Africa, Photo Journal, Travel Blog

Autumn Days at Djemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakech

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Ringling Brothers Circus has nothing on Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech. The former may be the “greatest show on earth,” but the latter is clearly the greatest spectacle on earth.

If it’s not already, visiting the storied square in the heart of the city’s Medina should be at the top of your of laundry list of things to do in Marrakech. Entering Djemaa el-Fna is an amphetamine rush to the senses. Quicker than you can say “Es salaam alaykum” (“Hello” in Arabic) you will be grabbed by one of the performers—snake charmers, monkey wranglers, costumed dancing men—for a photo opportunity. After a few hours in the square, though, you’ll develop a skin for the constant intrusion.

Once you get into to the flow of Djemaa el-Fna it becomes easier to shake off the barrage of barkers to focus on the excitement that swirls about the marketplace. There’s a rhythm to this concrete carnival that moves to the soundtrack of schizophrenic flutes, drumming and cymbals crashing; there is action in every direction and as the day progresses, so does the scene inside the square.

“Daytime in Djemaa el-Fna market is full of juice peddlers, snake charmers, men with chained Barbary Apes (small monkeys) and water sellers donning traditional costumes with leather water bags and shaking brass cups. As the afternoon grows late, the crowds grow heavier and the viper-armed snake charmers and monkey men retreat, giving way to magicians, spice merchants, storytellers and musicians.”

At dusk a gypsy-style procession of wooden-wheeled food carriages are rolled into Djemaa el-Fna. The carts weave through the sea of people and are placed in the center of the square where white vinyl tents are then hoisted around the carts in a flurry activity. Soon smoke from the food stalls fills the air transforming the marketplace into the ultimate street food corridor with sausages, escargots, tagines and other traditional foods.

In addition to the nightly dinner theater, there also cafes and restaurants that surround the Dejmaa el-Fna, which provide a wide range of foods, including pizza, and make a great place to escape the madness of the marketplace. Some of the restaurants even have second and third floor patios overlooking the square, which are ideal for taking in the whole scene.

Whether you are staying outside of the Medina in a resort or at a traditional riad, like Riad Barroko (we highly recommend this place) just outside of the square, you’ll want to spend some time at Dejmaa el-Fna. But until then, here is a collection of photos to take you into one of the world’s greatest marketplaces.

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Have you ever been to Djemma el-Fna Square? If so, did it live up to your expectations?

*This story was featured on Budget Travelers Sandbox’s Travel Photo Thursday, which is a weekly series that showcases some of the best travel photos from around the internet.


VEGETABLE TAGINE  Tagine means a slow cooked Moroccan Stew, with or without meat and with much spiced flavor.

This is a favorite for me to cook and take to my vegan friends get togethers, as I did a few weeks ago. It is very easy to prepare and can have a number of different variations according to your personal taste and what you might have on hand.

This recipe will feed 6 – 8, but it goes great as an additional dish when you have pot-luck get togethers.

What you need:

2 good sized onions (1 chp coarsely, 1 dcd)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp grd coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne or pinch for less heat pinch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 – 5 cloves garlic minced in press
1 lg potato peeled cut into chunks
1 sweet potato peeled cut into chunks
1 lg carrot peeled cut thick slices ( or handful of baby carrots)
1 sweet red pepper or yellow or orange seeded chopped 1 squash (your choice) peeled cut into chunks
1 small cauliflower florets only 1 eggplant (optional) peeled coarsely chopped water (chicken or vegetable stock)
1 handful raisins, or apricots or prunes chopped
1/4 cup honey (or brn sugar 1/3 – 1/2 cup)
1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice splash (or more) hot pepper sauce of choice to taste
1 – 19 oz can chick peas rinsed well and drained
1 zucchini coarsely chopped juice of 1 lemon salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

METHOD
-In a large pot or dutch oven, saute’ the coarsely chopped onion in olive oil for a few minutes add in the spices and garlic and cook for another 5 mins.

-Add the remaining vegetables (except zucchini, chick peas and tomatoes), continue to saute’ the vegs until well coated with spices. Add enough water/stock to cover all and simmer for 30 mins or more depending on the sweet potato.

-Adjust as needed. Meanwhile in a good sized pan add olive oil diced onions saute’ a few moments then add raisins (apricots or prunes) honey, tomatoes and juice, hot sauce.

-Allow to thicken stirring occasionally then add to the simmering stew along with the chick peas, zucchini, lemon juice. Salt and ground pepper to taste.

-Continue cooking for 15 mins or until vegetables are soft but not mushy, then serve.
Can be served alone or with rice (of choice) couscous or polenta. You can also have grilled flat bread or pitas on the side.


*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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