Photo Log: Capturing the Beauty of Marrakech, Morocco

Ditching the cellphone camera was a great decision!

After travelling through Canada and Guatemala – two of the most beautiful countries in the world, it became apparent I was doing my photos an injustice using a cellphone camera. I lamented the poor quality of photos that simply did not capture the incredible beauty of the destinations I was moving through.

However, by this time we had been on the road for five months and my budget for a new camera was somewhat limited. I opted for the Sony RX100. It’s a only a point-and-shoot, but with a 1” sensor, 24 megapixels, and a host of neat features – it seemed a good choice. Where better to give it a test-run and to practice my photography than a trip to Budapest and then to Marrakech?

Marrakech is known as the Pink City due to the buildings’ colour, especially at sunrise and sunset. We were there mid-winter and the low sun meant we had a soft watery light all day long. This is perfect lighting for this city as it really gave the photos depth. Mid-summer would be more challenging as the fierce daytime sun can wash out photos and give a very flat look.

What is really cool too is that the muted, pastel colours of the city contrast with the vivid splashes of colour that are dotted around, the souks (markets) are alive with colour – the spice stalls especially so! Tall arches are everywhere in this city too – perfect for framing interesting subjects!

Cats are everywhere here and they seem to be generally well-looked after by the locals. The donkeys are the preferred mode of moving goods though the narrow streets. Being bowled over by a donkey and cart is a right-of-passage for visitors to the pink city.

You can’t go to Morocco without developing an addiction to sweet mint tea. The Moroccans pour it while holding the teapot high above the glass – I tried to emulate this technique and usually ended up pouring tea everywhere but the glass!

Detail is everywhere too. Every restaurant table is uniquely tiled, the teapots, the tangine pots, – even the cutlery holders are ornately decorated! Going out to the restaurants gave me a perfect opportunity to play with macro photography.

The traditional (fancier) dwelling in the region is called a Riad. A central, open topped courtyard is surrounded by tall walls where the rooms are situated. This helps to keep the occupants cool during the brutal summer heat.

The city has so many hidden corners – a simple wooden, narrow doorway in a featureless alleyway may well lead into an incredible, tiled courtyard complete with fountains and plants. Our Riad had several, fully grown, tall palm trees in the courtyard! You wouldn’t believe it from the non-descript alleyway that led to a simple wooden door to enter the Riad. The doorbell was also just a little too high for Candace to reach!

It’s worth paying the entrance fee to access the palaces too. Our favourite was the El Badii Palace, built in the 1500s. The vast central courtyards make fantastic photo opportunities, while the hidden corners are fun to explore. Don’t leave without checking out the old prison! This palace is very spacious and roomy compared with the others which mitigates the crowding that plagues a lot of the other attractions.

The other palace – Bahia – is a lot more compact and as a result feels crowded, however the tiling and decoration is stunning. It was no doubt worth the hour or so we spent there, but we felt like El Badii was much better value!

We are super happy we took a couple of days out of the city too. It can get pretty stifling if you spend more than three or four days inside the walls. We headed up to a town called Imlil which is the base town for hiking in the High Atlas Mountains. It was tough to beat being surrounded by snow-capped mountains dotted with Berber villages. Plus there are some beautiful waterfalls.

Another very simple half-day trip from the city is the Agafay desert. We just hired a driver who gave us a tour, but you can also do camel riding and quad-bike riding etc. For us we were simply stoked to climb the huge sand dunes and take photos with the Atlas Mountains on the horizon.

The camel ranchers were really friendly and let us take pictures. Not sure how the camels themselves felt about it. Indifferent I imagine.

Thanks for reading!

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