My wife and I travelled to Morocco last week and spent 6 days in Marrakech. Using the opportunity to get away from the cold in London. Although by the time this blog is posted, we are back in London and going to be experiencing the coldest week ever this winter in London. For this trip, I took only the Fujifilm X100S with me. I am used to the 35mm equivalent focal length, that even if I took the Olympus with me, I would have found myself taking photos at or around that same length. Plus, I find that the X100S, gives me more time to frame my shots (mostly due to its slow autofocus, compared to the Olympus EM1 that I have) and I just have an all-around more fun experience shooting on the street with it. As a travel camera, it takes up less space too. It was a great trip, and I do hope I get to go back someday. Maybe not soon though, as a trip to Marrakech is not what I would call a relaxing trip. It is hectic, all about the hustle, and after while it can get tiring.
We did do two separate day-trips outside of the Medina, one to Essaouira (about a 3-hour drive) out by the coast and one inland to Ourika Valley (can be done in 1 hour but including stops can take up to 2 hours), to see the Majestic Atlas Mountain range. I’ll cover these in a separate blog post after this one.
The Medina, the old city, is where all the action is at. We stayed inside the Medina in an amazing Riad which was an oasis from hustle and bustle that’s just outside on the streets. Inside the Medina, it’s busy, it’s a maze and it’s full of wonder. Lots of little lanes to get lost in, and also to find some fun little things here and there if you’re in the mood to shop. The reason everyone visits Marrakech and its Medina, is to witness the spectacle of its grand bazaar and to immerse yourself in the souks (marketplace).
The Jemaa el Fna, the big giant square full of food stalls, performances, and spectacle, is the focal point of it all. “Quieter” during the day and comes alive by sunset. It is truly a remarkable sight. The entire city is one giant bazaar, shops everywhere, stalls selling everything from local food to silverware, from small local handicrafts to giant rugs and carpets, but it will become repetitive after a while. Also, everything being sold in there is in “tourist price” and you’ll have to pull out your best bargaining skills to get it down to a reasonable price, and even then, I think it’s more in favour of the seller than you the buyer. But that’s the fun of visiting and shopping in Marrakech, it’s part of its charm and its wonder.
That being said, if you don’t like being hassled by street kids pointing you in wrong directions and being hustled by shopkeepers trying to sell you things, then maybe the Medina isn’t the place for you. Maybe you should stay outside in the new city and visit the Medina for a few hours tops and you’ll be fine. There is apparently a Starbucks and a McDonalds somewhere out there. Almost everyone gets scammed one way or another inside the Medina. Daily I got told that the street is closed, or the shops are another way, or that there is nothing up ahead. And there were ‘friendly locals’ ready and waiting to give you directions only for them to get you to pay for it after. Best thing to do is to say thanks and be on your merry way. Aside from that, it is generally safe though, just be vigilant and you’ll be fine.
I wasn’t there to shop though, more to explore and enjoy being in this amazing city and to take lots of photos. Shooting on the streets of Marrakech, and more precisely inside the Medina can be fun and challenging. There is a Kodak moment at almost every turn, you’ll want to take a photo of everything the moment you set foot inside it. The locals, in general, don’t like their photos being taken, and if they do they would ask you for a few Dirhams for it. So, I shied away from trying to take pure portraits (which I originally intended to do) and took mostly street scenes (like I always do). And like I said before, there’s a ton of photos just waiting to be taken at every corner. I think I took about 1,100 photos in total, which isn’t much when I think back to it. Possibly because the X100S slows me down and I wasn’t as trigger happy, which is a good thing. After getting back and going through them, I got down to about 400 that were decent and out of that, I may have about 145 that I would say are true keepers. Roughly, 13% keep rate, don’t know what to make of that, but still, some good shots in there that I like. I won’t be posting all the photos here, but I do think these photos below give you a good idea of what it is like to wander around inside the Medina and maybe by doing so, one day you’ll visit it too :) All in all, it is a great place to visit at least once in your life if not more :).
All photos were taken with the Fujifilm X100S except the panorama of Jemaa el Fna which I took on my Google Pixel.