Perched on the southern corner of Jemaa al-Fnaa, just off Rue Riad Zitoun Kdim you will find Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier.
Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier is one of two café-restaurants that due to their larger than average size have a distinct prominence within the central square of the red city. No matter where you are standing in Jemaa al-Fnaa, you will usually be able to see the decorated signs of Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier or the Hotel Restaurant Café du France (the second of the two establishments) through the jostling crowds of the square.
At Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier you will discover a selection of traditional Moroccan refreshments. During the day this venue is ideal for enjoying a glass of mint tea, which at 20 Dirhams (£1.49) isn’t the cheapest that’s on offer within the confines of Jemaa al-Fnaa. However the unique ambiance of this grand café-restaurant with it’s towering, high ceilings and original Moroccan design makes it more than worthwhile.
It is perhaps in the night that the Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier shows its most magnificent colours. If you traverse through the downstairs foyer of Le Grand Balcon and climb to the establishments roof you will discover a long, stretching terrace that is bustling with tourists and locals alike, taking photos of the food stalls being set up and generally absorbing the splendour of the square.
As the Marrakshi sun begins to set this is the ideal time to try a bottle of Hawai soft drink, at 15 Dirhams (£1.12) it again isn’t the cheapest drink you will find in the square. Yet atop the roof terrace there is nothing quite as refreshing as enjoying a bottle of it and observing newcomers to the red city watch in wonderment as the musicians, magicians and acrobats pour out into the ancient space of Jemaa al-Fnaa to perform for the passers by.
Le Grand Balcon leaves its doors open right through the late evening and is but walking distance from the luxury Riad Habiba.
Lamp’s have held a hugely high value in Moroccan architecture and design for hundreds of years and are used in all four corners of Morocco to decorate shops, restaurants and houses. Hand-crafted Moroccan lamps come in all shapes and sizes and often take a painstakingly long time to complete.
In Jemaa al-Fnaa many lamp salesmen can easily be found among the street shops that line around the edges of the central square. Though these boutiques are nameless, there is one however which specialises in traditional Moroccan lamps which is nearly impossible to miss.
After a 10 minute walk from the Riad Star towards the centre of the red city, I spot the lamp boutique and immediately images of Aladdin’s cave are conjured in my mind. I have to stoop under the array of Moroccan lanterns hanging from the shop’s ceiling, all of which are designed using different patterns, sizes and materials.
I talk to the shop keeper, who introduces himself as Omar. He explain’s that he and a friend have been in the trade of collecting lamps in Marrakech for around 10 years. He goes on to explain to me that traditional Moroccan lamps are used in the interiors and exteriors of homes and that their unique design is important to many Moroccans.
I would recommend returning to the lamp shop after the sun sets. From then it is easier to get an understanding of the unique ambiance that the Moroccan lanterns create. As the flames dance within their casings the unique patterns of each lamp are illuminated on the surrounding walls, giving the boutique a stunning and truly mysterious feel.