A post card from Marrakech

Bedlam – n. a noisy confused place or situation.

If you are seeking the serenity of an oasis nestled in the barren landscape of the Sahara desert flanked by the Atlas Mountains, then brace yourself for an onslaught on your senses courtesy of the old Medina. It’s fair to say that bedlam is a word that can best describe the City of Red.

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The main square

If you are a photographer the attraction to visiting this Moroccan city is self-evident.  I was mesmerised by the endless narrow twisting alleyways, which seemed to be flanked both sides with numerous street vendors trying to sell almost anything to unguarded tourist.

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The intense summer heat was only matched by the equally intensive and hard selling techniques from the locals in what is now a tourist trap. I found taking street shots incredibly challenging having coming from London, where snapping passers-by barely get noticed. In the Medina, however, there is no such luck. For every picture you make with a local there is an expectation of payment or if not, they would let their feelings be known.

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Shooting from the hip is a great technique to master but this will only work if, like me, you are using a compact mirrorless camera, in my case a Fujifilm X100s.

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You will find that the art of pre-framing the scenes in your mind first before you shoot, coupled with a good instinct to anticipate the unexpected, is a must.

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Visiting all the main sites such as the Ben Youssef Madrasa, Jardin Majorelle, and the crazy Jema el Fna should be high on your list. However, if you are a keen photographer then immersing yourself with images of Marrakech taken by respected classic, contemporary photographers at the Marrakech Museum for Photography (MMP+) is well worth a visit.

Navigating through the city was a great test of my orienteering skills although my companion Google Maps was a God send. However, this only works if you can get a decent GPS signal which was hit and miss at the best of times. The other issue with glaring at your phone on the corner of a busy street is that it also attracts a large contingent of unofficial city guides.

“I take you to the Square” said one young guy with not great teeth, wearing a “genuine” Nike track suite, I love Marakech t-shirt and flip flops.

“No thanks, I know where I am going” I replied politely (hoping he didn’t notice my nose growing at that point).

“No problem, no money no funny” he said with a smile and a glint in his eye. He clearly knew that he had a lost tourist cornered at this point. I ignored him and confidently started to walk in a random direction to shake him off.

“No you are going the wrong way” he said looking puzzled.

“Follow me I will take you there” he said walking just ahead of me. He led me through a myriad of streets with seamlessly endless shops with just about everyone trying to grab your attention.

“Where are you from?” he asked. Was this his poor attempt at small talk or was he trying to guess the weight of my wallet based on my nationality?

“England”, I muttered.

“I like Manchester United” he said proudly. Well I suppose finding a Manchester Utd supporter this far south of Manchester was hardly unusual.

“That’s great. Do you get to see many home games?” I replied sarcastically. We carried on walking and by this time I was wondering where the hell he was taking me.

“This is my uncles business” he said pointing casually to a white painted building with a small reddish coloured weather beaten door.

“That’s great” I thought and wondering how I can give him the slip.

“Let me show you what he does, no pressure you don’t have to buy anything” he said. These were the famous last words.

Entering the unassuming building I was greeted by the smell of freshly woven rugs. How the hell did I get here? I don’t even want a rug. This was going to be a battle of the wills and I wasn’t sure I was going to end up victorious.

His uncle was well presented dressed in traditional  a white djellaba and a pair of bright yellow balgahas. He proceeded by showing me to a comfortable seating area covered almost entirely by an assortment of rugs of various shapes and sizes. He bellowed at his assistant in Moroccan to begin the “rug beauty pageant”.

I kept on thinking to myself that despite all the preparation and reading I did before I got here I made the fatal school boy error of falling into this now blatantly obvious set piece selling technique.  After what seemed like hours (maybe only 30 mins in reality) I gave into him. Thinking separately how the hell I was going to get this back on the plane he said “don’t worry I will fold this rug into a small package and you will be able to carry it with you. I will even get it sent to your Riad” he said reassuringly.

Great! I was now a proud owner of a brightly coloured rug I had no intention of buying and this was only three hours into the first day of my short holiday. This did not bode well for the remaining few days.

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26 Comments Add yours

  1. Carron says:

    Beautiful. Some great tips too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have a great eye for beautiful compositions and viewpoint.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks again John. Your comments are very much appreciated.

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  3. pedrol says:

    super report 🙂 cheers PedroL

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    1. Thank you very much :O)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. BeautLotus says:

    It’s a super place to photograph as evidenced by your shots. I visited last year and loved it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Natasha :O)

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    2. Thanks very much :O)

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  5. Glad you found my blog so that I could find yours, there’s some great photo essays here. 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much Shellie. Glad you like my images. Just started reading some of your blogs. Love the Trump piece ;O)

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      1. You mean the Rump piece? 😉 I’m delighted to read in your profile that Vivian Maier is one of your muses, her work is incredible and I don’t know how many people actually know about her.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. She is inspirational to me. She never really knew what an impact she would make on street photographers around the world. If she was around today she would no doubt be pretty annoyed by all the unwelcomed attention.

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      3. The person behind the work seemed very lonely to me; she could have used a lot of love; if only people had known about her maybe she could have been a teacher. Anyway, when I saw the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, which is on YouTube, it was a revelation. Thanks for the chat. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Czeching Out says:

    That was a great read, they’re ruthless sales people in North Africa, learnt that the hard way in Egypt. Lovely shots 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great pictures and wonderful story. I love the street scenes and the way you seem to take in the daily life details. Great work. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Suzanne :O)

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  8. Merilee says:

    Delicious. Absolutely yummy images. BRILLIANT. And the story along with the images made me… smile 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks again Merilee. If you’ve not been there it’s definitely a city to put on your list!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. themofman says:

    The intensity of the hustle reminds me of my first time in Havana.

    Great series of shots, Wayne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks very much! I’ve been to Havana and belive me Marrakech is way more intense ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great inspiration for my upcoming trip to Morocco – you’ve some fascinating photos here Wayne. Interested to see that you are a fellow Fuji X user too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Clare! You will have a great time just practice shooting from the hip to save $$$s 😀

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  11. Mateen says:

    At last! Someone who unddrstanes! Thanks for posting!

    Like

    1. Thank you Mateen. What did you like about the blog?

      Like

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