Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech

Jemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech: Changes to a Social Space and to a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity as a Result of Global InfluencesImage result for jemaa el fna marrakech morocco IMAGES
Jemaa el Fna Square in the Medina of Marrakech is known for its performing street artistes: story-tellers, acrobats, Arab and Berber musicians, and Gnauwa groups and seers, who work daily before a local, regional, and foreign tourist audience in the specific form of a halqa ("circle"). In 2001, following an initiative by the Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo, who sought to prevent the execution of plans to build a glass tower close by, the square was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This proclamation and the growing popularity of Marrakech as a destination for international tourists can be seen as two global influences on the square. In addition, social changes in Morocco have influenced both the performers and the local audience in the square. This article examines the effects and the interconnection of these different global influences on Jemaa el Fna. The feasibility of "safeguarding" the oral and intangible traditions of the square, as required by UNESCO, and the difficulties this entails are discussed in light of the pressures of tourism and recent social changes.
Thomas Schmitt1
1 Universität Bayreuth, Lehrstuhl für Stadtgeographie, Universitätsstr, 30, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany