Foolishly forgetting that we’d be visiting peak summer when the temperature would be a scorching 40+ degrees, a few weeks back my brother and I decided to take a trip to Marrakech, a place I’d wanted to visit for some time. Despite a somewhat aggressive confrontation with some locals on arrival and frustrating encounters with several souk owners on the first day, we loved it. And the heat wasn’t that bad.
The two of us spent just under a week exploring Marrakech’s labyrinth of narrow alleys, visiting the main points of interest, sampling the local food and relaxing in bars with gorgeous panoramic terraces. We also took a trip to the province of Azilal, 150km northeast of Marrakech, to see the breathtaking Ouzoud Falls (photos towards the end of this post).
Marrakech is great. The colours, smells, energy and atmosphere. I’d love to visit again.
We stayed in the luxurious Riad Dar Saad, built in the 18th century and located in the El Bacha district of the Medina. The riad was within walking distance of all the places we wanted to visit and was easy to navigate to (although my brother would disagree – turns out he has the worst sense of direction imaginable). A peaceful terrace and pool, beautiful décor and fantastic staff (Abdul, we miss you). If you decide to visit, try and book the Salmia suite.
So what about the photos I took? I uploaded them when I got home and was gutted when I saw them. Many were out of focus, had sweat/water on the lens and the composition was rushed and predictable. As I’d read on numerous travel websites, forums and blogs, Moroccans hate cameras (for various reasons). They not only hate you taking photos of them, their souks, their streets or their buildings, but they even hate being in photos from a distance. You’d be lucky to raise your camera to your eye without someone loudly shouting ‘no photos!’ One guy we met from London told us that he’d taken a photo of a wall and a local guy approached him and demanded he delete the photo off his phone.
I was happy with my photos from Rome but said that I felt they were too cliché. A member of a forum I participate in, Nikko Azan, enjoyed my shots, but agreed with my comment. He said ‘before going anywhere I haven't been before I often remind myself to look for and photograph what the place feels like instead of what it looks like because most people usually shoot exactly that and get ‘cliché’ images.’ I kept this in mind whilst in Morocco but for the majority of time it felt impossible to follow because of how the locals reacted.
I get huge satisfaction out of taking photographs, but I’m disappointed with what I ended up with. I’m a confident guy and wouldn’t normally shy away from taking a stranger’s photo without first asking for permission, but when you can’t even take a picture of a building in the distance without getting shouted at, it knocks your confidence. If I was a pro I’d no doubt be able to whip the camera up to my eye, compose the shot, nail the focus and exposure in a split second and bag it before getting hassled. But I’m not. So again, I feel most of my shots are too predictable but the ones I've put here I'm fairly happy with. They just aren't what I was hoping to get.
P.S. Anyone worried about visiting during Ramadan needn't. Some places of interest have slightly shorter opening hours but we found that everything in Marrakech functioned as it would normally. Just bare in mind that the locals will be fasting each day until the evening, so some may be slightly more on edge and disapproving of you shoving food in your mouth or smoking whilst wandering the streets in the day. It's not forbidden, but worth noting out of respect. Eating in restaurants and cafes is fine, as is drinking water in public. One other thing to note is that the days following the end of Ramadan are like public holidays, we left the day after Ramadan ended and almost everything was closed.