Location Guide – Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh, Morocco

Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Location Guides | 0 comments

Location Guide – Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh, Morocco

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main square in Marrakesh and a popular destination for both tourists and locals. The square ebbs and flows with the life of the city during the day and turns into the beating heart at night time with dozens of food stalls catering for all tastes from snails to traditional Morocco cous cous. The square is fantastic place to capture a quintessential photo of Morocco. The photo opportunities will vary greatly from the ever present exotic snake charmers or monkey handlers to friendly orange juice sellers or the frantic pace of the night food stalls.

You will find your senses suffer overload during the first encounter of Jemaa el-Fnaa, it is loud and there are people trying to sell you things at every corner. When it all gets too much, take a break in one of the many nearby cafes and have a sweet tea whilst watching the world go by. Do not be put off by the crowds and noise for too long though; the photographic opportunities in the square are boundless.

Try and time your visit to the square later afternoon so that you can experience the vivid transformation that occurs there as the sun goes down.

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Special Photographic Features or Notes

It is very important to be aware that the snake charmers and Monkey handlers are expecting payment for any pictures you take of them or their animals. When travelling in Morocco it is always good to carry a quantity of smaller value coins (10 Dirham coins – equates to about $1 Australian), these come in handy for a lot of tips etc and in the square they are essential. The best practice is to agree a price with the performers prior to taking photos, doing it the other way around can lead to embarrassment or at least robust discussions regarding the amount of money owed. What worked for me was to approach the performer , showing the money in my hand and negotiate a price, I found a price of around 20-40 dirhams worked to secure 4-5 photos. Be aware though the performer and his helpers will keep an eye on you and count the pictures taken.

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The other key item to remember is that a lot of Moroccan people are sensitive of having their photo taken. If you find people getting uncomfortable with you taking shots, put the camera down and move off to another area.

Remember to take care with your camera equipment, the square is crowded and the opportunities for either damage or theft are there. In all my travel through Morocco, I had no issues with camera equipment theft or with feeling unsafe but it is important to always be vigilant with your gear.

 Times of Day

The most magical time of the day in Jemaa el-Fnaa is sunset, as the sun goes down the square is transformed into a giant food stall that services both locals and tourists. The best approach here is secure yourself a spot in one of the nearby rooftop cafes, you will need to do that early as the places fill up fast. Keep the waiters happy by ordering snacks and drinks whilst waiting for the sunset.

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This a magical period, just after the sun has gone down when you will find an interesting balance between the dark blue sky, golden clouds and the lights of the square. This period can give you some of the most breathtaking photos when the beauty of nature is balanced against the frantic populace of the square. It is best to have a small tripod for this time of day as the exposures can become quite long.

After the sun has gone down, head back into the square where you will be able to capture great photos of the hustle and bustle of the evening’s activities.

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Getting there

  • Jemaa el-Fnaa is the central square in Marrakesh, travel guide books will all give you directions to this spot.
  • When visiting the square, also take the time to visit the adjacent Souk to find lots of bargains. Whilst the tight busy streets may seem daunting at first, you will find good signposted directions that help lead you back to the square. The bargains and the taste of Moroccan life certainly make these streets well worth the visit

Conclusion

Jemaa el-Fnaa is one of the most recognisable locations in Morocco, you will have seen it in travel brochures and on travel shows. Do not let this put you off visiting though, as the experience is well beyond anything you can imagine. At first you will suffer culture shock and perhaps sensory overload but push through that and you will be rewarded with some of your most memorable photos.

 

Ken Dickson is an Australian based photographer with nearly 30 years experience. A regular contributor to international competitions, Ken holds honour levels both within Australia and Internationally. He started in photography when travelling the world with the Navy using both film and slide film. Moving to digital in 2004, Ken has embraced the available technologies to continue his artistry. With a love for sharing his knowledge and experience Ken helped to launch Ozlight Photo Adventures (www.ozlightphoto.com) providing courses and practical workshops in all aspects of photography.

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