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As the sun sets over Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech, the muezzins call the prayer from the surrounding mosques, and the smoke rises from the grills below, I am reminded every time why I love Marrakech as I sit sipping my tea on the top terrace of Café de France.
Sure it’s cliché, but how can you come on holiday to Marrakech and not enjoy the nighttime ambiance of this magical square?
There are secrets to be unveiled at every turn and magical potions to cure any problem, especially for those with marital problems, so I’m told. Locals enjoy the musical entertainment and storytelling, while at the food stalls touts try to lure tourists on holiday in Marrakech to dine with them by indicating “it’s the same everywhere” (that is, unless you know the best places to go).
I absolutely cannot visit the square without stopping for a calamari and zaalouk (roasted eggplant) at stall #14. So popular, the owner has added additional seating opposite the grills where the fish purchased daily from coastal cities is prepared.
Listen to a Berber band performing a traditional song as the locals gather, providing small change to hear their favourite classics.
The drag show! Well ok, perhaps it’s not a drag show by Western standards. But men dressed as women dancing around in sequined robes and belts, laughing and looking for any opportunity to pose for the camera is one of my highlights.
Shop for preserved lemons, harissa and olives in the olive souk just off Jemaa el Fna. You’ll pay what the locals pay (about 10 dhs for a jar of either harissa or preserved lemons). Shopkeepers will allow you to sample the olives (for spicy try those blended with harisa, the purple kind often surprise people, and the green mixed with fresh herbs are always popular).
Travel deeper on your holidays to Marrakech and experience Jemaa el Fna, including dining where locals dine, and enjoying the nighttime ambiance in a safe and enjoyable manner by booking a Tasting Marrakech food and cultural tour. Find out more at tasting-marrakech.com.
Mandy Sinclair is a Marrakech-based writer and owner of Say Something Communication, an English-speaking public relations agency for travel/lifestyle brands. She blogs her tales from Morocco at whymorocco.wordpress.com and shares daily updates on Instagram @MandyinMorocco.
[Olive photo credit: Tomasz Dunn – FLICKR.com]