Far Away Photography - Marrakesh, Morocco

MARRAKESH, MOROCCO

Morocco historically has been one of the United States' long-time allies, with Morocco being the first country to recognize the United States as a sovereign nation in 1777.  It also happens to be one of the safer countries in the Middle East for travel.  Europeans flock to the country, both for its proximity with cheap flights and as the country has French as its second language.  Many Moroccans also speak Spanish for obvious reasons.  Photographically, Morocco is an explosion of color and mystique, and in the mornings and at the end of the days, these attributes become enhanced.

Unfortunately Marrakesh, while a bustling city, is mainly interesting for tourists (and photographers) for its city center, Dejmaa el-Fna, a very large pedestrian area which attracts the shopping that the city is so famous for.  The market (souq) just north of the square is a maze of covered and uncovered vendors selling a variety of goods, everything from handmade shoes to pots and magic carpets.  It's always appropriate to ask vendors if you can photograph their merchandise and especially if you can photograph them.  Most will allow you one or two shots, but I noticed many would prefer that you don't spend all day photographing their goods instead of buying them.  If you happen to purchase even the smallest item, they will often let you shoot away.

Light in the market can be phenomenal as it streams in from broken roofs above, and the early mornings will definitely give you more empty streets and warmer light, as usual.  Evenings will give you the same color temperature, but they will have a lot more people surrounding them.  This will definitely be to your advantage as the various pots will be steaming in front of the evening colors in the sky, providing an extra element of interest for images.  The evening is unique for Marrakesh as it continues to be interesting after the famous dusk hours.  The darkness comes alive with unique lighting in the markets and the artificial lights of the food plaza.  I wandered around with Canon's 70-200 mm f/2.8 which allowed me a closer access into these scenes and the extra Image Stabilization for the lower light.

WHERE TO STAY

The list of places to stay in Marrakesh is endless and seems to be increasing every year.  Most places are fairly similar and reasonably priced.  Morocco has a fairly standard "converted" style of hotel with poor air conditioning but a lot of charm.  You can always splurge for the high-priced hotels, but a few dollars or euros will get you into a pretty little place. The Guardian newspaper has put out a list with a variety of hotel options, but just showing up and finding budget accommodations near Dejmaa el-Fna is pretty reasonable.

WHERE TO EAT

Eating in Marrakesh is always a delight if you are into the local flavor and the national dish: tangine.  Tangine is an oven roasted dish,  usually of chicken or another meat, with vegetables and is fantastic for around $3-$5.  You can find this hearty meal just about anywhere, but Marrakesh offers something unique.  Every evening the main square transforms from a large, empty space to a brilliantly organized mess of cooking pots and steaming tents.  Eat anything.  It's awesome (but it is an excellent place to sample the fish/seafood).

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