Jemaa el-Fnaa is a square and market place in Marrakesh's medina quarter (old city). It remains the main square of Marrakesh, used by locals and tourists.
The origin of its name is unclear: jamaa means "congregation" or "mosque" in Arabic, probably referring to a destroyed mosque on the site. Fnaʼ or fanâʼ can mean "death/extinction" or "a courtyard, space in front of a building". "finâʼ in Arabic commonly means "open area"; a straight translation would be "the gathering/congregation area". Other meanings could be "The assembly of death," or "The Mosque at the End of the World". Another explanation is that it refers to a mosque with a distinctive courtyard or square in front of it. A third translation is "assembly of the dead", referring to public executions on the plaza around 1050 CE.
One specific explanation endorsed by modern historians comes from historical reports that the powerful Saadian sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (ruled 1578–1603) had embarked on the construction of a monumental Friday mosque in the middle of the square. However, due to a downturn in fortunes (probably outbreaks of the plague) the sultan was forced to abandon the project part-way through. The mosque thus remained unfinished and fell into ruins. The ruined outline of its walls was apparently still visible in the 19th century and corresponded roughly to the current site of the "Souk Jdid" (the "new souk" just north of the food-stalls).