Morocco Part 4: Remaining days and the Sahara

If you want to catch up on the previous instalments check them out here

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

The remaining 5 days of the trip was a blur of Taxis, coaches, trains and 4x4's as we made our way from the mountains to the Sahara via Ouarzazate. I quite liked Ouarzazate, it was a relaxed city, which was certainly more chilled than Marrakech. From here we booked a driver to take us to the Sahara and the big sand dunes, known as Ergh Chebbi. 

The journey took us via a Kasbah (ancient, walled, palace) at Skoura, the Dades gorge and the Todra Gorge.  The scenery was amazing and all the different landscapes were really interesting. Unfortunately time was at a premium. 

 Kasbah at Skoura, Morocco


We spent the night at a village near the Todra Gorge. Here we went on a wander and came across a strange museum, which turned out to be a carpet shop. There seems to be a big movement in Morocco to develop and promote women's "cooperatives" and this museum was one such operation.  You very quickly begin to question the validity of such "Cooperatives", they sometimes seem to be run by men, and like this one, they bring out an old woman to demonstrate how they make the rugs, then whip her off again. Its all a bit strange.  

I had been to the Sahara once before whilst in Tunisia, but on arrival at Mazouga I knew this was something else.  Arriving at the camp, where we would be spending the night,  we were greeted with views of mountain like sand dunes and a beautiful lake. It was worth all the travelling to get there. One thing that was a bit of a shock was the freezing temperature at night. I wasn't quite prepared for it being so cold. We had a tent and luckily we were given 5 extra thick blankets, but we still had to sleep in all our clothes and jackets. The following morning there was thick frost over the campsite and on the dunes.  Going for walk at sunrise, the sand felt like cold water as it flowed into your shoes. 

The previous evening we went for a camel ride through the desert and climbed one of the tallest dunes to watch the sunset over the desert. It was a beautiful sight, even if the climb did nearly kill me (note to self, must get fitter). 

The last couple of days of the trip were spent mostly relaxing. It was an exciting journey and would certainly recommend travelling to Morocco at this time of years, its not so hot and there are less tourists. 

 The road through the Dades Gorges.

This last image is another stitched panorama of Ergh Chebbi. This was stitched from 6 images in photoshop. 

 Hi res image can be seen  here

Thanks for reading, any question on travelling to morocco or about the images please get in touch. 

Morocco Day3: The road to Imlil

Today was mostly about getting from Marrakech to Imlil. The journey is only about 2 hours, but it is hard to believe the difference in atmosphere and landscape. The hot and dusty city is replaced by fresh mountain air, refreshing temperatures and beautiful snow capped mountains. It seems more Eastern Europe than North Africa. 

On the way to Imlil our taxi driver stopped at a town called Tahnaout, which was having its weekly market. It seems ever harder to find the authentic Morocco, but this was certainly as close as it gets. The market sprawled out up a small hill and was full of amazing smells and sounds. Unlike the fakery of Marrakech this was local people selling stuff to local people.  In between people selling odd shoes and radio spares there were tea stalls and meat vendors. I only spotted one other pair of tourists the entire time we were there. If you are ever in the area on a Tuesday I would recommend checking it out.

Once in Imlil we had time for a walk around the village and get acclimatised.  We are planning a walk into the mountains tomorrow, which should be exciting and breath taking in equal measures.  

Morocco Day 1 and 2: Marrakech

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I arrived in Morocco on the back of a time of upheaval. To be honest the last 6 months has been an extended period of moving and relocating and this had left me a little jaded.  I was in a bit of a creative funk and coming into land I was a bit anxious. Was I going to be able create something?

My first afternoon was just spent acclimatizing myself and reminding myself what a great place Marrakech and Morocco is. The smells, the sights, the sounds, it is a unique experience.  The evening buzz of the Djamma El Fna is amazing and you really can’t help but get drawn in. The street performers were in good voice and the food stalls were serving up amazing looking culinary delights. Marrakech has really developed into a tourist destination behemoth, and this has made it increasingly difficult to photograph in. 

I got up early the next morning to photograph as the sun rose. I knew that there would be fewer tourists and more locals just getting on with things.  Due to my funk, though, I was not as confident or creative as I wanted to be and I struggled to really capture anything approaching a decent photo. Even at this hour everyone is wary of the camera and as there were no tourists around I stood out. I was told not to photograph a motorcycle leaning against a wall, before being moved on. On the bright side is was really pleasant just wandering around at that time, people watching without the hassle of later on in the day.

As I was walking through the back end of the souks (the most interesting part, due to it mostly a local area) I was told by a gentleman “I should head back to the main square” which was back the way I had come.  He said that there was a “terrorist market” the way I was heading and I wouldn’t want to come across that.  When I pressed him about this he changed his conviction “There maybe a terrorist market, I don’t know”.  No doubt he wanted to guide me back to “big square” resulting in a good number of Dirahm being passed his way, so I ignored his advice and carried on in the direction I was walking.  I never came across a terrorist market.

The afternoon was spent seeing some sights as the sun was quite high and the light was very contrasty. We visited the Bhadi Palace which is the temporary home of the MMP (Marrakech museum for photography and visual arts). They had some good work on show from Eve Arnold.  They are currently building the new museum, which will become the biggest in Africa dedicated to photography and the visual arts. I will be interested to visit it when it is completed.

In the end I accepted that I just wasn’t on the ball photographically and enjoyed the rest of the day walking around the city and tried not to beat myself up over it.

I was hoping to do this blog on a daily basis, but the Internet can be a bit sketchy at times, so it will be more as and when. I am travelling up to the Atlas Mountains to a town called Imlil, so the next blog post may be a bit slow coming. 

 Lady walks through the Souks, Marrakech

 Bhadi Palace, Marrakech

Maroc Part 2

This the continuation of my project on Morocco. I have travelled around Morocco a few times, visiting places like Marrakech, Fes, Meknes, Essouria and the Atlas mountains. I expressed most of my feelings towards this amazing country in my last post, so on with the images.All feedback and comments are welcome.

Shukran!! (Thanks)

Maroc Part 1

Personal Projects are important for photographers (and all artists for that matter). They give us a release from our commercial work and also offer us a form of escapism and something to aim for. Maroc is a long term project of mine, which I have started to build. In its current form it is a sprawling collection of images taken in this fine country during my travels, but I have already identified several sub projects that I will try to complete over the coming years.I have felt a great connection with this country and with the people that live there. I have only began to get beneath the surface and I am striving to get through the barrier put on for the tourists and capture the real country. My original photographic influences stem from the works of photojournalists, and in fact my interest in photography began when I discovered the work of Sebastiao Selgado, especially his Workers and Migrations collections. Another photographer who's work has had a huge impact on me is Ed Kashi who worked on a book called "Curse Of the Black Gold" which is a fantastic and eye opening exploration into oil production in the Niger delta.

Any way on with some images. As always I welcome any comments on the images or blog posts.