Djemaa el Fna
Djemaa el fna for lack of better words is a “crazy square” stuck right in the heart of Marrakesh.
The square is the epicenter, and sprawling out in all directions from it are winding, narrow streets filled with everything you could possibly imagine and no lack of people trying to sell you those items….back to the square….I was extremely excited about the square because of what I have read in books and seen on the internet and lucky for me, we had treated ourselves to a beautiful riad not 5 minutes from the square itself.
In the daytime it is dotted with snake charmers, storytellers and countless stands selling you freshly pressed orange juice (I know, sounds a bit weird but when booze is forbidden the turn to the juice!). At night however, this is when the square transforms to a magical, smoky and stomach straining place……………… it is amazing.
Late in the afternoon from every direction, you see make-shift carts being wheeled in loaded high with benches, rubbish bins, huge coal pits in which to cook upon and of course piles of food. When you enter the square at night you can’t help but be taken aback by the sheer difference between day and night. Countless food vendors have set up their stalls and they all claim to have the best food in the market! It takes a very long time to snake your way up and down the stalls because every 5 feet there is a “salesman” or 3 for each of the food stalls telling you that other stalls will get you sick or theirs is the cheapest stall (even tough most stalls are exactly the same) and they truly are the best salesmen. For every line that you give them, they have a response, they mimic your accent, try to guess where you are from, break out weird sayings that few people really use like “come on, have a butchers” (meaning look in cockney), or “no money no honey” ! It is quite an experience to say the least to be constantly approached and to constantly say “no thank you, maybe later, I am full, I ate here yesterday or I am trying to give up steamed sheep’s head”.
Besides the hassle from the sellers it is a chef’s dream to be surrounded by so much good food, cooked traditionally and honestly over smoldering coals and served with heaps of fresh bread, Moroccan salad (tomato, onion, cucumber and sprinkled with cumin salt) and of course, a bowl of mixed olives. To see the huge stacks of brochettes (skewered meats) and cauldrons of steaming snails and every part of cow, sheep or chicken is a welcomed attack on all the senses.
The second night we ate in the square was truly mine and Alyssa’s favourite. I wanted us to sit down at a stall with no tourists and only Moroccans to get a good idea of what traditional food was. It didn’t take long!As soon as we entered the line of stalls, on our right was the long tables lined with white plastic and equally lined with tourists, on our left however was a small stand with 2 benches pushed right up to where the cooks where scooping mounds of steaming stewed meat into old china bowls and the griddle was garnished with a few cooked animal heads which were only 6 euros each…beat that. This was perfect! We sat ourselves down next to a group of 4 Moroccan woman and the cook laid down 2 paper placemats in-font of us. We promptly ordered what was listed in French as “Traditional Tagine” for 2 euros and he asked if that was it. “yep” we said to which he equally as quickly removed one of the placemats seeing as we were sharing! We were served a bowl of rich and very tender beef ladled with greasy (good greasy) sauce for dipping our bread in….we inhaled it in about 2 minutes, AMAZING! We ordered one more and seeing our love of the food the cook loaded is up up with extra meat, bread pieces dipped in steaming, fatty sauces and then he scooped a special treat for me onto the plate ( I know it was for me because he said “for you”)….a nice helping of testicles!!!! They were pretty good, some of the best I have had, Alyssa even tried some, I love her adventurous nature.
It was our intention this evening to get a little bit at a few stalls just to experience the most we could but after the first mouthful of beef we didn’t move. We left the square full to the brim of meat and bread
Not one vegetable was consumed or harmed in the feeding of our stomachs and our souls this evening.