Thursday, November 17, 2016

Magnifique Jemaa el-Fna...

"The spectacle of Jamaa el Fna is repeated daily and each day it is different. Everything changes — voices, sounds, gestures, the public which sees, listens, smells, tastes, touches. The oral tradition is framed by one much vaster — that we can call intangible. The Square, as a physical space, shelters a rich oral and intangible tradition." - the Spanish poet, Juan Goytisolo

With the meetings of the day done, it was time to relax and head out to explore the medieval centre of Marrakech - Jemaa el-Fna...

The city of Marrakech was founded by the Berber Muslim dynasty of the Almoravids in the period 1070-1072. At that time, the Jemaa el-Fna was the main square and marketplace of the city. 
The origin of its name is somewhat creepy - Jamaa means "congregation" in Arabic, probably referring to a now destroyed Almoravid mosque that once stood here. el Fnaʼ or finâʼ can mean "death" - that would translate to the "assembly of the dead", probably referring to public executions that took place around here in the medieval ages...
After a battle, Marrakech fell to the Almohads in 1147, following which the Jamaa el-Fna was renovated along with much of the city. During this age, the city walls were also extended by Abou Yacoub Youssef and Yacoub el Mansour from 1147-1158. The areas surrounding the Jemaa el-Fna included a mosque, palace, hospital, parade ground and gardens around the edges of the marketplace.

During the day, Jemaa el-Fna is occupied by motley group of street sellers. As the day progresses, the Jemaa becomes livelier with entertainment on offer - snake charmers, dancing-boys and magicians, and interspersed with food-stalls. On one end of the Jemaa is the souk, a traditional Moroccan market catering both for the common daily needs of the locals, and for the tourist trade. The other side has hotels and gardens and cafe terraces, and narrow streets lead into the alleys of the medina quarter.

Given its cultural and historical significance, the Jemaa has been recognised as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The idea of including the Jemaa in this list came from people concerned about its heritage, the developmental pressures threatening the Jemaa's active concentration of traditional activities by storytellers, musicians and performers. 

The listing in a sense seeks to promote the fight for the protection of traditions and to recognize the need for the protection of such "cultural spaces". And Juan Goytisolo's quote at the beginning of this post explains this very articulately.

Walls of the medina...

Heading back now...

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