May Week 5 – Morocco



From Fes our group traveled through the Rif Mountains north to Chefchaouen.  This town nestled into a hillside is made up of blue and white washed buildings, narrow streets, elaborately decorated doorways and a Mediterranean flavor.  Although not on the Mediterranean, it is as close as we got.   Founded in 1471 by descendants of the prophet Mohammad a larger wave of Muslims and Jews expelled from Spain arrived in 1492.

Although this town is known for it’s friendliness it was still  a difficult place to include people in your photographs.  Some decades ago people flocked here to get their supply of hashish grown locally since the 15th century.  It is fondly referred to as “Kif” which is the Arabic word for pleasure.  Although many members of our group were asked if they wanted to purchase some or go out to the “farms,” I happily was not solicited.

As we entered the medina, walking from our hotel the Dar Chefchaouen, we crossed the Wadi (river) Laou where women carried carpets for washing along with piles of laundry. Obviously very hard work! It was warm but not hot here and made walking up and down the hillside streets very pleasant.  We didn’t need a wool jellaba, which are made here.  We also saw women with the traditional red and white striped frabics tied around their waist over their other clothes.  These are worn by the Jebala tribe.

At the town square across from a Kasbah and Museum members of our group sat at out door café  tables watching the people.  Men in jellabas sat care-free out side the Kasbah and Grand Mosque for hours talking, laughing and reading the newspaper.  Occasionally we would take their pictures without them waving us off.  The square is an intersection of many streets and peoples in the center of town.

The Coca-Cola delivery was made via donkey while children played in the beautiful arch ways and near the age old blue painted and tiled fountains where a community cup was supplied for drinking.

After two long days in Chefchaouen we returned to Casablanca via the capitol Rabat.  We enjoyed a farewell dinner and the next day beginning at 3:00 AM the members of our tour began their trips home or on to other destinations.

Sqala de la Ville from Port

But Chris and Maureen and I continued on with Ishmael (our guide) in a van with driver Jamal.  Our plan was to photograph for five more days between Casablanca and the Atlantic coast town of Essaouira.  We were hoping to photograph people riding donkeys, women shepherding flocks of sheep, fields being harvest and small town activities.

In hind site we didn’t really need a guide and for some reason didn’t have access to the driver and van for the entire time as was scheduled.  Although Essaouira came highly recommended by Strabo Tours it is primarily a destination for tourists who want to lounge on the beach and shop for silver and art.  Lovely as it was we could have captured its quaint fishing boats and markets in a day and a half.  Ishmael did introduced us to an artist who set up shop to demonstrate for us her craft, especially painting pieces of clay roof tiles into women in the haik.

Artist paints woman in haik

This town is a bit more conservative than others and you will see many women covered from head to toe except for their eyes.  They are wearing the traditionally haik.  Outside of the medina on the ocean side you find many modern homes and businesses.  It is obvious that Essaouira is a weekend destination for Moroccans.  Families were enjoying the camel rides available on the beach.  The Moroccan woman are fully clothed at the beach while men and children wear bathing suits.

Our three nights were spent in the ornate Riad Al Medina.  Chris and I only had to climb 50 stairs to our rooms while Maureen had 66 steps.  A riad is a traditional residence organized around a courtyard which usually has planted trees or flowers and fountains.  From its name Al-Medina you can tell it is in the old city (medina) which was only a short walk to the harbor.

A better plan would have been to go straight to Essaouira for a couple of days and then spend three or more days back in Marrakech where we had hardly scratched the surface of all the photographic opportunities (city walls, gates, tombs, markets, gardens, palm groves).  I guess I did not get my fill of the snake charmers and had hoped to walk through La Palmeraie, the famous palm groves while seeing the distant High Atlas Mountains in the background.  But we spent three days  beneath the seagulls and among the spice souks.

Although most of the boats in Essaouira off loaded a ton or so of fish you also see women selling a few sardines they had caught in the harbor with their buckets. All of the family owned boats were painted blue and tied together when not in the open waters. Although our meals were all paid for at the riad, Chris and I ate a meal at the harbor where you pick out the fish you want and it is immediately grilled for you.  I loved that lobster, king scrimp and calamari!

Essaouira became known as the port of Timbuctu in the 18th century when 40 percent of the Atlantic traffic passed through.  I have shared more of my encounter with the culture, people and land than my photographic techniques.  But hopefully you see them in the images here and those yet to come in my Moroccan portfolios. Wakha?  (Arabic for “okay.”)

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