Thursday, 21 August 2008

Snake charmers at Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech, Morocco

Djemaa el-Fna is the central square of Marrakech's Medina - but the snake charmers mean there's a lot more to it than eating Moroccan tagines and admiring the architecture.

Marrakech’s glorious central square
All I wanted was a photo, but it’s rather hard to stroll through Marrakech’s glorious central square without being molested by snakes.
There are snake charmers everywhere in Djemaa el-Fna, all itching to grab as much tourist dollar as possible.
Step back from a Moroccan who’s waving a python at you with scarcely concealed menace, and you’re liable to bump into another wielding something more deadly.

Covered in snakes
Don’t make the mistake of giving in and nervously posing for the photo, though, as you’ll be absolutely covered in them.
One round the neck, one on the head, a few cobras round the feet that have just been woken up and antagonised with a tambourine... that sort of thing. And the cheeky buggers who’ve just commandeered your camera expect you to smile.
The problems, of course, start when the snakes are removed.
The charmers appear to believe that such a terrifying ordeal is worth hundreds of dirhams, and seem mighty put out when you just hand over a small note as ‘thanks’.

Getting to Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech

Nearest International Airport: Marrakech Menara Airport is a short drive south-west of the city centre.

Using public transport: The main bus station is roughly a 20 minute walk north-east of Djemaa el-Fna. But that timing is rather dependent on not getting lost in the maze of souqs.

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