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Djemaa el-Fna square

" The crazy place "

Carnet de voyage Marrakech sur la place Jemaa el Fna, Maroc. Jacques Bravo

The Jemaa el Fnâ square comes to life even more at sunset, the night belongs to him since this year 1062 when the first Almoravid sovereign Youssef ben Tachfin decided to make his capital there

The minaret of Koutoubia which dominates the place Jemaa el Fna and the snow-capped mountains of the High Atlas

Jemaa el Fna square

We don't even really know where its name comes from, and this mystery is one more charm.

It is the most famous square in the world with the Concorde and the "piazza" Saint-Marc in Venice. It is true that she had a remarkable press officer, a certain Winston Churchill who - when he was not busy saving the world - spent hours in the tower of the Mamounia painting "the most beautiful landscape of the planet ".

He even had the podagre Franklin D. Roosevelt in a chair carried by four robust GIs, so that he could finally understand what "absolute beauty" was.

Winston had brought in the press, and the images had gone around the world.

This is not an anecdote, it is a great spotlight. But the place existed long before Winston.

La place Jemaa el Fna à Marrakech. Maroc

Place Jemaa el Fna at dusk: kerosene lamps dramatically light up meeting places; mobile taverns, traveling kitchens, steaming utensils and stoves invite you to sit in cumin vapors, mint tea and the smell of frying.

It is also rather a kind of port in the open ground for "sailors" from the mountains and valleys to appreciate how the world is going, to escape for a moment from the loneliness of the peasant in arid land, to keep informed of everyday life . For merchants who always smell good deals, for artisans who exhibit their products.

The listeners form a semicircle around the illusion merchant, absorb his sentences with hypnotic attention, fully surrender to the spectacle: onomatopoeias simulating a gallop, roars of wild beasts, howl of the deaf, falsity of the old men, vociferations of giants , sobs: sometimes he interrupts his narration at the crucial moment and a worried expression is painted on the faces of the dumbfounded children.

Ahmed, the soothsayer, he works for more than fifty years on the place, he started with his father and made divination with a hawk.

The fortune-tellers, they are there to reassure since the power of the cards, "writings" which inevitably escape the tourists, is to propose a solution and to promise better days. It is true in all civilizations!

True place of life that escapes intermittent tourism.

Maxi-place for mini-theater; a permanent commedia dell'arte for mountain people.

Brahim and his troop of musicians and transvestites "l'Haouz de Marrakech". eight musicians and three transvestites. The musicians have worked for 30 years on the square and the transvestites are replaced almost every year.

Even boxing becomes a game. Every day, around 5 pm, "fights" are played, with real gloves, of course, but the ring is formed only by the spectators. Spontaneous boxing, without danger, because if one of the fighters is really mistreated, the match stops immediately since the clown who organizes and watches turns the drama into a farce: it is he who knocked out. and elicit applause. It is therefore the crowd that demarcates the territory of laughter. And provides the actors.

So goes the place, land of men. Those who pass too quickly often remember only four things: snakes, monkeys, women who decorate bodies with henna, and restaurants under the quinquets. But the rest, most of it, has belonged to Moroccans since Sultan Abd el-Moumen built the largest enclosure of his time. The place does not empty until dawn. For a few minutes. Elsewhere, the city is already awake: like New York,

Marrakech is a city that does not sleep.

Montreur de singes sur la place Jemaa el Fna

Lahcen, the monkey trainer, he was a discovery companion of the place, introduced me to all the actors of this place and translated the whispered words as I passed.

charmeur de serpents sur la place Jemaa el Fna

Souini, the snake charmer, he has worked for 50 years on the square, he was a magician then he went on foot to Rabat to obtain permission to settle in the square. He was bitten several times.

charmeur de serpents et manipulateur de scorpions

Mohamed, snake charmer and scorpion manipulator. His father taught him how to handle scorpions. He harvests for the Pasteur Institute in Rabat. Anti-venoms, it's thanks to him !!

Hassan, trances and mutilations. He goes into trances to the music played by mustapha on the flute and Brahim on the bendir. He digs knives into his lips, pierces his cheeks with his tips, drinks boiling water. Jilala tradition.

Hassan, another snake charmer

Abdelmalek, the snake charmer, has been working on the square for 30 years, has never been bitten and works with cobras, horned vipers, sand vipers and snakes

Hassan also plunges knives into orbits, a photographer's nightmare !!!

Ce vieux gnaoua a joué avec les Rolling Stones et Jimmy Hendrix quand ils venaient à Essaouira

This old gnaoua played with the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix when they came to Essaouira to relax. He had treasured a photo in his wallet which he was very proud of.

Porteur d’eau à Marrakech

Water carrier. Thanks to Lhacen, I discovered the lodging of this corporation, in what we would call in France a tiny bistro, with a pocket zinc which serves only coke and tea.

This is where they live, eat and sleep. There are still around fifteen of them, once essential, today as beautiful as colored postcards.

Members of a very old corporation, they have become emblems: they escape time.

The public is not admitted, they will meet him in the bright sun, offering thirsty copper goblets so well polished that it looks like gold.

Porteurs d’eau à Marrakech

There are therefore still around fifteen water carriers in Marrakech who, for a few cents, distribute water. Their activity is enriched in the evening when the bendirs of snake charmers resound announcing the waves of tourists with whom they are photographed for coins.

Porteur d’eau à Marrakech

After a few days spent on the square, the water carriers invited me to share one of their meals in a gîte reserved for them, on the edge of the square.

Ahmed, the soothsayer in conversation with his falcon, companion of divination.

Mohamed Cherkaoui, the master of pigeons, known as Rgul or the man with the hookah, he is one of the best known storytellers in Morocco

Samira, tatouage au henné sur la place Jemaa el Fna

Face of legend of the Thousand and one nights. Samira, orphan of her father at three, she has never been to school, she helps her mother to take care of her four brothers and sisters. she only learned cooking and worked on the streets as a child selling trinkets to tourists. She is barely tolerated in the square to adorn the hands of henna

Tatouage au Henné sur la place Jemaa el Fna

To be accepted on the Jemaa el Fna square outside of official authorization,

I had to pass some tests. !!!

Cracheur de feu sur la place Jemaa el Fna à Marrakech

Fire eater on Jemaa el Fna square

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