March 5, 2015

The Desert Coast of Morocco

Images and words by Bisual Studio

From the hustle and bustle of the teeming medinas, to the solitude and silence of the immense desert, Morocco is a country that inspires the dreams of any travel photographer. The exotic northen gate to Africa, Morocco’s mountains, dunes and coasts are juxtaposed by chaotic cities shaped by aged alleyways connecting souks and rihads. The inevitable culture shock that surprises the first time traveller acts as an unavoidable draw to those who return.

This was our second visit to our arab neighbour. After a fleeting visit a few years ago to the Sahara desert and the Kasbahs of Ouarzazate, we decided to get to know bustling Marrakesh, coastal Essaouira, and the mountain town of Chefchaouen.

Chaouen: "The Blue City"

A quiet, quaint old walled district welcomed us. Set in the north of Morocco, Chefchaouen is one of the most beautiful spots in the Riff mountains, home to hundreds of white and blue painted houses. Only their handmade tents break the monochrome monotony. The citizens of the town, especially the elders, were reluctant to be photographed for fear of losing their souls to our cameras. If you want to photograph the Moroccans, you first need to get to know them. There is no better way than to do this than to sit with them over a mint tea in a café. It may be that you want to do a thousand things; climb the highest peak in North Africa, learn how to cook cous-cous, haggle at the souks, or lose yourself in the medina — but the trick is to give enough time to see the world pass by whilst accompanied by the local people. Take it easy, like Sunday morning!

Essaouira: "The Atlantic Pearl"

At the heart of arab cities, you will normally find a tight labyrinth where traditions perpetuate. Not the case in Essaouira, where the medina of this city mixes muslim features with other european colonies, creating a distinct feel. It opens out to the sea, where the hanging bastions and walls that have protected this harbour city from pirate raids are found. We found Essaouira to be freindlier and more welcoming than Chaouen; an explosive mix of gentle, serene, entertaining and dynamic. Here we met Ali, a berber who works with his camel James on the beach, and Mii Mahdi, a young jockey who was racing his horse next to the sea.

Marrakesh: "The South of Morroco

Oh, Marrakesh! Gateway to the desert, infinite bazaar, hypnotic souk. All these descriptions fit this city in the south of Morocco. Even those who consider that the city is nothing more than a prefabricated farce, performed by thousands of actors or an orchestrated recital for the pleasure of the tourist, must accept that these descriptions still apply.

Here the photographer finds a bubbling crowded city full of recesses, where hidden snake charmers, storytellers, improvised boxing matches and hustlers, wander through the city’s core. Marrakesh wraps you up, little by little. It seduces you with its aromas, colours and flavours. It knocks you out! All you can do is go with the flow.

Whilst travelling, leaving things to chance may be risky, even naive. However, chance and naivety have led us more than once to discover surprising places and people, in ways that we wouldn’t have been able to without.

Adapting to the rhythm of the destination can be the hardest thing to achieve. Sitting in a café, we understood that the tempo of Morocco was so far removed from our own that we wouldn’t need days, we would need months to comprehend and a lifetime to assimilate it.

*Thanks from Bisual Studios to Chris Mitchem for his invaluable help with the translation of the text

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