Morocco At A Glance: Jemaa El-Fna

The rhythm as I approached the Marrakesh square, Jemaa El Fna, was exhilarating. People casually joined circles that twisted around enchanting spectacles hidden within. The drummers danced in long white robes with red fez caps clapped on their heads. Others added to the percussion with round tambourines and smaller finger cymbals that clacked cheerfully to the beat.

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As I rounded the corner, I joined a group gasping and clapping at the sight inside the circle of people. I saw a man playing a wooden flute and a snake swaying in the basket! I jumped and glanced around at all of the other people watching in delight. Their relaxed manner traveled to me and I clapped my hands as the man and the snake took a picture with a member of the audience.

After watching the snake charmer, I walked down to a brightly woven map that lay flat across the stone floor. Upon the mat sat the most unlikely set of companions I had ever seen. A small rabbit crinkled its nose at a large bird on a peg who was eyeing the hedgehog moseying on the mat below. The owner of the animals let me touch the soft quills of the hedgehog and I mentally checked a box on my bucket list.

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I heard a loud whoop ahead and I saw a young man that jumped into the air, flipping before landing next to his performing friends. They stacked themselves in pyramids and other formations. The crowd cheered and I heard a Moroccan woman trill a cry of excitement, “eiii-eiieiii!!!!” The crowd continued to applaud when I left, distracted by an appetizing smell that was coming from a stand that was a short distance from the performers.

The stand was filled with all sorts of nuts and dried fruits, but the boy informed me that the delicious smell came from peanuts that were freshly roasting at the stand. He then explained that the other peanuts I was eyeing were sugar coated and I happily chose a helping of those. With my tasty snack in hand, I walked over to an orange juice stand that had piles of fresh large oranges lying across the table. The boy pressed me a glass as I was watching. The machine whined for a moment and then the glass was full of bright frothy juicy. It tasted better than any orange juice I had ever had. It was sweet but totally natural – all that was in it was famous Moroccan oranges.

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Glancing across the square, I realized that I hadn’t even made it to the other side! What other treasures and excitement had I yet to see? I popped the crunchy sweet peanuts into my mouth and set off to the other side of the square to search out a new set of adventures and stories to tell my family at home.

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