makes the square interesting is the various activities and people that work in it and tour in it. Just people watching in the Djemaa al-Fna is exciting and adventurous enough!
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