The centre of Marrakech (Jemaa al-Fnaa) is not only the cultural hub of the red city, it’s also a thriving centre for cuisine. Here you will find restaurants, cafe’s and open air stalls to match any budget.
Tucked away on the Eastern side of Djemaa al-Fnaa as you enter the square from Rue Riad Zitoun Lakdim is ‘Snack Toubkal’.
Day and night, Snack Toubkal is a bustling eating spot for tourists and locals. As one of the waiters guides you to your seat don’t be surprised to overhear a melting pot of different languages conversing with one another whilst enjoying a range of traditional Moroccan dishes.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Snack Toubkal is it’s incredibly cheap. A Moroccan salad (tomatoes, onions and parsley infused with a range of spices from fresh dill to Ras el Hanout) costs only 5 Dirhams (£0.38) and a home-cooked chicken or lamb tajine is 25 Dirhams (£1.91).
For this reason Snack Toubkal is the ideal location to try a variety of different dishes you might be unsure about in the higher budget restaurants. Go with a group of friends and mix and match each others dishes to discover what appeals most to your taste buds whilst recharging your batteries from a day spent in the Marrakshi souks.
Conveniently placed in the central square, Snack Toushkal is easy to locate and only a five to ten minute walk from any of our Riads hotels. If you visit the cafe during the day, I would highly recommend trying the classic Moroccan soup dish ‘Harira’. Full bodied and fragrantly seasoned with ginger, pepper and cinnamon, Harira is again a cheap and truly delicious dish that will make your trip in Morocco all the more special.
» Explore the Jemaa el Fnaa Map
A Red City, a Rainbow of dialects
Moroccans are by and large excellent linguists and natural communicators – what they lack in expertise they make up for with enthusiasm. Across Marrakech, and particularly in the souks, the visitor is best advised to put aside inhibitions and join in!
Classical and Moroccan Arabic
Arabic is the official language of Morocco with classical Arabic taught in schools, it is also the language of the Koran. The locals recognize Egyptian Arabic from television particularly the keenly followed Egyptian soap operas. The Arabic spoken in the street of Marrakech is a distinctive Moroccan dialect known as ‘Darija’ which borrows a lot from French but also Berber. Darija is a living language and increasingly also borrows and adapts English words as well.
South and Central Morocco, was a French Protectorate from 1912 to 1956. Not surprisingly French is universally spoken by educated Moroccans. It is the alternative language of administration so for example legally binding documents to buy and sell property can executed in French. French is without doubt the most useful European language for travellers to Marrakech.
Berber dialects, predominantly Tamazight, are widely spoken in Marrakech, indeed some of the locals particularly older women in ethnically Berber households speak no other language. There are three closely related Berber dialects in Morocco: Riffan in the north and the Rif Mountains; Tachelhit in the centre Middle Atlas; and Tamazight in South and the High Atlas. Since 2011 Berber has been recognised as an official language alongside Arabic and French.
Staff at Riad Papillon, Dar Habiba and Riad Cinnamon speak fluent English. English is not widely spoken amongst older Moroccans although this is changing with the younger generation.
Unlike the North of Morocco much of which was formerly a Spanish territory the Spanish language is not widely spoken in Marrakech