Jemaa el-Fnaa

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Jamaa el Fna in the evening, looking toward Café Argana and the covered souq.

Jamaa el Fna (Arabic: ساحة جامع الفناء jâmiʻ al-fanâʼ, also Jemaa el-Fnaa, Djema el-Fna or Djemaa el-Fnaa) is a square and market place in Marrakesh's medina quarter (old city). It remains the main square of Marrakech, used by locals and tourists.

Name[edit]

The origin of its name is unclear: Jemaa means "congregational mosque" in Arabic, probably referring to a destroyed Almoravid mosque. "Fanâʼ" or "finâ'" can mean "death" or "a courtyard, space in front of a building." Thus, one meaning could be "The mosque or assembly of death," or "The Mosque at the End of the World".[1] A more likely explanation is that it refers to a mosque with a distinctive courtyard or square in front of it.[2]

History[edit]

Marrakesh was founded by the Almoravids 1070-1072. After a destructive struggle, it was falling to the Almohads in 1147. Following this, Jamaa el Fna was renovated along with much of the city. The city walls were also extended by Abou Yacoub Youssef and particularly by Yacoub el Mansour 1147-1158. The surrounding mosque, palace, hospital, parade ground and gardens around the edges of the marketplace were also overhauled, and the Kasbah was fortified. Subsequently, with the fortunes of the city, Jamaa el Fna saw periods of decline and also renewal.[3]

The Square[edit]

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.[4]

As the day progresses, the entertainment on offer changes: the snake charmers depart, and late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with Chleuh dancing-boys (it would be against custom for girls to provide such entertainment), story-tellers (telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, to an audience of appreciative locals), magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As darkness falls, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls as the number of people on the square peaks.

Steam rising from food stalls

The square is edged along one side by the Marrakesh souk, a traditional North African market catering both for the common daily needs of the locals, and for the tourist trade. On other sides are hotels and gardens and cafe terraces offering an escape from the noise and confusion of the square.

Narrow streets lead into the alleys of the medina quarter, the old city.

Once a bus station, the place was closed to vehicle traffic in the early 2000s. The authorities are well aware of its importance to the tourist trade, and a strong but discreet police presence ensures the safety of visitors.

UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity[edit]

The idea of the UNESCO project Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity came from people concerned about the Jamaa el Fna. The place is known for its active concentration of traditional activities by storytellers, musicians and performers, but it was threatened by economic development pressures. In fighting for the protection of traditions, the residents called for action on an international level, to recognize the need for the protection of such places — termed "cultural spaces" — and other popular and traditional forms of cultural expression.[5]

UNESCO encourages communities to identify, document, protect, promote and revitalize such heritage. The UNESCO label aims to raise awareness about the importance of oral and intangible heritage as an essential component of cultural diversity.

2011 bombing[edit]

Café Argana the day after bombing

Shortly before noon on April 28, 2011, a blast originating in a cafe in the square killed 17 people and injured another 25. Initial reports blamed an accidental gas explosion, but officials later blamed "criminals" and "terrorists".[7]

Trivia[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Mosque at the End of the World, Tahir Shah, BBC Radio 3, 10 April 2010
  2. ^ ""Jam'a al-Fnaa Square: a large square surrounded by mysteries" (Arabic)". Newspaper. Mararakech Press. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "Medina of Marrakesh - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  4. ^ "Life, Adventures and Discoveries: Mysteries of Marrakech Morocco". Lifeadventurestariq.blogspot.com. 2010-04-28. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  5. ^ "Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003". UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  6. ^ Juan Goytisolo (2001-05-15). "Defending Threatened Cultures". Unesco.org. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  7. ^ "Morocco: Marrakesh bomb strikes Djemaa el-Fna square". BBC News. 28 April 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°37′33″N 7°59′22″W / 31.62583°N 7.98944°W / 31.62583; -7.98944