Djemaa El-Fna

sights / Squares & plazas

Djemaa El-Fna information

Location
Marrakesh , Morocco
Opening hours
approx 9am-1am, later during Ramadan
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Think of it as live-action channel-surfing: everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh’s main square and open-air theatre, you’ll discover drama already in progress. The hoopla and halqa (street theatre) has been non-stop here ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.

By 10am, the daily performance is underway. Snake charmers blast oboes to calm hissing cobras; henna tattoo artists beckon to passersby; water-sellers in fringed hats clang brass cups together, hoping to drive people to drink.

The show doesn’t peak until shadows fall and 100 chefs arrive with grills in tow, cueing musicians to tune up their instruments. This is a show you don’t want to miss – but stay alert to horse-drawn-carriage traffic, pickpockets and rogue gropers. Arrive early in the evening to nab prime seats on makeshift stools (women and elders get preference).

Applause and a few dirhams ensure an encore. It's a bargain show, and critically acclaimed too: for bringing urban legends and oral history to life nightly, Unesco declared the Djemaa el-Fna a ‘Masterpiece of World Heritage’ in 2001.