The Storytellers of Marrakesh

“Marrakesh.” The word sounds as exotic as the city itself, conjuring images of date palms, bustling souks, red sandstone fortifications, colorful rugs, fragrant spices and donkeys laden with wares. Add snake charmers, acrobats, storytellers, fire eaters and food stalls and you must be in Djemaa el Fna, the equally exotically named main square of the city.

For centuries, this enormous square adjacent to the medina has been a meeting place. Locals may come for entertainment or to get teeth pulled; while visitors weave in and out among men with monkeys anxious to hop on your shoulder for a photo and women offering to decorate hands with henna. UNESCO named the medina of Marrakesh a World Heritage Site and the square one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” because of the uniquely oral tradition of storytelling enacted daily.

Even if you don’t know Arabic or Berber, join the folks gathering around an animated storyteller as he gesticulates, changes his voice and makes exaggerated facial expressions to relay an ancient tale or a religious text. You will lose yourself in the experience—as people have for more than a thousand years.

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