Marrakesh for Arts Lovers

Guest Contributor April 25, 2016

Djemma el-Fna, the main square of Marrekesh, is the bustling, beating heart of Morocco. This is the Moroccan street scene of the movies brought to life.

Djemma el-Fna, the main square of Marrekesh, has a long history of public spectacle. Its early days as an execution stage, where heads were placed on spikes for all to see, is a testament to this. Nowadays it’s the bustling, beating heart of Morocco. On any given day, the potential for action is high, as vendors, animal tamers, henna-tattoo artists, acrobats and musicians gather to compete for the attention of tourists or anyone else who enters the fray. Keeping track of all the goings-on can incur serious whiplash in those foolish enough to try. This is the Moroccan street scene of the movies brought to life.


And that’s just the regular day-to-day. In mid-July, during the Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival, this energy is turned way up: Imagine Djemma el-Fna on steroids and spilling into every nook and cranny of Marrakesh.

The Palais el-Badi functions as the festival’s main gathering post. These palatial ruins, also known as the Incomparable for their once unmatched grandeur, are now little more than the red walls that once held them up. The palace’s expansive courtyard hosts most of the major performances during the festival, including the nightly fantasia, where Arabian horses engage in a choreographed dance routine.

Back in the main square, a host of magicians, storytellers and snake charmers entertain, as they are wont to do all year. Aside from more of the usual, Djemma el-Fna is the best place to eat during the festivities, with twice as many street vendors plying their wares during the five days of the festival. If you ever wanted to compare local specialties, like rich bowls of snail soup or the sesame cookie known as chebakia, now is the time. If you’re not hungry, do yourself a favor and grab an orange juice from one of the countless fresh juice stands in the area. Made with famous Moroccan oranges fresh from the tree, this is the ideal way to cool off a long hot day in Marrakesh.

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