I am writing this on the plane as we fly home from Marrakech, Morocco after what has been a very memorable week and best of all is that my wife, Carmen has loved it. When I first came here 3 years ago it was without her and every time I experienced the unique delights of Morocco I found myself constantly wishing she was here to share these moments with me. This time however she was here to experience it alongside me and like me has fallen in love with Morocco. What is not to like about the this wonderful country, it's beautiful climate, where March is like a English summer, it's people so warm and friendly and its landscape so varied. Morocco has everything that Europe has but unlike Europe it has a unique and different culture that is both frightening and fascinating at the same time. Arriving in the Jemaa el-Fnaa on a Friday night for the uninitiated the sounds, the colours the smells the total assault on your senses could at first bring a degree of apprehension to the newcomer. Stepping into the mayhem is the only way forward for to watch from the periphery is pointless. Haggle, bargain laugh, eat, drink and be merry; embrace the culture and you will soon find that the place is not as chaotic as it first seems. At night the majority of the square is a large El fresco dining experience each numbered stall competing for your business. "Come come, sit here, you like kebab, you English/French/ German Ah yes we like you free drink for you". Generally there really is a free soft drink although they will still try to put it on your bill at the end! There street traders and like all street traders, there cheeky, out to take your money but also friendly. They know how far to push and with the tourist police ever present no one here wants to upset the tourists and kill the Golden goose.
This was a last minute idea so other than the first night we had nothing booked. We decided on spending the night in Marrakesh then just explore and see where we ended up. We headed down to Essaouira on the coast the next day on a excellent and inexpensive Supratours coach. With Wifi onboard we booked a Riad in Essaouira on the very useful and highly recommended Triposo app. Essaouira was a wonderful relaxed place to spend a couple of days only 3 hours from Marrakesh you could probably do it as a day trip if you left early enough.
Essaouira was the principal port of Morocco up to the end of the 19th century. A walled fortified Medina it sits on a outcrop of land on the Atlantic Coast. Built and designed by French engineers in the 18th century it battlements still have the original Dutch canons in place along the towns ramparts. The Medina had a hippy relaxed feel to it. Frequented by windsurfers and kite surfers it mixes the modern and old nicely with a plethora of traditional shops crammed into the narrow medina streets and alleyways. The harbour is a great spot to try the local catch of the day and have it grilled while you wait at one of the local restaurants or small BBQ stalls. From here we decided to head further south along the coast and some beach sun. Agadir was the destination however during our bus journey one of the passengers told us about a place just to the North of Agadir. Less commercial and touristy, Tagazout is a small fishing village 16 km along the coast..
Although not the prettiest of places Tagazout came to notice in the 60s as a hippy, bohemian hangout and became a must stop destination on the backpacker trail. It still retains that laid back hippy culture of peace,love and surf happiness. The developers have already moved in to clear away the camp sites and it won't be long before the hippy haven will be gone to be replaced by another Agadir of tourist hotels. For now though although not exactly a cultural Moroccan experience our accommodation at the very trendy and cool Surf Maroc proved to be a relaxing place to hang out, try a little Yoga and sip organic smoothies.
From here we jumped in a taxi to Agadir on our penultimate day. We caught the Supratours coach back to Marrakesh again booking a hotel on the Triposo phone app while waiting for the coach. The final night in Marrakesh we stayed at the Riad Palais des Princesses. We struck lucky here as the place really was a palace and a fantastic place to spend our final night and day. In the summer season this is normally £100 per night or more for a room so we were very happy to pay £28 for what was a beautifull and traditional Moroccan room in this very authentic Ria, 5 minutes from the Jemaa el-Fnaa.
All images were taken on a Fuji XT1 with either the 35mm f1.4 or the 18-55mm. One problem I encountered in Morocco is the locals really do not like having a camera pointed at them to the point they can get very angry if you do. So for all those street photographers shooting the 35mm classic focal length I would suggest packing a longer telephoto if you want to avoid the wrath of the locals. I was toying with the idea of taking my 56mm f1.2 (85mm equiv in 35mm) and I wish I had as I would have allowed me to get some distance and get the shots that I could not take closer in. It was frustrating and disappointing to have such great subjects everywhere you looked but unable to capture what you were seeing. Hence many of the images are taken from the rear or are more architectural and landscape.
Still I hope to go back in the near future to explore the north of the country around Fez, Rabat, Chefchaouen and maybe a couple of nights in a bedouin tent in the Sahara! If your thinking of visiting just do it. Morocco is a giant adventure play ground full of culture, history and a unique and varied landscape. With a flight time from the UK of around three hours, it begs to be explored, you don't even need to plan just do what we did, follow your nose, you won't regret it and you might find you love it!