The large market place Djemaa el-Fnaa is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Marrakesh. Luckily, as the beating heart and the main square of this bustling metropolis, you’re unlikely to miss it.
Djemaa el-Fnaa is heaving with thousands of people, locals and tourists alike. Wherever you look, snakes are being charmed, cooked snails are being advertised and dried fruit, nuts, juices and much more are being sold. Mesmerising, rhythmic tunes follow as, as we stroll across the main square. Drums, flutes and ouds (pear-shaped, stringed instruments commonly used in the Middle East) are just some of the instruments that lure us in with their dreamy melodies. Exotic scents of all kinds capture our attention and draw us in. The square’s oriental atmosphere holds us in an almost trance-like state. There is so much to see, discover and experience that exploring the central square in the medina quarter (old town) in Marrakesh can only be described as a fascinating and thrilling sensory overload.
We move on towards the covered souqs, a sensory overload of colourful and inviting chaos! We’re both mesmerised and paralysed at once, not knowing what to be amazed by first. We also know that we should never show too much interest, otherwise we’ll be “trapped” in a friendly and well-intended, yet pushy sales pitch. The never-ending calls from the sellers are surrounding us from all directions. Of course everybody wants to take the opportunity to make a sale. By now we have learned that we can avoid the pushy requests with a friendly “maybe later”, and do what we always do when we’re on the road: we look for a quiet, little alleyway and breathe a sigh of relief when we find it.
As mentioned in the article, there are a few “survival strategies” that can help make your visit to Djemaa el-Fnaa as pleasant as possible.
The most important tips and what you should look out for in the market
- If you know what souvenirs you want to take home with you, walk directly and decidedly towards your gifts of choice. As soon as you fix your eyes on something or stop and look around, whether you’re interested or not, someone will approach you and a simply “no, thank you” won’t help you get away.
- You’ve said “no, thank you” seven times already? Try a few more times. If you’re still not having much luck, say the magic words “maybe later”. But make sure you don’t return to the same spot again for a little while.
- Feeling overwhelmed with the sellers’ calls and the bustle of the market square? Djemaa el-Fnaa offers a number of charming rooftop bars, which give you the opportunity to observe the buzz of activity from a safe distance – while savouring a delicious mint tea and oriental biscuits.
The Moroccans’ blunt directness on Djemaa el-Fnaa can seem unusual to us Europeans. However, a general rule is that kindness is rewarded with kindness. Just like everywhere else in the world, this wonderfully chaotic place offers hidden treasures and it’s always worth sharing a smile. Are you ready for your adventure?