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Mar 27, 2024

Your Guide to Marrakech’s Jamaa el-Fna Market

Juice vendor at Djema el Fna square in Marrakesh

It’s the greatest show in Marrakech. Some even say the world.

Jamaa el-Fna (sometimes spelled Djamaa, the d is silent) is Marrakech’s famous public square, main market, and one of the best spectacles in all of Morocco. Locals and tourists alike come to Jamaa el-Fna at night to wander the maze of street food stalls and be delighted by storytellers and other performers carrying on traditions that have been going on here for hundreds of years.

It’s one of the best free things to do in Marrakech (although there is plenty to spend money on too) and no trip here is complete without experiencing its vibrant, chaotic sights, sounds and smells at least once. And there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself coming back—it’s the heartbeat of Marrakech and not easy to take in everything in one visit.

Marrakech’s meeting place

The history of Jamaa el-Fna goes back to at least the 11th century. It’s been the site of traditional food markets, military parades, public executions, cultural festivals and more. Today it’s considered the meeting point between the modern part of Marrakech and its historical district, the Medina. It’s not far from the city’s largest mosque, Koutoubia, a short walk from the Royal Palace and is surrounded by many budget-friendly traditional riads. If you pass by in the daytime don’t let the laidback vibes fool you. Jamaa el-Fna at night is when Marrakech’s famous square really comes to life.

Juice vendor at Djema el Fna square in Marrakesh

Drinks with a view over Marrakech

A perfect night at Jamaa el-Fna starts early at one of the rooftop cafes overlooking the square, where you can drink Moroccan mint tea or have a traditional dinner of tajine while watching the sun go down and the action heat up. It’s also one of the best places for photos of Marrakech.

Café de FranceLink opens in a new tab, opened in 1912, is the classic spot, with views not only of the action below but as far as the Atlas Mountains. L’Amazigh RooftopLink opens in a new tab serves international cuisine and has generous happy hour specials. For a healthy menu and creative non-alcoholic cocktails try for a table at bustling Café d’épicesLink opens in a new tab.

coffee break at sunset over Jemaa el Fna Square

A guide to Jamaa el-Fna’s food market

First you will see and smell the smoke from charcoal grills, wafting over the maze of stalls BBQ-ing Moroccan street food favorites like lamb kebabs, smoked sausages, and eggplant. Almost every kind of regional food is for sale here—couscous, harira soup, breads and sweets, plus sheep’s brain and snail soup for the adventurous eater. Owners work the crowds from behind colorful displays of food, turning the act of cooking into an exuberant performance sometimes with singing. Expect to be waved at by every one of them, beckoning you to squeeze in beside other guests at simple plastic tables.

A few tips for the best experience eating in Jamaa el-Fna at night. As with most night markets, it’s wise to find a stall that’s busy with locals, who know what’s fresh and tasty. Prices are fixed and quite affordable, but beware the server who brings you dishes, such as salads or bread, that you didn’t order. These are not usually free, and you should definitely find that out before the bill comes! Bring small local currency as they do not always have much change.

Traditional Moroccan tajin with meat and vegetables

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Berber storytellers and Gnawa music

In 2001, Marrakech’s Jamaa el-Fna square was proclaimed an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and in 2008 it was included in UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is thanks in part to the Berber storytellers and dancers bringing Morocco’s Indigenous folklore to the masses every night. You may also catch a performance of traditional Gnawa music, a rhythmic and poetic style played with a three-string lute and heavy iron castanets that fans of the blues are sure to love. This is a wonderful and inexpensive way to experience traditional Moroccan culture and it’s worth sitting down for a whole show. Arrive early if you want to grab a stool up close and don’t forget to tip.

Violin player at Djemaa el Fna square with crowd of people and smog of the market

Shopping in Jamaa el-Fna

Jamaa el-Fna is located right next to Marrakech’s biggest souk—a place to shop for quality textiles, pottery, silver jewelry or teapots and, of course, spices. It’s a bargaining culture so don’t forget to counter the first price offered with a smile and aim for both you and the seller to walk away happy. For inexpensive souvenirs and trinkets, try the vendors selling on blankets set up on the ground of the square, where you can also find cassettes and CDs of Moroccan music.

Souvenirs on the Jamaa el Fna market in old Medina, Marrakesh

A few things to avoid in Jamma el-fna

Marrakech’s Jamma el-fna is known for its snake-charmers. You may also see monkeys dressed up in costume. These animals are not well treated and it’s advised to avoid paying money to take photos with them. Also beware if someone tries to put a snake around your neck, or offers you a henna tattoo or friendship bracelet, they will ask for a hefty tip. The market is a place for hustling. But if you say a firm “no” you’ll be able to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere without breaking your budget.

Jamaa el Fna at night is a true Moroccan experience. The best market in Marrakech for food, entertainment and shopping, an evening here will not soon be forgotten!

Famous Jemaa el Fna square crowded at dusk

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