Most of us have a bucket list and as imagery is so abundant in our lives these days, my exposure to places further afield is forever expanding. Morocco was a place that I was always curious about and hadn’t placed it high on my priority list. As the summer approached my girlfriend and I decided to take the plunge and booked our tickets.
It was certainly a cultural experience. Nothing quite prepares you for the heat, smells, colours and all the paraphernalia around you. It would be fair to say that you are pestered in the souks. Just pointing at something, picking it up or showing some interest usually sparks off a conversation linked to trying the item on or having it in another colour. As the guide books advise, don’t ask the price unless you intend to purchase. In the souks, we passed two Moroccan blacksmiths / metal workers, one working away in front of me and the other using what was possibly an angle grinder with sparks flying into the air. Their was a nice shaft of light coming down through the alley way where they were working. Having taken one shot of the whole scene, I dropped to a lower angle to photograph the worker closest to me, only to be faced with a wagging finger which obviously meant he didn’t want his photograph taken. Morocco appears to be one of those places that has been recognised as a photographers paradise for travel photography however, the luxury of the shot you probably want usually ends up costing you the change in your pocket, if not a bit more. The snake charmers and water sellers are a case in point. If you’re from more European climates, the heat, hustle and bustle and pester power can certainly be overwhelming.
The Riad that we stayed in was stunning, beautifully coloured tiles, several floors which led to a roof top terrace and garden, water features and typical Moroccan décor with the lanterns and central features. The meals were fantastic to, various tagine dishes with cous cous, just lovely.
Never having ridden a camel, we couldn’t leave Marrakech without having ridden one. As they queued up, the camel I was lined up for wouldn’t drop to its knees. One of the organisers whacked its knees with a large cane in order to get the camel to kneel down. The guides wanted to give me a leg up but as I have had leg surgery I was reluctant to step up. Tanya, very bravely stepped forward. Whilst on the trek we found out that the camel Tanya was riding was pregnant, hence her reluctance to lower to her knees. She was perfectly fine on the short journey. We stopped for a break half way round and that photo opportunity, seeing as we were dressed for the part.
Our second stay was closer to the Atlas Mountains however, this was just for a couple of days. The hotel was stunning with amazing views. We were upgraded to a suite where the bathroom overlooked the mountains. Afternoon tea and cake all in with the service. The gardens were amazing. We managed to find a beautiful sofa outside, so quiet and peaceful. I don’t seem to have much time to read, so it’s nice when I get the chance. We even managed to see a chameleon in the shrubbery. Tanya managed to coax it onto her hand and helped it to reach a branch after the three attempts it made from the top step failed. We sat outside on our balcony one evening and watched the moon rise above the Atlas Mountains. That was until we experienced that all too familiar buzzing sound in our ears and not wanting to be bitten, retired inside.
Our third and final destination was Essaouira on the coast. The hotel room was adequate, but nowhere near as special as the Riad and the hotel in the Atlas Mountains. We where warned about the fact that it is windy at Essaouira, they were not joking. I thought that the wind would blow in from the Atlantic however, it appeared to be blowing from inland towards the sea. The sand whipped up and stung your face on occasions and you definitely needed sunglasses to protect your eyes. It was much cooler here, only 23 degrees, unlike the 39 degrees that we had been experiencing. The atmosphere in Essaouira is a little more relaxed, not so pushy and pressurised like the souks had been. There was an interesting Port at the end of the beach. You could watch boats being repaired, built, treated whilst locals took dogs for a walk, purchased fish whilst they were prepared in front of them. It made for some interesting photo opportunities. The array of boats also dotted around also made good subjects.
A totally amazing holiday, with the bonus of a few good photographs thrown in. My only regret, was not asking the driver to stop when we saw the goats in the Argan tree on the way to Essaouira and then seeing the sun rise over the dusty fields with the goat herders on the way back to the airport. The light at that time in the morning was just stunning and seeing the sun rise in the distance was just amazing. I had better start saving towards the next holiday.