Category Archives: Morocco

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door

Wandering around Marrakech and inside its building can bring interesting surprises, like this slightly creepy wooden door I stumbled across while exploring the Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa.

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

Intricate pattern on a window.
Marrakech, Morocco, 2014.

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

A visit to the dyers souk in Marrakech

“I am the souk of a thousand and one colors, but they come at a cost: the hard labor of the Sebbaghine dyers”

Your visit to Marrakech won’t be complete without a trip to the Souk Des Teinturiers.  Also called Souk Sebbaghine, this is Marrakech’s colourful and photogenic dyers’ souk, where wool and fabric are dyed and left hanging across the alleyways to dry.

A narrow alley leads you into the small main square, where you will be surrounded by bright colours: the dye powders arranged in bowls, the drying wool hanging over your head, the fabrics sold in the shops. You can also watch skilled men dipping wool into large metal vats of hot dye. When you get close, you may feel like you’ve just walked into one of the circles of Dante’s inferno!

A curiosity about the dyes: green powder dyes fabric red, red powder dyes things blue, and yellow powder dyes things purple. Isn’t this magic?!

Discovering Marrakech

Before travelling to Marrakech I didn’t really know what to expect. I had the feeling that it would be a chaotic place full of historic buildings, people in traditional clothing, and lots of colourful stalls dotted around the narrow alleys in the souks.

In simple words, that’s exactly what Marrakech is.

The Medina. This is Marrakech in its essence. The old Marrakech. The traditional Marrakech. The most intriguing part of this city. The Medina of Marrakech is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural value and its impressive number of masterpieces of architecture and arts. And it will not disappoint!

Visit the Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa, once a theological college dating back to the 14th century but rebuilt two centuries later and the largest madrasa of all Morocco. Spend some time at Palais Bahia, built in the late 19th century and intended to be the greatest palace of its times.

Walk with no purpose except that of discovering the city, lose yourself in the maze of narrow alleys, follow the pungent scent of spices, let the local artisans approach you as they are trying to sell you some of their artifacts.

Reach Jemaa el-Fnaa, the real centre of Marrakech. This square is synonymous with chaos but this is what makes it such a great place too! Visit around sunset and you will be rewarded with amazing colours and incredibly vivid images. Bargain a price with the water sellers and they will be “yours” for as long as you like. Watch the women in colourful traditional dresses, the snake charmers, wander around the food stalls displaying a large variety of dishes: they all contribute to the charm of Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Then sit down and eat at one of the food stalls, all easy to identify because they use reference numbers. One word of warning though: they tend to overcharge tourists so make sure that you only order from menus with prices on display! But don’t let this spoil the experience: the food is very good and fresh, and a meal in Jemaa el-Fnaa will be the perfect end to a day of discovery of Marrakech.

Themes at the Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

Blue is the colour.
It’s intense. It’s vibrant. It’s more blue than you can possibly think.
It dominates the main building in the Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden), an amazing garden and one of the most visited sites in Marrakech. The same blue appears on the large vases scattered around, on the tiles of the pools, everywhere.

All colours in the Jardin Majorelle are very strong and vibrant. Primary colours. Blue. Yellow. Red. They hit you. They call you. You won’t get away without taking dozens of photos, trying to capture them at their best.

And then you have textures. The incisions on the bamboo stems, the tree trunks, the incredible surfaces of the myriad of cactus plants, all with different features. Some looking from another world. You could stare at each of them for hours.

Then there’s people. People are everywhere in the gardens. Tourists walking around to discover the place, locals who visit to find some quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city, young couples hiding in the more secluded corners of the garden, groups of giggling girls on an afternoon out.

I will definitely go back to Jardin Majorelle on my next visit to Marrakech and spend more time there!

Note: a thank you goes to Paul Harris for the three themes, suggested as part of a photography workshop.

Arriving in Marrakech

Standing lonely in the middle of the baggage claim area is my black trolley bag. Only two more bags around, and at a distance from mine.
I didn’t think I’d see my bag again. But it was there.

I had just spent almost an hour and a half (!!!) in the immigration checks queue at Menara airport in Marrakech.  It’s not like they didn’t have enough officers for the job: it was just incredibly slow. Painfully slow. Probably the worst I’ve ever experienced in my many years of travels. I was immensely relieved when it was over and even more so when I saw that my bag was still waiting for me.

Menara airport is incredibly modern. Fantastic and elegant main building, and now undergoing expansion with a second terminal to be completed in 2015. It blew me away!

The airport is only 5-6 Km from the Medina in Marrakech, and if you are on your first visit to this city catching a taxi to your hotel (£8-15 depending on your bargaining skills) is probably your best bet. The local airport bus is a lot cheaper but unless your hotel/hostel is located nearby one of the bus stops, chances are that you’ll get lost in the maze of alleys!

The taxi ride to the Medina takes you from the 21st century into the old part of Marrakech, characterised by old buildings, narrow alleys, colourful shops, men and women in traditional clothing. Such a contrast!

Marrakech, I am here to discover you now :-)