If the lanes and alleys of the souk and Kasbah are the arteries of Marrakech, then Djemaa el Fna is its heart- a central square pulsating with life.
During the day it’s a comparatively sedate scene although still impossible to cross without being intercepted by trinket hawkers, water sellers, snake charmers and orange juice vendors. Horse-drawn carriages lug tourists around its periphery while those on foot vigilantly dodge having snakes around their necks or monkeys on their shoulders. Water peddlers dressed elaborately in coloured robes rotate tassels on their hats are more about a posed tourist opportunity than quenching your thirst. Squeaking, oboe-like instruments warn of a huddle of basket-covered snakes; wander too close or feign interest and a shiny black cobra will sway erect from under the basket next to a thick, coiled, motionless viper. Traditional herbalists sick cross-legged under the shade of parasols, attracting a gathering of curious onlookers and patients hopeful that the concoction of ground herbs and animal parts will cure their ailments.
By late afternoon the food stalls begin to set up; rows of temporary eateries consisting of central preparation and grilling area surrounded by a few tables and benches. Fiercely vying for business, menus are eagerly waved in your face accompanied to chants to remember their food stall “117, taste of heaven!” Smoke wafts from these makeshift restaurants that serve up Tagines, spicy sausages and grilled kebabs, cous cous, steamed snails, whole sheep’s head and brains, sweet chicken pastilla, salads and bowls of steaming Harira soup.
As the sun sets, storytellers and acrobats attract crowds encircling their animated performances. Impromptu music sessions start up with amateur musicians perched on wooden stools around lamps illuminating their faces nodding to the hypnotic drum-beat.