The Big Square – Marrakech, Morocco

After the drive-by-henna-attack, we continued exploring Djemaa el Fna or the ‘Big Square.’ The big square is where people gather, eat, and sell. The souks or market stalls spill out into the square and at night it buzzes with activity. Orange juice vendors, snake charmers, henna artists, monkey acts, story tellers, clothes swapping, desserts, dried fruit and nut stalls, some guy with pigeons that the locals were pretty into, and delicious food carts! A successful night in my book is all about the food. Marrakech does everything in it’s power to tantalize you with food (and lanterns, rugs, poufs, leather goods, the list goes on) but our first night we were literally pulled, persuaded, or cursed into taking a seat at a table. The vendors have to be aggressive (or at least they are taught from a very young age that pulling on limbs is acceptable) but there is fierce competition amongst food carts. Stalls 21, 23, 24 – 67 boasted the exact same kabobs with identical appetizers of bread and olives. There was literally no differentiation. So, to entice customers, owners picked their most tri-lingual attractive teenage boys to throw their arms around your shoulders and humor you into their tables. They put on their best bloody English accent for any tourist with fair skin (and if that doesn’t work switched to a ‘good day mate’). These boys came up with jingles and catch phrases that did bring some smiles but also irritation. From my point of view, Western tourists want to browse a menu, think about the prices, survey the meat, and decide for themselves which stall looks best.

In the end we went with stall 22. It was great. We loved it. The next day we went to 32. Equally wonderful.

I could write a whole post on the male adolescents in Marrakech. We could not assign an equivalent American stereo type to describe the behavior of these 14-24 year olds. They ruled the streets with their slicked back hair, stylish jeans, and macho persona. The youth worked the tourists with flash smiles and witty english banter. I doubt they were still attending high school and probably wouldn’t think about college. I think they were all majoring in tourism and getting paid for it.

Mid day in the big square. Before the food and tourists arrive.

Snake Charmer

Henna artists (not to be confused with witches)

The boys of Marrakech

Cooking up our kabobs. Lamb, beef, chicken, veggies.

Night descending on food vendors

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