Served in a peppery broth called ‘babbouche’, the white snails of Morocco must be cooked slowly over a low heat using a balanced mixture of over 15 different spices. Babbouche is popular with the locals and you may be greeted with a smile (as I was) upon approaching a snail stall, as not many tourists pluck up the courage to try this wonderful dish.
Although you may be tempted to veer straight towards the open food stalls of Jemaa al-Fnaa, I would urge that you to make a quick stop and try a small bowl of babbouche. Although admittedly I was nervous at first, this dish soon won over my taste-buds and is one of the most intensely flavoursome delicacies I’ve had the pleasure of eating here in Marrakech.
At only 5 Dirhams (£0.38) a bowl, this is an experience you can’t miss out on. Jemaa al-Fnaa is only a 10 minute walk from Riad Cinnamon, Papillon and Star and as the central cultural hub of activity in Marrakech it will be one of the highlights of your trip to Morocco.
Cafe France is a Marrakech institution, located at the north west corner of the Jemaa al Fnaa it has been a meeting place and watering hole for Europeans since the days of the French Protectorate in Morocco. It was redecorated at the end of 2009 and inconveniently for the new visitor the Cafe France sign was not repainted over the front. Despite this Cafe France can’t be classified as a well kept secret! This is an excellent place for people watching and provides a comfortable shady spot to while away summer afternoons.
The building is rumoured to have been sold recently with a scandalous suggestion that it may reopen as a McDonalds restaurant. Surely this would not be allowed in the historic Jemaa al Fnaa which is a UNESCO world heritage site?
What better base could you have to explore the historic medina of Marrakech than one of our boutique Riad Hotels? Marrakech Riad Cinnamon is located near to the Marrakech Museum, Marrakech Riad Papillon is near to the Palace at Dar El Bashah. Reserve accommodation today
The main square or Jema al Fnaa is the beating heart of Marrakech. Its takes its name from the gruesome public display there of the heads of criminals in the middle ages. Literally it means the ‘assembly of the dead’. In practice is most commonly referred to as La Place.
There are some distractions in the square which have evolved for the amusement of tourists: colourful water sellers anxious to earn a few Dirhams posing for photographs in traditional costume; snake charmers; performing monkeys, and their masters clutching polaroid cameras.
What is quite extraordinary is that the vast bulk of the teeming life in the square remains essentially local: dentists displaying teeth removed from previous clients; herb doctors laying out their wares; fortune tellers crouching over gas lamps; storytellers recounting the oral culture of Berber tribes in obscure dialects (UNECSO cited the oral heritage of the square when designating it a world heritage site); and musicians performing ancient gnawa trance rituals the origins of which predate modern language. The square also continues a centuries old tradition of acrobats, tumblers, jugglers, mime artists and other visual entertainers. No visit to Marrakech is complete without experiencing the Jema al Fna.
At night the atmosphere intensifies and the northern end of the Jema al Fna becomes a vast open air barbecue with rows of dozens of food stall competing for trade. Their hygiene standards can be criticized but the ambience is truly unique. A more conservative alternative to eating at the open air food stalls is to sit in one of the many cafes and restaurants around the perimeter many of which have balconies and terraces with views across the square.