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.
As you unwind in one of the cafe’s or restaurants that are lined along the edges Jemaa al-Fnaa, don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of a group of local acrobats who often descend towards the South-Eastern corner of the square.
The troupe are an illustrious bunch and after vaulting and somersaulting their way through the square, they quickly disperse into the thriving crowds passing through Jemaa al-Fnaa.
So I ask a nearby local for more information surrounding the history of acrobatics in Marrakech. I’m told that that the practice of acrobatics is revered not only in the red city but across the entire nation of Morocco. Also if an acrobat show’s unbridled natural talent, it is often said the blood of H’amad Amous could run in his or her veins.
Amous, the local Marrakshi goes on to describe is was a leader of a famous clan of acrobats in a time gone past. People would say that salt flowed through the bones of H’amad Amous and his followers and this is what allowed them to bend and propel their bodies in impossible ways.
Although the legend of Amous is encompassed by both fiction and fact, a ten minute stroll from Riad Cinnamon through the renowned souk district will take you to the beating heart of the city, Jemaa al-Fnaa where the acrobat’s of Marrakech still practice their trade to this day.