Djeema el Fna (the main square)
The name of Marrakesh’s main square reminds of tales of One Thousand and One Nights. Djeema el Fna has been one of the main cultural places in Marrakesh since the eleventh century – that’s a thousand years ago! You will be surprised at how much culture you can feel in one place, expressed through Berber musicians, henna painters, fortune tellers, and dancers. At night street food hawkers, magicians, and more music makes the square even more lively. It gives you the feeling that you’re in the middle of an Aladdin scene. No wonder that Unesco enlisted the square as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
What I loved is that many of the fruit juice vendors offer their juices in glasses instead of plastic cups (for which you’ll hardly find a trash bin anywhere).
The downside: On the square, you also come across lots of animal tourism, such as snake-charmers and men with monkeys on chains with cut-off tails. That’s just heartbreaking and cruel, as they’re only there for tourists to take funny pictures with a monkey on their shoulder. As a responsible and sustainable traveler in Morocco, please don’t support activities where people exploit animals for the sake of profit.
Djeema el Fna is the place where you can start diving into the Medina’s maze of souks. The souks are the traditional markets that offer an authentic Moroccan shopping experience. They are the heart and soul of Marrakesh, where you can find spices, lamps, tableware, carpets, and other crafts & souvenirs. It’s the perfect place to buy some gifts to bring home from your 10 days in Morocco.
The stallholders are willing to haggle but can be very forward. While haggling can be fun, as a respectful traveler you should only haggle if you actually want to buy. Many stalls, however, seem like they exist more for tourists than for locals nowadays. Only if you dive deep into the souks you’ll find yourself somewhere in the maze of local buyers haggling for lamps, local carpets, and tobacco.
In the middle of Marrakesh’s historic center, you can find this artistic masterpiece. Your eyes will marvel at the colorful courtyards, gardens, and patterned rooms and ceilings.
A local Minister has built this incredibly beautiful palace for his wife in the 19th century. I wonder how they used their 150 rooms and numerous landscaped gardens. Even if it’s one of the city’s main tourist spots, you should definitely see its beauty. But go early in order to avoid the crowds.