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.
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.
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.
As the holy fasting month of Ramadan draws to a close in the world of Islam, the red city of Marrakech comes alive as vibrant religious festivities for Eid go underway.
Eid celebrations are split into two parts, ‘Eid al-Fitr’ (festival of the breaking of the fast) which is followed by ‘Eid as-Adha’ (festival of sacrifice). There are some differences that mark the two unique occasions, Eid al-Fitr is also sometimes called ‘the sugar feast’ as traditionally women often come together to prepare a collection of sweet, delicious delicacies of which the family can enjoy as a whole.
Eis as-Adha on the other hand is a four day long festival which some households choose to celebrate with the slaughtering of a sheep or a cow. The spirit of charity and love runs sincerely through both of these religious occasions as family gatherings take place in homes and on the streets of the red city. Food is evenly distributed between family, friends and those less fortunate and many attend special prayer rituals throughout the Mosque’s of Marrakech.
During this enchanting time of the year, do not be surprised if the electric atmosphere of Marrakech comes directly to your door! The local boys of Rue Derb Jdid, next to the Riad Dar Habiba spend the afternoons of Eid making music together and passers by stop to absorb the scene as the sound of drums and singing fills the night air.
As the Islamic calender is lunar, the exact time of the celebrations change every year. However many Marrakshi would advise that you try and plan your trip to coincide with this ancient festival. Especially towards the evenings as families and friends pour onto the streets, the atmosphere from the new-town of Guiliez through to the heart of the Marrakech Medina makes this time a truly remarkable event to be a part of.