MOROCCO

- Personal gallery and a little travel advice from a photographers perspective -

Dusk on the dunes of the Sahara near the border of Algeria. This local man spoke very proudly of his Berber heritage. Some locals still live the nomadic lifestyle. sleeping in tents and herding camels stopping in at oases and ancient wells scattered throughout the Sahara.   

     

     Morocco is a country in a category of its own. Situated in the Northern tip of Africa it’s an environment that evades definition. The landscape is varied and eclectic. Balmy beaches and lush green valley’s give way to the vast expanse of the Sahara which is then contrasted vividly by the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas range.

 

     The residents are just as varied as the landscape around them. Morocco is heavily influenced by its northern European neighbors, while still retaining the Arabic flair brought by the Muslim Crusades from the Middle East. Although both of these cultures are interesting, I found none more fascinating than the ancient tribes known as the Berbers. They were once a shamanistic people, however the majority of them today practice Islam. They were known throughout history as the camel riding and desert crossing nomads that opened up trade routes through the vast deserts to transport slaves and other goods from the African nations.

                                                  Mint tea - A very tasty Moroccan tradition

                                                  Mint tea - A very tasty Moroccan tradition

 

    I would recommend a visit to Morocco for anyone – especially photographers (watch out for sand!) Contrary to what many Europeans would tell you I felt considerably safe in Morocco. The people of this country know that their homeland is uniquely beautiful and do all they can to make foreigners feel welcome. With that being said I would still recommend a private guide if you want to visit the smaller villages outside of Marrakech (More on that later)

 

    If you do choose to visit Morocco you will most likely start your journey arriving by air to the city of Marrakech. Initially this city will seem like a wild blur with sweltering heat, dusty dirt roads, and countless buzzing scooters. Marrakech is spectacular with many sights that are not to be missed. Mostly notably the market of Jemaa el Fnaa. During the day it’s an open square with various stalls, performers, and snake charmers. (WARNING: if you take a photo they will expect a tip!) As soon as night falls the plaza transforms to a chaotic mess of countless open air restaurants. If you choose to eat here (highly recommended) take your time browsing the countless options. As you take your first steps in to the square you will be assailed by young cooks wanting your business, some will even forcibly take your hand and lead you to a chair. The restaurants are categorized numerically and many locals will swear that their favorite numbered stall has the best couscous in all of Morocco. Whichever venue you choose the memory will be sure to last a life time.

                       open-air dining at it's finest - Jemaa el-fnaa. Use a fork, or eat like a local with your hands! 

                       open-air dining at it's finest - Jemaa el-fnaa. Use a fork, or eat like a local with your hands! 

 

     As far as accommodation goes in Marrakech I would highly recommend, ”Hostel Riad Marrakech Rouge” It’s located in a back alley, but has staff that will arrange to meet and guide you to their front door. This hostel has very attentive staff that will likely pour you a piping hot cup of mint tea as soon as you walk through the door. Here you can book tours to leave outside of Marrakech if you didn't do so before arriving in Morocco. The three images below are all from the hostel's ridiculously vivid interior. 

 

 

     As spectacular as Marrakech is the real adventure awaits outside the city limits. I would recommend 2-3 days in the city, and then hire a 4x4 driver to take you cross country. Picking a route through the High Atlas mountains that will eventually lead you to the fringe villages of the Sahara would be ideal (Tour buses SUCK) It’s relatively cheap for a private guide and much more personal. Normally I would recommend renting a car and going solo, but Morocco is very rural and the roads are quite dangerous.  Drivers pay no attention when merging in to traffic and the concrete itself is cracking and falling away in many places. There are also many police check-points set up that a private guide will be able to breeze you through. I would specifically recommend a company called “Morocco Dunes” and request Cheikh as your driver. He speaks good English and is very attentive to your needs, but he still allows ample alone time to explore. He knows of some pretty awesome stuff and a couple off the beaten path spots.  (They run their business out of tripadvisor.com so do a search there)

                                                                                                       The interior in some of the old Kasbahs is absolutely stunning!

                                                                 

                                     The interior in some of the old Kasbahs is absolutely stunning!

TOP TIPS:

-        SUNGLASSES, and SUNSCREEN. I always forget both of these.

-        Visit and dine at Jemaa el Fna market during the evening. Pack a camera and a few extra bucks for         interesting pictures of locals.

-        Bring candy/sweets with you if you’re going outside of Marrakech to the local villages. The local         children are underprivileged and a small gift means the world to them.

-        DO NOT drink tap water, brush your teeth with the tap, or open your mouth in the shower.

-        Avoid eating salads, as the greens are usually washed with local tap water.

-        Fanta soda is your best friend. Bottled water isn’t very common but Fanta is everywhere. (and cheap)

-        Always ask before taking a photo of a local

-        If you’re a female consider purchasing a shawl. While it’s not required, wearing conservative clothing (especially outside Marrakech) shows respect to local customs. Morocco is a nation of Islam, but still very tolerant of outside cultures.

-        Bring some sort of sand protection for your camera if you’re headed in to the dunes. (A plastic bag works nicely)

-     GET OUTSIDE OF MARRAKECH! You'll love it. I promise. 

-        Ride a camel. It hurts like hell, but it’s totally worth it. 


Below are a series of images from local villages around Morocco.

                                                             

                                                       The party is outside Marrakech.

                                                                    Crazy Dunes