Jamaa El-Fna of Marrakech | The most famous square in Morocco
Jamaa El-Fna square is one of the most important distinctive historical sites that Marrakesh is famous for. It is a large square that serves as the beating heart of the Red City of Marrakech. It is dominated by the minaret of the Quessabine mosque, between the souk and the minaret of Kotoubia.
For a thousand years, Jemaa El-Fna has served as a gathering place and market at the heart of Marrakesh. Fortune tellers, snake charmers, poets, and storytellers come to entertain the crowds, helping to create an intoxicating atmosphere whose cultural importance inspired UNESCO to create its “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”
Locals delight in telling tourists that its name means assembly of the dead, which could derive from the fact that public executions were likely held here in the past.
The square was added to the UNESCO list as a 'Masterpiece of World Heritage' in 2001 due to the extent of the square's history as it dates back to the the fifth century AH, between 1070 and 1071 CE, and this is when Marrakech was established as a city in the era of AL-Morabitin. At that time, the square was a large market, but the kings and sultans that ruled the city always used the square as a center to show off the city's military forces before going to war. This made the square an important symbol of the city.
Jamaa El-Fna is always famous for bringing urban legends and oral history to life nightly, and although the storytellers who once performed here have since given way to communal games, musical performers, and slapstick comedy acts. Amazigh musicians strike up the music and Gnaoua troupes sing while henna tattoo artists beckon to passersby, and water-sellers in fringed hats clang brass cups together, hoping to drive people to drink. This is a show you don't want to miss.
Do not hesitate to go up on one of the many terraces bordering the square to isolate yourself for a few moments from this teeming life, to taste the Moroccan sweets named gazelle horns accompanied by a mint tea.
Know Before You Go
Jemaa el-Fna is located in the medina quarter of Marrakesh. The square is open daily and things typically get going at around 8 a.m. and continue until at least midnight. Pickpockets are common, especially after dark. Also be prepared to see some questionable practices among the snake charmers and monkey trainers, who sometimes treat their animals in a less than ethical way.