Djemaa el Fna is a square and market place in Marrakesh's medina quarter (old city).
The Cultural Space of Jemaa el-Fna Square has been proclaimed a Masterpiece and included into UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
The place remains the main square of Marrakesh, used equally by locals and tourists. During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls, youths with chained Barbary apes, water sellers in colourful costumes with traditional leather water-bags and brass cups, and snake charmers who will pose for photographs for tourists. As the day progresses the entertainments on offer change: the snake charmers depart, and in the afternoon and evening the square becomes more crowded, with Chleuh dancing-boys (it would be against custom for girls to provide such an entertainment), story-tellers (telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, to an audience of appreciative locals), magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As dark descends the square fills with dozens of food-stalls, and the crowds are at their height.
Steam rises from food stalls.
Marrakech or Marrakesh (Berber: ⵎⵕⵕⴰⴽⵛ Mərrakəš or Murakuc, Arabic: مراكش Murrākuš, local pronunciation: Mərrakəš), known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history. The city of Marrakesh is the capital of the mid-southwestern economic region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz, near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, being also the fourth largest city in Morocco. The probable origin of its name is from the Berber (Amazigh) words mur (n) akush (ⵎⵓⵔ ⵏ ⴰⴽⵓⵛ), which means "Land of God".
Marrakech is situated at the foot of the High Atlas, the highest mountainous barrier in North Africa. The desert borders it to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Stretching over 700 km, the High Atlas chain features a series of peaks of which a dozen attain 4,000 metres. Snow can be found on hilltops all year long at altitudes as low as 600 metres above sea level.
To the south arise the stretches of steppes terrain that forewarn of the burning winds and the rigor of the Sahara. Beyond the 130,000 hectares of greenery and the 180,000 palm trees of its Palmeraie. Marrakech is an oasis of great and rich plant variety. Throughout the seasons, orange, fig, pomegranate and olive trees spew out their fragrances and display their marvelous colors and luscious fruits. The precious gardens of the city conceal numerous native plants or other species that have been imported in the course of the centuries: Giant bamboos, yuccas, papyrus, palm trees, banana trees, cypress, philodendrons, rosebushes, bougainvilleas, pines and various kinds of cactus plants. To this date, Marrakech is seen as a gateway from the West into the East, only 2–3 hours from mainland Europe.
The probable reconciliation is that Marrakesh started off as an encampment c.1062, with Abu Bakr and the Almoravid chieftans, almost all from desert-dwelling Sanhaja tribes, pitching their tents on the plains of the Tensift, as they were used to back in the Sahara desert, and that it remained a desert-style encampment until the first stone building, the Qasr al-Hajar, began to be erected in May, 1070. Abu Bakr was recalled to the Sahara to put down a rebellion in January, 1071, and and the city was completed by his deputy and eventual successor Yusuf ibn Tashfin. The layout of the buildings was still along the lines of the encampment, with the result that early Marrakesh was an unusual-looking city, a Medieval urban center evocative of desert life, with planted palm trees and an oasis-like feel.
The city experienced its greatest period under the leadership of Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Almohad sultan. A number of poets and scholars entered the city during his reign and he began the construction of the Koutoubia Mosque and a new kasbah. Prior to the reign of Moulay Ismail, Marrakech was the capital of Morocco. After his reign, his grandson moved the capital back to Marrakech from Meknès.
For centuries Marrakech has been known for its "seven saints". When sufism was at the height of its popularity, during the reign of Moulay Ismail, the festival of the seven saints was founded by Abu Ali al-Hassan al-Yusi at the request of the sultan. The tombs of several renowned figures were moved to Marrakech to attract pilgrims in the same way Essaouira did at that time with its Regrega festivals. The seven saints (sebaatou rizjel) is now a firmly established institution, attracting visitors from everywhere. The seven saints include Sidi Bel Abbas (the patron saint of the city), Sidi Muhammad al-Jazuli, Sidi Abu al-Qasim Al-Suhayli, Cadi Ayyad ben Moussa, Abdelaziz al-Tebaa and Abdallah al-Ghazwani.
Marrakech was dominated in the first half of the 20th century by T'hami El Glaoui, "Lord of the Atlas", and Pasha of Marrakech.