The tradition of storytelling is a Moroccan practice which has been taking place in the central square of Marrakech for many hundreds of years. Much like snake charming, acrobatics and copper working, good storytelling is a revered art which demands natural talent as well as many years of practice.
Across the corners of Morocco, storytelling or ‘Hakawti’ in Darija Arabic fuses comedy, music and local news. In Jemaa el-Fnaa, the beating heart of the red city, two renowned storytellers and friends Abdelilah Amal and Mostafa Dardak have been enthralling the crowds of the square for over 25 years.
Abdelilah and Mostafa use a tambour and a flute to add a musical layer to their storytelling, as well as performing some basic acrobatics dressed as clowns to keep the crowd on their feet! Abelilah and Mostafa’s stories are all in the Moroccan Darija form of Arabic, so the guardian of the Riad Dar Habiba kindly helped to translate their tales, which ranged from the arisen difficulties of the amount of languages spoken in the red city to local mishaps in the square.
You can find the two storytellers between the third call to prayer ‘Al Aser’ and the fourth ‘Al Maghreb’ as they showcase their performance in the square for exactly three hours. This is the ideal time for the Marrakshi locals looking to break the days and routine and keep up to date with the chatter and buzz of the Jemaa el-Fnaa.
Abdelilah and Mostafa’s popularity throughout Marrakech has led them to be asked to participate in television programs such as ‘Alhalka’ on the Medi1 channel, as well as a variety of festivals and comedy shows across the red city.
It’s impossible to know what to expect from Jemaa el-Fnaa, a five minute stroll through it’s centre can have you encountering anything from bird trainers to storytellers like Abdelilah and Mostafa. Create your own story by exploring the red city through the comfort and tranquillity of a Hotel Riad today.
Overshadowing the central square of Marrakech is the stunning sight of the Medina, or Argana Mosque. Hugging the North-Western reaches of the Jemaa el-Fnaa aside of Souk Jdid, the Argana Mosque has no Qur’anic school and exists solely as a space of prayer, acting as a key religious location for local Marrakshi, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. As the sun sets over the red city and the smoke from the Jemaa el-Fnaa food markets forms a sultry haze over the square, the sight of the Argana Mosque can still always be seen as it’s highest reaches soar over the movement below. The luxury Hotel Riad Dar Habiba is but a few minutes walk from the thriving centre of activity that is Jemaa el-Fnaa, explore the magic of Marrakech for yourself today. » Explore the Jemaa
el Fnaa Map
el Fnaa Map
New fashions come and go through the red city of Marrakech, yet there is one piece of clothing with has stayed for centuries, this is the traditional Moroccan Djellaba. Worn by both men and women, you can expect to see Djellabas worn on a day to day to basis in the streets of the red city and also at religious ceremonies, parties and weddings. The Djellaba has a history that traces back to Berber traditions of clothing, and is worn in different styles and variations across the Maghreb region of North Africa. As well as being ceremonial, the long, loose fitting robe has a practical design which protects the wearer from strong desert winds as well as the icy climes of the mountain regions across Morocco and Algeria. In Morocco, the exact style and design of the Djelleba differs from city to city. In Fes for example, the robe takes on the iconic design of a flowing white garment, whereas in Marrakech the Aboallouia style of Djelleba is preferred, which favours broader shoulders and a shorter hood. The female design of the Djelleba perhaps sees the
greatest range of stylistic variation, where alterations between the colours, patterns and sleeve length are vast. From the local culinary delicacies to the world of fashion, Marrakech is a corner of the globe with a rich and vivid cultural identity. Explore the magic of the red city for yourself through the luxury and comfort of a Hotel Riad in the heart of the Marrakech Medina.about he Moroccan people. » Explore the Jemaa el Fnaa Map
There are a number of key religious celebrations that take place in Morocco, the exact dates of which constantly change in keeping with the Islamic calender which follows the lunar cycle.
One such celebration is Eid al-Mawlid an-Nabawī (the festival of the birth of the prophet Mohammed) which takes place in Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calender. The exact nature of the celebrations differ in various corners of Morocco, but in the red city of Marrakech the festival is honoured by locals visiting holy shrines to ask for blessings, and also to give offerings to those worse off within community.
Traditional sweets, cakes and cookies are made by families and distributed, and new clothing for children is purchased. Adults also spend a portion of the day at local mosque’s, reciting poems and prayer.
One custom which some locals practice in the city is the crafting of fans, it is believed by a few that the day of the prophet Mohammed’s birth was exceptionally windy, and this tradition commemorates that.
As the festival draws to a close, families cluster across the leafy shades of the Menara Gardens to the modern parks of Gueliz and all the public spaces in-between to round off the days celebration with a picnic. Which is often accompanied by the dish Tanjia, a culinary delicacy unique to Marrakech.
During festivals such as Eid al-Mawlid an-Nabawī, Marrakech becomes even more charged with life and movement than usual. Experience the astounding culture of the red city for yourself today, through the comfort of a luxury Riad Hotel in the very heart of the Marrakech Medina.
For many hundreds of years, the Jemaa el-Fnaa square of Marrakech has played host to a wide range of markets, a plethora of unimaginable spectacles and all forms of entertainment imaginable. Indeed, in the red city today, very little has changed. A short stroll through Marrakech’s central square could involve an encounter with anything from a Berber snake charmer to a boxing match.
This is not an exaggeration. If you journey to the very centre of the square you will find Hassan Kata, a boxing pioneer who has been active in Marrakech since the 1980’s and has become something of a local celebrity in the red city.
Hassan organises a boxing ring of spectators in the square, encouraging volunteers from the crowd to try their hand at the sport, supplying them with boxing gloves and acting as the resident referee whilst rallying the crowds of Jemaa el-Fnaa to get behind the boxers.. Spars only take place after the third daily prayer and last a maximum of fifteen minutes, so viewing this unique event is a case of being in the right place at the right time.
However, Hassan Kata’s boxing matches aren’t exactly comparable to Brad Pitt’s Fight Club. Nobody walks away from the ring injured as Hassan Kata’s matches are not the real thing, but rather a spectacle that celebrates the sport of boxing which which has a long and illustrious history in Morocco.
This is just one example of the many secrets Marrakech has to offer. So, why not explore the ancient central square of Marrakech for yourself through the luxury and convenience of a Hotel Riad in the centre of the red city.
In the North-Eastern reaches of the ancient central square of Marrakech between Souk Semmarine and Café de France you will discover Souk el Bahja.
Meaning literally ‘up and down’ in the Moroccan Darija dialect of Arabic, Souk el Bahja gets its name from the three floors of iron stairs that allow you to traverse through the labyrinthine market district.
Souk el Bahja is ancient and traditional market district which specialises in female clothing and jewellery. Everything from bracelets to wedding rings can be found here, and the vast amount of jewellery on offer has earned the Souk the nickname the ‘place of lovers’ amongst locals.
Lose yourself in Souk el Bahja and the many others like it on a trip to the red city today by staying in any one of our four luxury Riad Hotels, all located in the very heart of the Marrakech Medina.
At the very centre of Marrakech is Jemaa el-Fnaa. For hundreds of years this central square has acted as the beating heart and mouthpiece of the red city, and is home to markets, food stalls and street performers of a huge variety.
One individual you might expect to encounter in the square is Ba Mahjoub the bird trainer. Ba can be found close to Rue Jamaa Kharbouch and Café de France, encircled by his birds who pace calmly around him despite the roaring twenty four hour bustle of the square.
Ba’s birds are named Voyageur, Khaloui, Nhassi, Berouita and Taousi and for many years he is trained them and others similar to respond to his commands through a series of simple gestures, claps and whistles.
Ba Mahjoub is renowned throughout the square for being able to make his birds soar onto the terraces of any one of the large café restaurants that hug the perimeters of Jemaa el-Fnaa square, only to recall them in an instant.
Explore the mysterious world of the red city of Morocco for yourself today through the comfort of our luxury Riad Hotels, all located within a few minutes stroll from Marrakech’s central square.
Rue Moulay Rachid or L’Prince as local Marrakshi call it, stretches from the reaches of the hotel Grand Tazi to the Café Grand Terrace. You will discover L’Prince to be a thriving area of the red city, where the huge of variety of shops, restaurants and café’s keep the district humming with activity all through the day.
An abundance of banks and bureau de change’s also make L’Prince an ideal place to draw out or exchange money, and you’ll find the financial institutions in this district will accommodate numerous currencies from around the globe.
By nightfall, the district takes on a very different appearance. As the restaurants and clothes shops slide down their shutters, the pavements flood with the activity of the cities street salesmen. If you take a stroll down L’Prince at this time you’ll find your path lit by the glow of hundreds of Moroccan tin lamps, an astonishing spectacle truly unique to this corner of the world.
L’Prince, and many other districts like it are all walking distance from any one of our luxury Hotel Riads. Book now and discover the magic of Morocco.
…. or L’Prince as local Marrakshi call it, stretches from the reaches of the hotel Grand Tazi to the Café Grand Terrace. You will discover …. to be a thriving area of the red city, where the huge of variety of shops, restaurants and café’s keep the district humming with activity all through the day.
An abundance of banks and bureau de change’s also make L’Prince an ideal place to draw out or exchange money, and you’ll find the financial institutions in this district will accommodate numerous currencies from around the globe.
During the chilly winters of Marrakech, where the temperature drops from 40°C Summer highs to below 8°C, there is one Moroccan delicacy that you will see on almost every dinner table, this is Harira soup.
Any local Marrakshi will tell you that the best harira soup is home-made, usually consisting of flour, lentils, cermicelli, beans, tomatoes and occasionally meat balls. The ingredients to Harira can often change depending on which corner of Morocco it’s being made, but it’s nearly always fragrantly seasoned with pepper, ginger and cinnamon.
There is a tradition within the communities of Marrakech whereupon the ingredients for Harira are always purchased after the day of work and before the start of the evening.
In a corner of the Dar Habiba district, there lives an old woman named Fatima and her daughter. Every day Fatima sells more than 150 bowls of harira soup, served with traditional Moroccan bread and eggs.
Harira soup is available at most restaurants and open air stalls in Marrakech, explore the red city and Moroccan cuisine today in one of our luxury Hotel Riads.
About 30 kilometres to the South of the red city of Marrakech in the direction of Lalla Takerkoust lake, a small festival takes place in memory of the saint Moulay Abdellah Ben Hussain. This festival is called the Tamaslouht Musem (festival) and Tbourida (fantasia) and it occurs on the last week of January.
On the first day or Tamaslouht, occurs the Tbourida, or fantasia. This is where the various clans of Marrakech have the opportunity to compete against each other using Berber horses, which are known throughout Morocco for their strength and beauty.
The competition determines the strength of the relationship between rider and horse, and the coordination skills of a score of riders representing a clan. The riders leader, called a Cheikh or Kaid is responsible for organising the clan into a circular ring (called a Serba) and instructing them to watch carefully for his signal once the competition begins.
When the competition is in full effect, the riders must be ready at a moments notice to recognise the
Kaid’s secret signal, so that they can rally their horses shoot the gunpowder they use (called Baroud) into the air in complete unison.
Both rider and horse don the colours and style of their respective tribes, and where in centuries past these competitions were engaged with only by men, in modern times women too are allowed to try their hand.
After the first day of Tbourida draws to a close, festival goers then join the Musem, involving children’s games and circus acrobatics. Another important feature that plays into effect over the course of the four days is the trance-like music of Gnawa and Issawa, which is played ritually throughout the Musem. This music is intended to incite a spiritual and calming atmosphere, whereupon festival goers can invoke the blessing of the saint Moulay Abdellah Ben Hussain.
The Tamaslouht Musem and Tbourida festival, and many others like it are commonplace in the ancient city of Marrakech. Explore the red city today in one of our luxury Riad Hotels.
In the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s central square, you can find everything from snake charmers to magicians. That’s not to say that Jemaa el-Fnaa is a space strictly for the weird and the wonderful, one public game that you will find being played day or night by tourists and locals alike is ‘chasing lemonade’.
The game costs but 5 dirhams (£0.37) to play, consists of being able to loop a hook tied to a long piece of bamboo round the top of various bottles of lemonades and cola. Though it seems easy, it of course is not! Not many pass through Jemaa el-Fnaa with the patience and coordination to walk away a winner.
The creator and invigilator of the game Badr, explains how he believes that the game can act as a test of the psychological well being of the player. He says that if a contestant is “truly at peace” with his surroundings, he will gain where the opposition loses.
Jemaa el-Fnaa is the beating heart of the red city of Marrakech, and is but walking distance from any one of our luxury Riad Hotels.
A short stroll through the winding labyrinthine streets of the red city of Marrakech will lead you to encounter a huge variety of traditional street foods being sold.
One such dish is moul seikok, a fusion of steamed semolina seeds and milk. If you are strolling through one of Marrakech’s many souks, you may hear the seikok salesmen as they cruise along the streets on their motorbikes selling their food to the workers of the markets.
At only 3 Moroccan dirhams (£0.20) a bowl, you would be mad not to try a bowl of this delicacy, and you will find the salesmen themselves to be delighted if you take an interest in the local cuisine that isn’t directly aimed at tourists.
The famous souk districts of Marrakech are all within a short walking distance from any one of our luxury hotel Riads.
If you take a short stroll through the central square of Marrakech (known as Jemaa el-Fnaa) you will encounter all kinds of spices, herbs and medicinal products, many of which are made from the unique commodity of the Argan nut. Located in the Eastern corner of the square however, is an area dedicated to showcasing a range of holistic remedies from the Sub-Saharan deserts of Southern Morocco. It is very common for desert remedies like the ones displayed here to be the first port of call for to treat a variety of ailments such as flu, rheumatic fever and eczema. If you explore this sleepy section of the square
you will discover that as well as holistic treatments, there are a large selection of cosmetic products for sale also. Stall vendors sell everything from lipstick to perfume, of which are all prepared from plants and herbs plucked from the wild desert. Other products which are unique to this corner of the world such as kohl (a form of mascara which has been used in North Africa for over 5000 years) can also be found. In other parts of Africa and also India, kohl is applied on children to deter the gaze of the evil eye. Another unique commodity you will find on offer is Ashabba. This is a remedy that is said to heal all kinds of sexual dilemma’s, made from herbs and the fat of camels from the south. The bustling square of Jemaa el-Fnaa is but a short walk from any one of our luxury Riad Hotels, explore the secrets that Marrakech has to offer today. » Explore the Jemaa el Fnaa Map
Photo: J Schalkwijk
Just East of the central square of Marrakech, standing between the Dabachi and Riad Zitun Jdid districts is the Kennaria quarter. No one is quite sure where the name of the quarter originates from, some say from the canary bird, others the canary cactus and the rest say it’s possible that the canaries islands off the West coast of Morocco could be the origin for this ancient corner of Marrakech which first came to be during the Mowahad dynasty in the 14th century.
As with many areas of the ancient city of Marrakech, the Kennaria district is rich with folklore on the origins of its inception. It’s said that the architectural style of the Kennaria area is the result of a friendship between a Mowahad King named Yaacub Almansour and his doctor, Abou Baker Ibn Zohr.
Abou Baker Ibn Zohr is said to served the king faithfully for many years, but dearly missed his former home of Seville, Spain. In his melancholy the doctor wrote a poem that hinted towards his longing for the paved streets of Seville, and after reading it the king responded by asking local architects to redesign the Kennaria quarter with similar characteristics to the Spanish city that he so sorely missed.
So the architects and masons built several hammam’s, bakeries and houses in the Andalusian style that the doctor was accustomed to, using equipment and materials brought from Seville, across the Alboran sea to Marrakech. The tale goes that Abou Baker Ibn Zohr was so astonished upon witnessing the district after it’s remodelling, that for a time afterwards he believed he was in a dream.
In modern times the district is home to a high number of artisanal shops, and is notorious for having more hammam’s (both traditional and modern) than any other sector of Marrakech. Though much has changed in the Kennaria quarter over the centuries, some features of the districts architectural relationship with Andalusia do remain.
The Kennaria quarter, and many other districts which share the same rich historical past are a short walk from any one of our luxury Riad Hotels, explore Marrakech today!
‘Arsat’ is a term coined by the 19th century writer and Islamic scholar Hocine El Yamani, it’s meaning is to indicate the urban spaces which were cultivated and transformed into botanical gardens by the order of the kings of the Alaouite dynasty.
These gardens have held a key significance in Moroccan culture for many centuries, from acting as a space in which to debate local political matters to being a location in which families and friends can organise a N’zaha (a picnic ritual involving tanjia, tea and Marrakshi songs).
As the gardens sprung up in the times of the Alaouites, they took on the names of individuals of significance, such as Arsat Moulay, Arsat Salam, Arsat Ghandafi, Arsat Naciri, Arsat Louarzazi in the red city of Marrakech. Other times however, the gardens take on the names of particular fruits that grow amongst their leaves, such as Arset Zitoun (olives), Arsat Lhamed (lemon), Arsat Nkhel (palms) and Arsat Limoun (orange).
The notion of the Arsat can mean a variety of things for different people, but one unifying feature is that the gardens are a space of serenity and of harmony. Our luxury Riad Hotels are but a short walk from any one of the Arsat botanical gardens scattered across the red city of Marrakech.
Like many areas of the red city of Marrakech, the Mouassine district has a history spanning hundreds of years. Previously called Houmat Abi Abidan, the name for this well-known part of the city came to be called Mouassine at some point in the 16th century after a large clan of Jewish settlers came to the area.
‘Mass’ meaning dagger and ‘ssine’ meaning two are words that originate from the Berber language, and they came to be the name of this famous district because the clan that made Mouassine their home were highly skilled craftsmen, with a particular skill for forging daggers.
After the clan established themselves, Mouassine became a thriving souk district, and a hugely significant half-way point for goods coming from the North of Morocco to the Sub-Saharan cities to the south.
The district of Mouassine remains charged with trade, commerce and activity to this very day, and the impact of centuries of activity in the area has meant that it has become a popular site for poets as well as craftsmen.
Today if you take a stroll through Mouassine, you’ll find a huge variety of stalls selling traditional Moroccan commodities alongside modern restaurant’s such as Café Arab and the Bougainville.
Mouassine, and many other famous districts of Marrakech are but a short stroll from any one of our luxury Hotel Riads, discover the magic of Marrakech for yourself today.
In the neighbourhood of Dar el Bacha there lies an ancient history of royalty, wealth and opulence of the former Almoravid Empire. About a thousand years ago, the area served a a residential and administrative sector for the princes and dignitaries who belonged to the dynasty.
Yet the neighbourhood also holds a rich cultural significance for another reason, for it was where the quarters were for one of the 7 saints of Marrakech. This holy man went by the name of Moul Lksour, or Mohamed Ben Abdellah El Ghazouani and he remains highly revered to this very day.
In times gone past, the people of the district considered him a highly important figure. In times of internal revolts he was a pacifier and mediator, and during drought and famine he aided the local citizens.
Perhaps what Moul Lksour was most esteemed for was his abilities for healing. Many people in Marrakech still make ‘Ziyara’ (meaning ‘the visit’) to this hallowed site to pay homage, and benefit from the healing powers left by this treasured religious individual.
In the city of the 7 saints, there are century old stories to be heard around almost every corner. Explore Marrakech yourself today from any one of our luxury Hotel Riads.
Where the growth of dates and the celebrated Argan nut thrive in Morocco’s arid climate, it’s only possible for tropical fruits such as coconut and pineapple to grow in the more humid parts of the country. That’s not to say that they won’t be seen in the humming central square of Marrakech, where everything from snail soup to fresh fish can be found.
Hassan is a salesmen who specialises in tropical fruits, and you will be able to find him in the evenings as he slowly moves from one side of Jemaa el-Fnaa to the other selling sliced fruit under the light of a gas lamp.
Hassan’s stall is very popular with the local children of Marrakech, so you’ll always know he’s selling his wares if you see Marrakshi children with segments of pineapple or coconut in their hands!
The central square of Marrakech is but a short walk from any one of our luxury Riad Hotel’s.