Marrakech is a celebrity nowadays. It’s known for its big markets, its squares with artists and food stands. It’s a tourist attraction, which it may always have been.
It’s hard to imagine ever hearing the phrase, “Hello friend!” as often as as I did in the market near Jemaa El Fnaa, the infamous square in the heart of Marrakech. I spent enough time wandering markets along the coast of West Africa, in Europe, in Central America, and while you can’t deny there is a similarity among all these places, Marrakech is different. It’s harder to discover that layer underneath, a place where life actually happens instead of all the superficial, loud attractions. Nowadays one would say it’s touristy. Without a doubt that’s true. But all that show has always been part of Marrakech. It’s a place where people arrived after having been in the desert with their camels and caravans for months. Come to think of it, the gathering place that is the market may actually be its founding ideal. It’s a place where re-entry into society has happened for centuries, and it’s concentrated and loud.
So take this overload of culture as it is. By natural design it is of ‘too much.” Imagine yourself as a traveller who hasn’t seen anyone for a long, long time—nothing but sand and camels—and suddenly there you and and you can do nothing but soak it in.
So just mind you: Don’t mistake Marrakech for just another tourist hot spot. Daily life is metropolitan, the nightlife is modern and big. And that’s the idea.