May 09, 2015

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Jemma el Fna, Marrakesh

Jemma al Fna at Dusk

 

Heightening all your senses, Jemma el Fna has to be one of the most vibrant places on earth. By day, it's a colourful, sun-baked hustle bustle, by night equally raucous and lit up to ethereal and magical effect. It's impossible not to feel the thrill of being alive here, in the beating heart of the city, with snakes being charmed by your feet and the hypnotic call to prayer emanating from the mosque five times a day. If you're overwhelmed by all the places to eat in the square - of course you must eat al fresco - stall number one is a great option, with deliciously oiled fried aubergine and kebabs. The hectic atmosphere is part and parcel of the whole experience. Expect the odd exploding lightbulb and powercut as you tuck into your authentic fare. The best bit by far is the array of characters you'll come across - persistent henna artists, music makers, belly-dancers, storytellers, drummers jiggling their Fez caps, palm-readers, clusters of children eager to interact and even medieval-style dentists showing off their pliers and piles of teeth. 

 

Competing for the attention of tourists, these individuals will ply you with everything under the sun, from entire cobra skins to the classic monkey photo opportunity, and that's even before heading into the unnavigable and heady maze of the souks off the Medina. But regardless of their enterprising intentions, there is a real sense of curiosity and warmth. 

 

The Moroccan artist, Abdelaziz Haounati, is an expert at capturing these unique Moroccan personas. Born to a shepherd family in southern Morocco, the sixth of ten children, he lost his mother at a young age and, receiving little support for his artistic dreams, left home at the age of 15. Embarking on a career as an artist, he began to create work using a palette of vivid colours in equally lively compositions. Focussing on painting portraits filled with emotion and expression, he uses Morocco's quirky street characters as his subjects, producing powerful pieces that bring to life their personalities and moods. 

 

Author
Flora Onslow-Hughes

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