Djemma El Fna in the afternoon
After a long and hot sapping afternoon walking the streets of Marrakech, we entered Café Glacier and headed straight for the terrace. You have to buy a soft drink before you get a a table, an entry fee of sorts to prevent the free loaders coming here just for the view. We grabbed a table near the railing and ordered our mint teas.
Below us the “nerve center of the medina” was quietly throbbing. The crowd staying inside the shadow line of the huge shelter in the middle of the square.
Performers at Djemma El Fna
Djemma El Fna is no Piazza Navona, the lovely Baroque town square in Rome with Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center, neither is it the Florentine Piazza della Signoria – the nucleus of renaissance where every stone is steeped in five hundred years of rich history and has enough art to fill a museum. If either of these squares were to be vacated of every human being, they would be beautiful and awe inspiring in their setting, their color and architecture.
Djemma El Fna, on the other hand, is plain simple ugly, a mere tiled ground surrounded by mundane orange and beige buildings.
The stage of Djemma El Fna depends on its actors to turn up each and every day to perform certain acts to bring it to life. And every day, the drama unfolds to the orchestration on an invisible director. During the day, that would be the orange juice sellers offering freshly squeezed citrus or the snake charmers with exotic reptiles and critters; and the charismatic storytellers who uncork exotic Berber tales from their memory or make something up impromptu from their imagination.
Djemma El Fna at night
Past sundown, the place erupts into action. The vacant square fills up rapidly with stalls of food. People crawl out of the woodwork. The crowd doubles and then quadruples, both local and tourists in equal quantities. Seamlessly the spectacle unfolds, noisily brews a cultural cauldron and serves a heady mix.
We ditched our table at Café Glacier and hit the ground.
Kebabs being made at Djemma el Fna, as much a visual treat as culinary
There is something here for each of the five senses, and it is there in abundance. For the nose, is the thick smoke emanating from large fires that grill tender lamb kebabs mixed with cumin and garlic. The tongue gets to taste a wide array of Arabic-African cuisine with unmistakable French influence. From Escargots to lamb sausages, harira to hummus. Its all here.
The food stalls of Djemma el Fna
The noise of the place makes it difficult to hear ones thoughts. The stall owners multilingual, high pitched invitations to garner precious clientele, kids running amok parents in feverish pursuit, the excited babble of the overwhelmed foreigners. There is no place for personal space in this tightly packed place and the eyes can’t take in enough.
The orgy continues deep into the night.
It is easy to loose track of time. It is easy to get lost, period. What is most reassuring is that you know you can come here 10 years from now and experience it the way it is now. Is that what one would call time-proof? In true sense, this is the Marrakech I had travelled thousands of miles for.
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Weather in Marrakech right now: