Jemaa el Fna – The Heart of the Medina
Bubbling cauldrons of soup, steaming bowls of snails, sizzling meat skewers, steaming lambs’ heads, and piles upon piles of fresh green mint–welcome to the incredible Jemaa el Fna, the grand square at the heart of Marrakesh’s ancient Medina!
Every morning the square comes to life as the first of the juice stalls is trundled into place, later followed by the full kitchen food carts. A confusion of iron bars, padded seat covers, lattice work awnings, and of course, heaps and heaps of fixings for the days’ meals are unloaded and expertly assembled. Some of these vendors have been in business for decades and have been going through this daily routine of setup, sell out, and tear down non-stop day after day after day for years.
The whole square acts as an enormous, open air entertainment district. You’ll enjoy the show before and after dinner as fortune tellers predict the future, impromptu bands belt out traditional favorites, and street performers show off their acrobatic skills. Somehow, I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening in Marrakesh!
The square really gets hopping just before sunset. Now, you’ll need to be extra careful to avoid being run over as the night time vendors show up with cart after cart for the last minute rush to setup and prepare for the diners.
The food stalls of Jemaa el Fna are the original pop up restaurants. They roll in on a car sized trailer, with everything needed to build and operate one restaurant for the evening crowds. Sometimes two or three carts are assembled together into one large dining room with seating for thirty or forty hungry visitors.
These guys have been setting up the same food carts for years. Insert tab A into slot B, fold and twist, every part has its place and they could do it with their eyes closed. The average time to go from loaded cart to packed restaurant with food on the tables is about one hour.
The food stalls are setup, it’s time to eat!
You can find almost anything to eat in this ultimate pop-up food court. We tried the snails, some fried calamari, one or two kebabs, tajine (of course), and we ended the night with a soothing glass of Moroccan mint tea. Why not?
Have you been to Marrakesh? Were you tempted by the intriguing food stalls of Jemaa el Fna?
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