Marrakech is becoming the go-to spot for quick getaway breaks in the sun, weekends away and couples’ breaks; and with good reason. Despite increased tourist interest, this destination remains to be good value for money, with cheap flights to Marrakech from the UK and reasonable accommodation to suit all budgets – in the unique Morrocan Riads, historic hidden palaces offering calm and relaxation away from the city – and, of course, the markets and souks which epitomise the buzz and culture of Marrakech life.
The Djemaa el-Fna market square is the social, historical and cultural hub of Marrakech – and you’ll find it pretty much impossible to avoid on a break away there. Whether enjoying it from above as you dine at one of the square’s surrounding balcony restaurants, or walking through it day or night admiring the street art performances or haggling with the locals, or even making like a Moroccan and experiencing the traditional food from the street vendors, there are so many ways to make the Djemaa el-Fna a fantastic part of Marrakech holidays. However, there are some tips and tricks to make sure you get the best from this exciting square.
Haggling is an integral part to the Marrakech culture, and something you will find yourself enjoying adopting as you explore the souks, or stalls, to the east of the Djemaa el-Fna. Vendors will expect haggling on their items and to refuse is considered an insult. Consider the price of the item, suggest what you think is fair and let the conversation guide the final price. Be wary not to suggest such a low price as to insult the vendor’s goods, however.
Good tour books will provide a map to help orient yourself within the square, but while it may seem daunting when you first arrive, within the couple of days of your city break to Marrakech you will find yourself becoming accustomed to the Djemaa el-Fna. The square is quieter on the opposite side to the souks, where cafés, hotels and gardens prevail.
By night, eating at the Souq becomes a real option as the orange juice squeezers and snake charmers are replaced with fast food and traditional eating carts and long benches at which to eat. While you will undoubtedly get a lot for your money, it’s worth wandering around the atmospheric stalls before you get stuck in. Plenty of stall holders will try and barter for your custom, but it’s worth sticking with your gut, going for somewhere that seems popular with locals and full of fresh produce. If the vendors are busier cooking the food than trying to get you to eat it, chances are it’s a good place to eat.
After dinner, enjoy the talents of the street dancers, the tales of the storytellers and the sensual experience that is the Djemaa el-Fna. Make sure to have some change in your pocket to reward these entertainers after their show, but also be aware that the square is a hot pick-pocket spot, so be wary of your belongings at all times.
About the Author
Dave Clough is a music journalist, blogger and travel writer from the UK. He has DJ’d across the globe and is involved in club night event promotions in London.