June 17, 2019

The land of colors and scents

Although we had been prepared for all kind of surprises in Morocco, it was a bit shocking when we encounter Marrakech late at night, exhausted from the flights. My very first impression was a strange mixture of noises, dust, barbecue smoke, leather odor, gasoline smell and locals hanging on the streets offering insistently guide assistance to any tourist. After an hour going in a circle in the center, trying to find the exact location of our hostel using smartphone navigation, we attracted the attention to the locals. Eventually we surrendered and let a guy show us the right street. He appeared to be a friend of the hostel’s owner so he didn’t charge us. We ended up in a clean and cozy hostel and immediately fell asleep. In the morning we woke up refreshed in a nice bright space and climb to a beautiful terrace where we had traditional breakfast. We were impatient to start our journey.

The view from Grapewine hostel in Marrakech

Medina in Marrakech is a unique labyrinth of narrow streets full of small handcraft stalls and shops with intense traffic of people and motorbikes.

In the heart of medina in Marrakech

Jemaa el-Fna – the main square and marketplace in Marrakech also a stage of artists, circus acrobats, animal tamers, traders and magicians.

Handcraft shop in Marrakech.

Ben Youssef Madrasa- the largest Islamic college in Morocco during its height, nowadays turned into a museum.

The Road trip

After few days in Marrakech we headed east to Atlas mountains and the desert.

Along the way to the desert.

Traditional Moroccan school.

We passed through Ouarzazate – The Door of the desert. The area is a noted film-making location, with Morocco’s biggest studios inviting many international companies to work here.

The town is chiefly inhabited by Berber-speakers, who constructed many of the prominent buildings called kashbahs.

The village Ait Benhaddou had been a stop in a former caravan route between Saharah and Marrakech. It’s famous for kashbah houses, also a spot where scenes of the “Gladiator” movie had been shot.

Crossing Atlas mountains and visiting Berber villages

As we were going deeper towards the desert I became more and more fascinated by the country natural treasures and ancient culture heritage.

Crossing Atlas Mountains

Unique rock formation in sunset light.

Oases in the river valleys are good for agriculture .

Everyday life in a Berber village

One of the main livelihood in Berbers’ areas is growing agriculture for family needs and weaving camel carpets and selling them to the visiting tourists and abroad.

A village cuddled into the rocks.

People are friendly and communicative. Most of them were not disturbed standing in front of the camera.

The Desert

After travelling several hundred kilometers, passing through Atlas mountain and crossing vast areas of dust we reached Merzouga, one of the most popular approaches to Moroccan desert. It was late afternoon in a hot November day. The sun low enough depicting the shapes in very picturesque way. The sky was transparently clear. Colors of yellow, orange, red and blue. The area in this region is famous for it’s incredible golden dunes and attractive light for filming.

The first contact with the sand. The shapes of the dunes are quite similar to the snow slopes in winter mountains.

A cup of mint tea and we were ready for a journey.

Omar and Rashid, our guides preparing the camels for the trip. They had stopped visiting school in order to start working as guides and support their families. They can’t afford a day off if they want to keep this job. It’s seemed that they enjoy what they do.

…and in the golden hour we start.

We hear only the steps of the camels in the sand.

Few minutes before the sun goes down.

We spent the night in a fully equipped traditional Berber camp where we had the chance to listen to some traditional rhythms by the fire.

The boys took us to a trip under the stars and we all climbed Erg Chebbi – the highest dune in the area. They showed us their most precious view to Merzouga and shared that they had never gone beyond. They hope to leave the desert one day and travel around the world.

The world of Thousand and One Nights.

Waking up in the dark hours and continuing our journey.

First sun beams greeting us.

The figure of one of the kids that guided us, walking aside.

From the desert to the ocean

Ultimately changing the contrast. This is how I describe the word “exotic”. So here is Essaouira. An old coastal city with authentic fortress built by the Portuguese in 16th century. The name of the city is related with sailing, fishing, trading and pirates in the past. In modern times labyrinthine streets and alleyways of the medina have become attractive for tourists and  filmakers. The city was a kind of a hippi center in the late 60’s.

Fortress walls

Fishing boats in the port of Essaouira.

Foggy afternoon.

Anchored boats.

Rush hour in the fish port.

Big amounts of fresh fish are carried in carts.

Fish trading is flourishing.

Life around the port.

The smell of fish is all around. Fish bones and guts attracting many sea birds.

Inside the medina.

It is smaller and calmer compared to Marrakech.

Fountain in the street

Just outside the city walls begins a large beach area.

Young men practicing box on the sand during low-tide water.

Oasis for surfers

During the flight I read about Taghazaout in on of those magazine. This is a small village on the Atlantic ocean, which had recently become a major surf spot. Many surfers from all over the world visit the place and have formed a small community. We decided to spent our last days from our journey in this calm place.

Morning view from the hostel

Street in Taghazaout

The place if perfect for first steps surf lessons.

Unusually calm waters for November

Still good for beginners.

Many residents are surf shops owners.

Our host Houcine has his own with a lovely panorama view to the beach.

Taghazaout watched from the coast.

Golden hour

Taghazaut front line buildings.

Fishermen selling fresh fish right in the beach.

Portrait of a fisherman

Local Kids playing football on the beach at sunset, in a low-tide water moment.

The game continues after dusk.

The end of the day was a mixture of moving silhouettes, laughter, gentle sound of the ocean and fire in the sky.

On the way back, in Marrakech, this gentleman introduced himself as a photographer. He was really polite and communicative. We thought he was sincere and invited him for a tea. The conversation was pleasant and easy, we even exchange contacts as “colleagues”. Until the moment he asked for money. I was a bit disappointed but after all he made a great performance, also shared some precious information about Morocco.


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