Marrakesh a first day tour – photo essay

 

La Koutoubia in Marrakesh

La Koutoubia in Marrakesh

Marrakesh first day tour

A First day tour and impressions of this exotic and mysterious city is that everything is frenetic, crazy, with people heading out in all directions but at different paces.  Busses are crammed with locals, vying for road domination alongside small donkeys pulling carts laden with fruits, packages and stacked materials heading out to the markets. People are also walking constantly around the city including the old medina in the center, which is very compact and difficult to maneuver. No use having a map while walking in the old Medina, most of the streets are not marked and you are bound to get lost trying to find any of the attractions or monuments in the old part of town. In any case, it’s fun to just walk around leisurely and explore the medina on foot. The outskirts of the Medina tend to have a very gritty and in your face droll atmosphere, until you approach the more sedate tourist areas. There are so many odd combinations of shops, and very strange mix of products and services being sold in the same shop. (A combination barber shop and butcher stand?) It’s interesting seeing these brash combinations jogging your senses, a little shocking but also exciting to view and see.  I almost feel like I’m on the original Star Wars set of the markets at Mos Eisley, the cantina scenes and the very strange characters of Tatooine lurking everywhere on the streets. (These scenes were actually shot on scene in neighboring Tunisia).

 

 

Donkeys and pink walls

Donkeys and pink walls

 

What’s fascinating about walking through the Medina is that every type of commerce is taking place outdoors and out in the open. Tailors have their sewing machines by the front door, motorcycle and car shops are busy on the street and every kid is carrying something to sell to anyone walking by – everyone one is a self-made entrepreneur.  It’s inspiring to see everyone’s entrepreneurial spirit thrive with bare bones resources and direct selling gusto, to earn a meager living on the street.

 

Bike shop owner in Marrakesh

Bike shop owner in Marrakesh

 Vivid patterns on the streets of Marrakesh

 

Marrakesh (35)

 

 

 

 

Roses and garlic on display

Roses and garlic on display

 Spices in all colors and flavors

 

Colored containers of spices for sale

Colored containers of spices for sale

Getting lost in the Medina

After some time walking through an endless array of small business, shops and dusty colored buildings, I easily tire of the repetitive nature of daily life and stimuli. Instead, I start to focus my attention on unusual details, architectural fragments and signage, and camera compositions that draw my eye in to further explore and experiment. I love seeing the odd combinations of the old, new and recycled being repurposed into many objects. I pass these huge bins of colorful spices not easily recognizable, a small bird lounges on top and pecks away on edible seeds. Older women in ornate and patterned robes with contrasting head scarfs are everywhere making a fashion statement and I’m intrigued by the colorful patterns they adorn themselves with. We finally stumble into the main square of the medina called Djemaa El Fna which is a huge plaza filled with more souks(specialty markets), outdoor cafes and ringed with restaurants catering to the tourist crowd.  Costumed and colorful water carriers and snake charmers actively pursue tourists for Moroccan dirham and the obligatory bribe to their staged poses. I’m not interested in capturing these costumed ‘actors’, it just seems so contrived. I know I can capture something more genuine and unique in this urban grit with its own storyline. I decide to save Djemma El Fna for later in the evening when the markets and food stalls come alive and are more active and colorful to photograph.

Walking along various pathways and peeking into alleyways and private entrances, I take a few snapshots of interesting details and unique vistas around the medina. We go into a few private riads (private homes turned into B&B’s), a spice market, some old museums, ancient burial chambers and the oldest jewish synagogue in Marrakesh all done in blue from the tile work to the paint on the walls, shutters and details. I’m starting to hit my stride with seeing some new discoveries and photo opportunities as we ramble around the various parts of the Medina.

Marrakesh Spice market

Marrakesh Spice market

 

 

 

Storks with nest on old ruins in Marrakesh

Storks with nest on old ruins in Marrakesh

Blues, blues and more blues

 

Jewish synagogue in Marrakesh

Jewish synagogue in Marrakesh

 

 

Outdoor dining and lunch break in Marrakesh

Outdoor dining and lunch break in Marrakesh

Crazy vibe

Yes its quite hectic, walking around, observing and taking everything in. I’m glad that I’m traveling around Marrakesh with three close friends, enjoying the tour together and creating a sense of security for each other in these unfamiliar settings. Not that it is intimidating here, but it’s not knowing anything about Morocco’s rich culture, history and daily regimen. We are just getting a glimpse on our excursion with biased eyes. Westerners are just not used to the different pace, lifestyle and day-to-day rhythms of this energetic and busy city. We relax and enjoy a nice long lunch at a an outdoor cafe. Overlooking an old square lined with restaurants, crafts and art studios, we settle in to a traditional lunch, enjoying the street scenes while gorging on tasty tagine dishes with an endless supply of mint tea. It’s nice to take break and recharge after an extensive walk and observing so many new things in the Medina.

Well that was an exhausting, fun and eye-opening adventure today. You’ll be in for a treat with some upcoming posts continuing our excursions visiting more historic sites, beautiful palaces and some of the bizarre attractions around Marrakesh. Hopefully you’re into Moroccan cuisine, my next few posts will focus on local food and an amazing dinner experiences that just blew our foodie group away with the presentation, food and overall dining experience, something worth checking out.

 

Have you ever tried an authentic Moroccan style meal cooked outdoors exclusively with tagines made with thick ceramic containers, I write about this delicious dining experience here, enjoy the meal.

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23 Responses to Marrakesh a first day tour – photo essay

  1. Majida August 30, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    Loved the photographs and your interpretation of tour de Marrakech, You are so right, the firts day is always so exciting, all the “first times” sights, ohs and ahs 🙂 Been there just in May with a photography workshop, regretfully however we could not cover all we wanted to! Love the picture of the Synagogue!

  2. adity@somethingspecialbyadity June 29, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    Hi Noel ! Very nice to see your blog! I liked your pictures of Morocco–especially the b/w shot .

  3. InsideJourneys (@InsideJourneys) June 21, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    I love your tour of Marrakesh. You’ve really captured the vibe of the city. Can’t believe you covered so much in one day!

    • Noel June 21, 2013 at 5:53 am #

      First days are always so exciting in a foreign place, you want to see and do everything and even stay up all night, I almost felt like a teenager 🙂

  4. Dannii June 16, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Wow what an amazing place to visit, it looks so vibrant.
    I’m just catching up on all your Moroccan posts and now can’t wait to read the rest.

    • Noel June 16, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      thanks for your comments, definitely worth visiting Morrocco, stay tune for more locations in Morocco.

  5. Calvin Chaney June 7, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    Great representation of our first days in Marakech.

  6. mish June 5, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    I have just returned to Australia after 15 years of living and working in Marrakesh . You captured Marrakesh so well and in only just one day !
    Enjoy the organised chaos and I look forward to your next post .Trek Salama

    • emorata1 June 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

      Usually when I visit a place its a little overwhelming, but when I have a camera its easier to focus on the smaller details that help to tell the story instead of candid shots of iconic scenes and monuments that are fairly standard. Thanks for your comment Mish

  7. santafetraveler June 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    What great photos! I just want to plunge my hands into those spices and oh that gorgeous garlic!

    • emorata1 June 5, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Looks good,but no touch or you buy it all Billie

  8. Jennifer June 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    I agree with Cathy. My favorite photo is the donkey with the pink walls. Morocco is high on my list and I am just swooning at this post!

  9. Cathy Sweeney June 5, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Oh, a barber and butcher shop? Sounds dangerous. Certainly no need for you to take photos of staged scenes in tourist area when you’ve got such wonderful photo ops elsewhere in the Medina. Great pics. I especially like the donkey with the pink walls and blue mosaic tiles photo.

  10. Gaelyn June 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Looks like Marrakesh could put an overload on all senses. Your images really bring the place to Live.

  11. JR Riel (@DriftersBlog) June 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    The picture of the donkey against the pink wall is a great contrast of colors and texture. Beautiful!

  12. Kyna June 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Wow…and this only covers one day. You summed up first impressions of Marrakesh very well. I want to go back!

    • emorata1 June 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Well Kyna, you should know, you were there with me, glad it made you think about Marrakesh again

  13. Irene June 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Wow! Beautiful photography and what could be better than experiencing it with friends?

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