Saturday, February 17, 2024
HomeTOURS AND TRAVELWhat to Photograph in Morocco

What to Photograph in Morocco

What are the best places to photograph in Morocco? Having visited this picturesque country earlier this year, I made a detailed plan about the locations I wanted to visit that I have been wanting to sightsee and photograph for many years now. After spending a bit less than two weeks in Morocco and coming back with many images from a number of locations, I thought it would be a good idea to showcase the images, as well as share detailed information about this country with our readers. If you are wondering about what photographing Morocco is like, we hope you will find enough details in this article to be able to plan your own trip.

From poppy fields and beautiful mountains to the Sahara Desert, Morocco offers a lot of photographic opportunities
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/450, f/8.0

Originally, my plan was to spend a total of three weeks in Morocco, but due to other commitments and my busy schedule, I ended up spending a total of 12 days instead (two of which weren’t particularly productive due to flights back and forth). Although there were a few options to get into Morocco from Europe, I ended up flying into Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. I made earlier plans to rent a car and drive within Morocco, so it didn’t matter all that much which city I would fly into.

Planning Your Visit

Based on my research and feedback from other photographers who have previously been to Morocco, it is ideal to spend a minimum of three weeks in Morocco to be able to spend enough time to see both the historic locations as well as the Sahara Desert. Due to the fact that the Sahara Desert is located so far to the southeast of the country, anything less than three weeks is going to put quite a bit of pressure on your schedule and you might need to potentially sacrifice some of your time in other locations. A two week schedule is possible, but would be a tight fit, especially for travel photography needs. For me personally, knowing that I only had a total of 10 days of actual time spent in Morocco, I knew that the Sahara Desert was out of question, so I excluded it from my plans early on.

Ait Benhaddou, a historic fortified village in Morocco
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/40, f/5.6

When planning my driving route, I decided to take the famous “O” route, which is essentially a loop that you can start from any of the large cities such as Casablanca, Marrakech or Fes. Since I started in Casablanca, I decided to take the southern route towards Marrakech, then Ait Benhaddou, driving towards Tinghir, then Fes and lastly stopping in Chefchaouen before heading back to Casablanca. Below is the summary of the route that I made using Google Maps:

And here is how I planned out my schedule:

  1. Day 1: Casablanca
  2. Day 2: Marrakech
  3. Day 3: Marrakech
  4. Day 4: Ait Benhaddou
  5. Day 5: All-day Drive via Tinghir / Errachidia to Fes
  6. Day 6: Meknes, Fes
  7. Day 7: Fes
  8. Day 8: Chechaouen
  9. Day 9: Chechaouen
  10. Day 10: Casablanca

As you can see, it is a pretty tight schedule, spending quite a bit of time on the road and leaving little to see each location. Unfortunately, considering that I only had a total of 10 days, that’s the best I could do. However, if you have a few extra days, you can relax your schedule quite a bit and spend less time driving and enjoy shooting more. Personally, if I had to do it again, I would add at least 3-4 days to my schedule to make it a 2 week trip. Even by extending it to two full weeks, I would still cut out the Sahara Desert out of the schedule though – if you want to enjoy the desert, you might want to add another week to spend a few days in the desert.

Wild monkeys are common to see in some parts of Moroccan mountains
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/170, f/2.8

Where to Stay in Morocco

Depending on which city or town you are planning to travel to, you will have a number of different options to book your stay. In larger cities you have a number of great branded hotels that you can stay at with excellent service, but if you prefer to spend less, you also have other options including Airbnb, hostels and houses converted to properties called “Riad”. Riads are quite popular in Morocco and you will find plenty of them, even in large cities. A Riad is simply a Moroccan home with a garden or a courtyard in the middle, typically featuring 4-12+ furnished rooms. Some Riads are much larger, sometimes connecting multiple buildings and spanning 30+ rooms. The great thing about them, is that they are quite affordable and due to their small size they offer excellent service.

Riads offer great photographic opportunities, as well as a comfortable stay with great service
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/80, f/5.6

Having stayed in both hotels and Riads, I personally enjoyed staying in Riads far more than hotels for a number of reasons. First, aside from better overall care and attention from the hosts, they give you a chance to experience real Morocco. Expect to be treated with mint tea and water, and if you need any help or directions, you can trust your hosts to give you reliable information, and potentially even find you a local guide, if you need one. When I arrived to Marrakech, I got lost while looking for the Riad in the tight streets of the Medina (the main historic district of the city). After calling the Riad I had previously booked, I was told to stay where I was, while the host quickly got on his motorcycle and escorted me to his property – larger properties and hotels simply can’t offer such personal care and attention. Second, Riads are more flexible than hotels, so if you have any special needs such as ability to accommodate larger parties of people, or perhaps negotiate a better rate, you can easily work it out with the hosts. And lastly, good quality Riads might also offer unique photographic opportunities, as each one of them is designed and furnished differently. This proved to be an important advantage in Marrakech – the host was even kind enough to offer another property nearby to photograph, and when I asked about sunrise / sunset opportunities, I was escorted to a different Riad that overlooked the city at sunrise the following day.

Moroccan Islamic architecture is stunning to see and photograph
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/110, f/5.6

One potential disadvantage of Riads, is that they might not provide consistent experience, since it is a matter of location, price, service quality and the overall condition of the property. For example, some lower-end Riads might not have basic amenities such as air conditioning / heater and TV, and some Riads only offer shared bathrooms. On two occasions I stayed in Riads that didn’t even have available power outlets in the room, which was not ideal. So if you want to have a good experience, I would recommend to make sure that the Riad you are planning to stay at is rated highly on sites like Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, Booking.com, etc (most of the good Riads can be found on such websites). Just make sure that you book your stay early enough, especially in larger cities like Casablanca and Marrakech.

Spoken Languages

The two main spoken languages in Morocco are Arabic and French, but in some areas Moroccans also speak fluent Spanish. If you speak English you can get by in larger towns and cities, but don’t count on people understanding you in smaller villages and towns. I didn’t have any issues when staying at larger hotels and Riads, but when we traveled to smaller towns, the language barrier was a bigger issue. Thankfully, I had cellphone coverage most of the time to be able to type what I wanted to say in English into my phone, so that it translated it to the locals in Arabic.

Speaking of phone and Internet service, there are plenty of different providers, but the two that I found to be the most reliable across the country were Maroc Telecom and Orange. Just don’t buy any service at the airport, because you will end up paying far more.

Cats are common to see in many areas of Morocco
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/4000, f/2.0

Moroccan Cuisine

Having been to the Middle East a few times in the past, I had pretty high expectations for Moroccan food. I wondered how the blend of the Moroccan cuisine with the Spanish and French would taste like and I thought that it was going to be full of pleasant surprises. Having previously heard of the Tagine and its popularity in Morocco, I was going to try different kinds of Moroccan Tagine dishes before moving on to other type of food. Within the 10 days of travel in Morocco, I ate out every single day in different restaurants recommended by the locals, as well as based on high ratings from TripAdvisor, and my overall impression of the Moroccan cuisine was not particularly great.

Tagine pots are very famous in all of Morocco and you can find them for sale in every corner of the country
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/1800, f/5.6

To my disappointment, I found the overall taste of the Moroccan food to be rather bland. The highly acclaimed Tagine dishes were mostly steamed vegetables with some meat, broth and spices, reminding me of the Uzbek “Dimlama” (which to be honest, tastes far better in comparison). It was hard to believe that after all the hype about this national dish (it is present practically in every restaurant), I couldn’t find a single one that tasted amazing. I tried many different kinds at different price points, with the most expensive one costing over $20 USD in Casablanca. The best Tagine I had tasted was in Ait Benhaddou (meatball Tagine) and it was at a local restaurant full of flies and sanitary issues (recommended by the locals). Surprisingly, it was also the cheapest Tagine dish I paid for! Even then, I can’t say that it blew my mind. Later on, I heard someone refer to Tagine as “dorm food”, which after thinking for a while, I found to be an accurate description – it was hard to believe what some of the restaurants wanted to charge for a dish full of vegetables and a bit of meat. After trying out about 6-7 Tagine dishes in different parts of Morocco, I just gave up on it, as there were other options that were much better.

I also expected to see a lot of kebab dishes in Morocco. Again, to my disappointment, most of the kebab places served tiny pieces of meat on small skewers and the real Middle Eastern-style kebabs grilled on coal were found outside of all bigger cities, mostly on highways. Such kebab hotspots were located right next to butcheries and I found those to be the best places to eat in Morocco.

Blend of Moroccan and European Cuisine
BLA-A09 @ 3.95mm, ISO 1250, 1/17, f/4.0

Other dishes I enjoyed eating in Morocco were mostly blends of Moroccan and European cuisine, and restaurants that served such food were mostly available in large cities like Casablanca, Marrakech and Fes. But they were much more expensive and were primarily targeted at tourists.

Currency Exchange

Moroccan currency is Moroccan Dirham, but it is a closed currency, which means that you will not be able to exchange money beforehand in your local bank. As a result, your only option will be to exchange your money after you arrive to Morocco. Many people make the mistake by hurrying to exchange money at the airport, pretty much as soon as they get out of the plane. This is surely a mistake, because the rate fluctuates heavily from one currency exchange office to another. The very first currency exchange I encountered offered 8.40 MAD for 1 USD, which I knew was a rip-off, since a quick search in Google before arrival showed a much higher rate of 9.20 MAD for 1 USD (or thereabouts). Simply walking towards the exit of the same airport was already advantageous, since another exchange office offered 8.90 MAD for 1 USD. Right at the exit door, the last exchange office offered the best rate of 9.10 MAD for 1 USD, which is where I exchanged my money. I would recommend to avoid exchanging all the cash you have at hand, and rather exchange smaller amounts like $200-400 USD, depending on how much money you need. Many locations offer credit card terminals and you will be able to take advantage of your credit card when paying for services in hotels, Riads and fancier restaurants. Also, always make sure that the exchange office doesn’t charge commission and always count the money before you move away from the person who is exchanging you money, especially if it is done by someone other than the exchange office representative (see further down below on dishonesty, cheating and other issues in Morocco). You will find that many hotels and Riads also offer currency exchange – they are always happy to buy American dollars and Euro.

On the streets of Marrakech
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/18, f/2.8

Safety and Security

Being a popular tourist destination that enjoys visitors from all over the world (especially from Europe and Asia), Morocco has established itself as a relatively safe country, depending on where you go. Larger cities such as Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier and Fes obviously have bigger issues with general crime, but most of the crimes are of non-violent type, as most people don’t possess any firearms. For example, the US Department of State report on Casablanca states that most common crimes are petty crimes (panhandling, pickpocketing, theft from unoccupied vehicles, etc) and that the criminals typically focus on high-traffic and high-density areas with lots of tourists, targeting people who appear to be unfamiliar with their surroundings.

Catching the shadows of people at sunset in Marrakech, Morocco
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/280, f/8.0

Because of this, I would recommend to try to blend in as much as possible and instead of roaming the streets and wondering where to go next, know exactly where you want to go by following precise directions or occasionally referring to your phone for directions. I would also avoid asking locals for directions, mostly for the reasons stated in the next section. When it comes to clothing, don’t wear shorts and if you are a female, be respectful and avoid wearing skimpy clothing, even if it is hot outside. I have seen a number of females get harassed on the streets for wearing short skirts and other clothing that was too revealing. Don’t forget that you are in a Muslim-majority country, so I suggest that you respect their religion and traditions. Personally, unless you have a lot of travel experience in foreign countries, I would avoid sole travel in Morocco altogether (especially for females), as it reduces your chances of becoming a target. Be firm and if you get attacked or harassed, make a lot of noise to attract the attention of other people. If you do travel alone or in small groups, try to stay in busy streets and alleys, and avoid walking at night.

Vivid colors and textures are found everywhere in Morocco
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/250, f/5.6

Dishonesty, Scams, Cheating and Lying

This brings me to what I feel is the biggest issue in Morocco, something that can easily spoil your experience and that’s the dishonesty, scams, cheating and lying you might experience from some of the locals, especially in busy areas and larger cities. I was quite disgusted to see this in Casablanca, Marrakech and Fes, and after a few occasions, I simply didn’t want to come back to those places again in the future, as it became too much for me to handle. It all started from the airport – I tried to shop at the airport and see if I could buy a sim card for my phone. No matter where I walked in, each time I asked for the price, I was given a blank piece of paper, with a different number on it. One place quoted me 170 MAD, while another location with the same provider and plan quoted me 120 MAD. Both were outrageously expensive when compared to the rates I got on the street. But this didn’t particularly annoy me, as much worse experiences awaited me later.

Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech is a place where scammers, snake charmers, henna ladies and pickpockets gather to take advantage of tourists
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/180, f/2.8

The problem with some Moroccans in busy places, is that once they identify a target tourist, they do whatever they can to extract money out of them. I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to not being taken advantage of, but I have heard of all kinds of things from other people who have been to Morocco (including people who shared their experiences with us on the way back in the airplane) – from dishonest taxi drivers that drive people to wrong locations and trying to extort money out of them, to local “guides” that intentionally detour tourists through specific shops to make them buy things they don’t need. And these are simple cases. Once sex, drugs and alcohol are involved, things can take off to a whole different level, involving local police that also wants its share of money, thanks to high level of corruption. As I walked on the streets with my camera, locals in Casablanca, Marrakech and Fes harassed me many times, offering me their services that I didn’t need or care for, or asking if I needed directions. These weren’t “friendly” encounters either, as I know the difference between a person who is there to truly help and who is there to take advantage of me.

Locals on streets of Marrakech, Morocco
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

On one occasion, when I got lost in Marrakech Medina trying to find the Riad I was staying at, a younger individual tried to guide me through the streets, while I continuously told him that I did not need his help – the help was already on its way. He had a good command of English and he perfectly understood what I was saying. As I tried to drive away without paying for the service I didn’t ask for, he got aggressive and hit the car. In other places, where I was specifically told not to pay for street parking near a restaurant, when I started driving away, a local came over and demanded money from me, because he apparently “watched” my car while I was dining. As I refused to pay for something I didn’t ask for, he also got pretty aggressive. In this case, it was just easier to give him the money and leave, as I didn’t want to get into an altercation.

Getting short-changed is also a common practice and something I experienced first hand on a few occasions. For example, say an item costs 14 MAD. You give the seller a 20 Dirham bill, they hand you the item and move on to the next customer. That’s it. Unless you insist that they give you the change back, you can forget about it. Simply standing there and waiting for the change doesn’t help, as they completely ignore you. In some cases, especially when dealing with taxi drivers, they say they have no change to give back and drive away!

The Medina of every large town has many streets and alleys where you can get easily lost
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/30, f/5.6

When walking in busy hot spots, such as Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech, you really have to watch out for pickpockets, snake charmers, henna tattoo ladies, monkey handlers, scam artists and even singers. Snake charmers draw tourists quickly and before you know it, they have taken your picture with the snakes and now you have to pay. Henna tattoo ladies often grab the hands of females walking by and immediately start drawing on them, even if they don’t want it. They are basically forced to pay afterwards and if they dare not to pay, they will smear the henna ink and make a huge mess that won’t wash off for days. Monkey and parrot handlers are also to be avoided. Come anywhere near them and the next thing you know, you have a monkey on your shoulder. Those poor monkeys are handled so badly – they are downright abused by their owners. I watched from the side a little bit and after seeing one monkey getting forcefully pulled and beaten because it was not cooperating, I left in disgust.

As I was getting ready to leave the square, I saw a small band playing music. I raised the camera and took one picture and before I even had a chance to take another one, there was already a guy with a hat in front of me, demanding payment. I literally ran out of cash by then and I told him that I didn’t have any money left. He stood there, raising his voice this time and demanding payment. I tapped on my pockets, showing “No money, sorry”, which really tipped off the guy. He shouted “go out of here, no money, no show” and blocked me with his body. I turned around and walked away.

I took this picture of the local musicians and I was kicked out for not being able to pay for it
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/2.8

By the way, make sure to stay away from all group gatherings – you will see plenty of them in Jemaa el-Fnaa and some of them might look very exciting to peek at. Some will have people screaming and yelling, others will be demonstrations of some amazing product that whitens teeth, heals skin, etc. However, this is where pickpockets and scam artists gather. I have seen such things in other countries and I knew that it is a bad idea to approach or even worse participate, so I didn’t even come close to those, no matter how exciting they sounded from the distance. Most of such events took place after dark anyway, and they didn’t present any good photographic opportunities in the first place.

Dishonesty and lying practices left quite a bit of bad taste in my mouth. It just kept on going – from getting double charged for parking services at the hotel in Fes, to a currency exchange situation in Casablanca airport hotel that made me downright angry. On the last day of the trip, as I was anxiously getting ready to go back home, I needed to exchange $20 to pay for gas for the rented vehicle. When I came by the hotel clerk at the time of check-in, I looked at the currency exchange rate table that was displayed on the wall, which showed 8.97 MAD as the exchange rate for USD. I handed the girl $20 USD and with simple math in my head, awaited a bit short of 180 MAD to be handed back. After receiving the money, I counted only 160 MAD. I asked the girl what happened, and the response to my question was that the rate on the table was incorrect, that it was outdated and the “new” rate was in fact 8 MAD for 1 USD. Without much thinking, I demanded back my $20 bill and walked away. After checking in into my room, I decided to go out to get more stuff from the car and as I walked by the front desk, I noticed that the girl was no longer there – she was replaced by a male clerk. This time, I approached the man and asked if the exchange rate was the one on the currency table. He responded “Yes”, so I handed him the $20 bill and got 180 MAD back. As I walked away, anger took over me and I decided to go back and talk to the guy. I told him about what happened 20 minutes earlier, and to my surprise, he tried to tell me that the rate indeed changed earlier – he was trying to protect his co-worker. This infuriated me even more, since what he told me made no sense at all! Why would he be willing to give me the rate from the currency table if it was different – was he just trying to be nice by giving me more money? I don’t think so! His response to this was that he would have a “conversation” with her in the morning. What a bunch of baloney. If you are trying to lie, at least try to be good at it!

One of the alleys of Marrakech, Morocco
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/170, f/4.0

When I asked other locals about these dishonesty and other practices, I was told that it is a “big city problem”. I wholeheartedly disagree – I have been to big cities like Istanbul (which is way bigger in comparison), Amman and many others and I have never seen such treatment of tourists. I have also been told that the tourists themselves corrupted people of Morocco, but again, there are plenty of other places in the world where the flow of tourists is very high and yet such things don’t happen.

Photographing Moroccans

In general, I found Moroccans to be very unwilling when it comes to getting photographed. If you try to photograph people on streets, they often block their faces or yell at you, publicly demonstrating their disapproval. That’s understandable, as there are so many tourists from all over the world in Morocco armed with cameras, continuously “hunting” for subjects. If you get photographed every day, you will probably get annoyed by it eventually. In some cases, it is the matter of culture or religion that also prohibits people photography, which we have to respect.

Moroccan Elderly Women in Chefchaouen
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/105, f/5.6

However, in most cases, I found it to be simply the issue of payment. Moroccans are so used to getting paid for their pictures (thanks to all the tourists that have done it before), that they pretty much always expect payment. Some will happily pose for a picture, but only if you agree to give them enough money afterwards. Some will even tell you their price per picture!

Marrakech, Morocco
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/2200, f/2.8

This is an issue for me personally, as I don’t like the idea of posed shots for money – I would rather photograph people who are willing to be photographed, or just document the moment through street photography. To those who cooperate for a portrait, I am always happy to offer their photos (which many happily accept), but I refuse to just hand them out the easy money, not for something they didn’t have to work for. I would be willing to pay someone for a short portrait session, as they are taking time from their schedule and rendering a service, but if it is just a single snap of someone in a public place, I’m not giving them money. That’s just not right. Speaking of portraits, not a single image in this article was posed or paid for. I either asked for permission before taking a photo, or quickly snapped an image in a public place. If any subject demonstrated unwillingness to be photographed (which did happen in a number of occasions), I lowered the camera immediately and moved on.

Man sleeping on the streets of Marrakech
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/150, f/2.8

The ugliest case I witnessed took place in Chefchaouen. An American was capturing a nicely dressed Moroccan man having a conversion with someone on the street using a large telephoto lens, about 10 feet away from the subject. As I was passing by, I thought to myself that this might not end very well – and it sure didn’t. The next thing I heard was the Moroccan yelling at the photographer, asking how many pictures he took of him. He told the photographer that if he didn’t show his images on the camera, he would call the police and get him in trouble. The response was “five pictures”. Next, I heard the man ask how much he will pay for the five photos. The photographer offered 5 Dirhams. The Moroccan man laughed, pointing his hand towards his rear end and saying that the five Dirhams he offered was as offensive as him “passing gas”. He told him that unless he paid 30 Dirhams for his photos, he wouldn’t let him go and involve the police. It was a pretty ugly situation! I am not sure how it ended for the photographer, but I would be willing to bet that he probably just handed him the 30 Dirhams to stop the harassment and move on…

I found a beam of light on the streets of Marrakech and waited for subjects to pass through it
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/2400, f/2.8

Rental Car Considerations

Having done a bit of research on rental car services, I knew beforehand that it was best to rent from a large and reliable company, one that preferably has presence in multiple towns in Morocco, in case anything happened to the car. So I booked my rental with Avis, which was available right at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. I also read up that no matter what companies you rent from, they might find their ways to extract money for damages that were already present in the car, such as bumps, scratches and interior cigarette burns. Because of this, I made sure to use my phone to do a video walkthrough with the renter before taking the vehicle out of the parking lot. As I was doing it, I was told numerously that “it is not a problem”, but I didn’t care and I recorded the video anyway, just in case. At the end of my rental, I made sure that the staff signs off on the vehicle and if they tried to charge me for anything, I had a video to back me up. I would recommend that you do the same.

An elderly man walking on the streets of Marrakech, Morocco
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/3000, f/2.0

Overall, my rental experience was pretty bad. Despite Avis being a large, international brand, I was given a very old car that started showing problems as soon as I arrived to Marrakech – the car electronics went down. Thankfully, I was able to take the car to a mechanic in Marrakech, who was able to temporarily fix the problem. There was no option to get another vehicle, since all vehicles with automatic transmission were already rented out. After the mechanic supposedly fixed the problem, the electronics issues came back in two days, but I was already in another city and there was no way I was going to go back, as I was on a tight schedule. The car drove fine, but none of the information on the dashboard worked, including the speedometer. Thankfully, I had a GPS unit that I brought with me from the USA with more or less accurate calculation of current speed, which is what I used to make sure that I didn’t exceed any of the imposed speed limits.

Speaking of GPS, while I was happy that I had it with me, it proved to be pretty useless for looking up addresses. I paid Garmin for the whole map of the Middle East that included Morocco, but ended up relying on my phone to get me to the correct locations. In most cases, the Garmin GPS wouldn’t even find locations and addresses, which was unfortunate. I used it primarily to get from one city to another, and relied on my phone’s data services to get to hotel, Riad and restaurant locations.

Beautiful historic architecture of Chefchaouen, Morocco
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/680, f/5.6

Drone Ban

Don’t take a drone with you to Morocco, period! This was a lesson learned the hard way for me. I didn’t have much time to prepare for my trip to Morocco, so when I was packing my bag, I decided to take the small Mavic Air drone, just in case I encountered something worth taking a picture of, or capturing in video from above. On the second day of the trip when we were in Marrakech, I fired up my phone and started checking the drone laws of Morocco. Turns out they are completely banned in the whole country! Whoops! Well, I thought I would simply not fly the drone, but it turned out that the customs would not only seize the drone at the time I would fly back, but also potentially detain me for having the drone in the first place. This is not something I wanted to deal with, so as soon as I had my first chance, I found a DHL office and got the drone packaged up to be sent back to the USA. The DHL clerks were happy to help and they prepared the customs form for me, looked at the drone and said it was no problem to ship back. The package was supposed to arrive in 2 days.

Street photography in Fes, Morocco
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

Well, it has been several months since I came from Morocco and the package never arrived. It was seized by the customs office and they kept it. Don’t make the same mistake and simply leave the drone at home! Without a doubt, this was my own fault and I admit that I should have looked up the laws before taking the drone with me. I am not mad at the Moroccan authorities either, as they are simply doing their jobs. I am just happy that I didn’t have to deal with any problems at the airport – it would have been far worse if I were detained and missed my flight.

Based on the above information, you might get a feeling that Morocco is not a country I would recommend visiting to our readers. That’s very far from the truth, especially when it comes to photography. While it does have its issues, photographically, it is one of the best places in the world one could visit. I came back with many great images and as you go through this guide, I hope you will be able to appreciate how many opportunities await those who are willing to do it.

I will be posting detailed information on each location this week. The first section will be on Casablanca and Marrakech, followed by Ait Benhaddou, Fes and Chefchaouen. Stay tuned!

Casablanca

Considering how little time I had in my schedule, I had to make sure that I stay productive during the trip, visiting locations that I would have interest in photographing. Although I was told to skip Casablanca by other photographers, I decided to check it out anyway and spend half a day in the city. The first on my list was the Hassan II mosque, which looked very promising. As I got close to the location, the stunning minaret stood out from the distance. It is a massive, Moroccan-style minaret that is a work of art by itself:

Hassan II Mosque Minaret
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

As you approach the mosque, you will be presented with a grand view of the entire building and a beautiful open area that leads up to it:

This is what the Hassan II mosque looks like from the outside
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/1600, f/5.6

While touring the mosque during the day, I noticed that there were plenty of tourists around, but unfortunately, due to the construction that was taking place, most of the building was inaccessible. So I decided to walk around and photograph the mosque from the outside. As I toured the outside, I saw a number of good opportunities, with beautiful textures and patterns. Here is what the area where ablution is performed looks like:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/800, f/5.6

The entrances to the mosque are particularly beautiful, as you can see below:

One of the entrances to the mosque
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/1100, f/5.6

And if you wait for the right moment, you might be able to encounter interesting subjects in the area as well:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1100, f/5.6

After a little while, I went back to the only entrance door that was open and saw that the mosque was now finally open. As I entered the building, I was amazed by the stunning architecture:

The inside of the mosque is beautiful
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/2.8

The columns, lines, curves and all the small details were absolutely amazing:

The Hassan II mosque was going through renovation and there was limited access to some parts of the mosque
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 500, 1/60, f/2.8

As I got further in, I saw the open courtyard, made in the style of Riads in Morocco. There was a lot of light in some areas, making it tough to photograph, but I made sure that I didn’t blow out the highlights. The shadows were heavily pulled in Lightroom:

The Hassan II mosque was one of the most beautiful architectural buildings I have seen
X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/240, f/5.6

Unfortunately, a lot of the areas within the mosque were out of reach. I wish I could have gone in and focused on other areas of the mosque, as there was a lot to photograph.

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/30, f/5.6

After spending limited time at the Hassan II mosque, I decided to drive in Casablanca and look for other opportunities. Unfortunately, due to the crazy traffic and drivers, as well as lack of solid subjects to photograph, I had to route my way to Marrakech instead.

Marrakech

Marrakech is a crazy city in many ways, but the photographic opportunities there are pretty amazing. Although I found opportunities for street photography throughout the day, the best time of the day, without a doubt, was early mornings. Waking up before sunrise and walking through narrow streets when the first rays of light hit them allowed me to focus on specific locations and take advantage of less people on the streets, which meant less chaos. I was able to walk around for a couple of hours without anyone paying attention to what I was doing and the streets were mostly empty, with early risers doing their work sweeping streets, or getting prepared for the day. It was also refreshing to see no tourists on the streets – they were all asleep at this hour.

The host of the Riad where I was staying was kind enough to offer me to visit another Riad that had a nice overlook to the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square of Marrakech. Although the square itself didn’t have anything attractive to photograph at sunrise, I was still happy to be there to catch the first rays of light hitting the nearby buildings:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/280, f/7.1

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/640, f/5.6

The beautiful Atlas mountains were also visible in the distance, but there was a thick haze covering the mountains and there wasn’t anything interesting to photograph in that direction anyway, so I took a few shots of other subjects. Here is an abandoned house, covered in chaos of destruction:

X-H1 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 20mm, ISO 320, 1/30, f/5.6

As you explore Marrakech and other towns in Morocco, you might come across many abandoned homes like this. I would caution against trying to get inside, as it is unsafe and probably even illegal to do so.

While exploring the narrow streets of Marrakech Medina, I was able to find some spots where I could observe people passing by early in the morning:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/350, f/2.8

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/55, f/4.0

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/55, f/5.6

And finding little beams of light allowed me to capture subjects walking through them. I captured some images from the front, then moved to the back to get some backlit shots:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/120, f/2.8

A lot of buildings in Marrakech are made from mud bricks and they wear out after heavy rain and natural erosion, making them interesting to photograph:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/40, f/8.0

And let’s not forget about the colorful doors and gates that you will find all over Marrakech:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/120, f/2.8

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/210, f/2.8

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/150, f/2.8

Even within the Riads themselves, you might find excellent opportunities to capture beautiful decor, colorful walls and textures:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/120, f/8.0

If you are after cats, you will find plenty of them in Marrakech:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/170, f/5.6

Unfortunately, many of them are not taken care of at all. In fact, there are no government services that provide spaying or neutering services, so cats multiply pretty quickly as a result, something that happens quite a bit in most middle-eastern countries. Some cats look pretty sick and it is not uncommon to see starving kittens.

This kitten looks well-fed, but it has some sort of eye infection
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/640, f/5.6

And this cat looks quite sick
X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/140, f/5.6

As you roam the streets of Marrakech, look for shops that might offer opportunities to capture colorful details and textures:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/180, f/5.6

Last, but not least, you might come across interesting subjects dressed in traditional Moroccan clothing:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1600, f/2.8

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/35, f/2.0

Just be careful when photographing them – you might want to ask permission first, or you might get into trouble (as I have highlighted on the first page of this article).

While in Marrakech, you can explore a number of great locations that are absolutely worth visiting and photographing. One of them is the Ben Youssef Madrasa, a beautiful Islamic college in Marrakech Medina. When I arrived to the location, I was disappointed to find out that the madrasa was going through major renovations, so it was closed for public access. I was told that it was a major renovation that would take a few years to complete. Sadly, I had to skip it and move on to other locations, but if I were to come back to Marrakech, I would definitely try to go there.

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/180, f/2.8

I had limited time in Marrakech, so I had to choose carefully where to go next. I wanted to photograph Moroccan Islamic architecture, so I picked Bahia Palace. It was already mid-afternoon, so I knew that the palace was most likely packed with tourists…and it certainly was! If I were to do it all over again, I would recommend to get to the palace first thing in the morning in order to avoid all the crowds, since everyone who visits Marrakech goes there. Still, despite the large number of tourists in Bahia Palace, I found plenty of opportunities to take pictures, so it is totally worth going there. Right before I entered the palace quarters, I found a Moroccan relaxing and dozing off on a chair:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/300, f/2.8

From there, once I entered the palace, all I had to do was concentrate on the beautiful textures, colors and patterns that could be found all over the place. Just point the camera up and you can capture ceilings and domes like this:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/50, f/2.8

And this:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/18, f/4.0

And this:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/25, f/2.8

The doors at the palace are exquisite:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/105, f/4.0

Even windows are worth photographing by themselves:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/600, f/2.8

If you walk in the courtyard, you might find other photographic opportunities. Here, a female tourist was enjoying the beauty, while two workers were setting up equipment for a night show:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/900, f/5.6

My most favorite part of the Bahia palace were the details and textures of Islamic architecture, especially on the sides of entrances. It was hard to get enough of this beauty, so I walked around and captured it from different angles:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/5.6

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/15, f/5.6

Just look at the details and the colors!

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/12, f/5.6

As you walk around, you will come across even more beautiful patterns and textures in different, rich colors:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/3, f/2.8

And if you step outside, you will enjoy looking at some of the woodwork and its intricate details, with every inch of it carved and painted:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/20, f/5.6

Lastly, don’t forget to be patient and wait for other opportunities – you will find plenty of them around you!

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/680, f/5.6

Although I took my time to explore the Palace, I decided to move on and do some more street photography. My next destination were the souks (local bazaars), which you can find plenty of in Marrakech. As I walked out of the palace, I noticed that there were a few horse carriages parked outside. I asked for the price to get back to the Jemaa el-Fnaa area and I was given a pretty ridiculous tourist price. I said “no, thanks” and moved on. On the way, I snatched the below photo of al old man with a cane:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/2000, f/2.8

The souks were wonderful, but photographing them was not particularly easy, especially in busy areas. Some shop owners yelled “no photo” when I raised my camera, and in other places I was prompted to pay to take a picture. I refused, but still managed to take a few pictures here and there.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/55, f/5.6

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 250, 1/60, f/5.6

As the day was coming to a wrap, I found a couple of spots where I stood and waited for interesting subjects to pass. It was not very easy with all the passing traffic, but I managed to capture an image I like:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/1100, f/5.6

At this time, I was on the south side of the Medina, near the Kasbah Mosque (also known as Mosque of Moulay al-Yazid), where I captured a few images of the beautiful minaret:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/900, f/5.6

As well as some street photos of the locals:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1900, f/5.6

My next target was the Koutoubia Mosque, a large mosque with the most prominent minaret that stands 77 meters tall. It is probably one of the most recognizable mosques in all of Morocco, thanks to its massive minaret:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/850, f/5.6

The area around the minaret is full of locals and tourists, who come and hang out there, so there are plenty of great photographic opportunities there as well:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

Sunset was approaching fast and I had limited time left before losing available light, so I moved on to the Jemaa el-Fnaa area to capture some shots from one of the rooftops. Right on the square, I found a rather large restaurant that had a bunch of tourists on its top terrace, so I decided to come up there and check it out. Upon moving to the second floor, I was told that I had to buy a drink to enjoy the view. I went ahead and paid for a bottle of cold water and checked out the view:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 400, 1/280, f/5.6

It was surely a nice view to the Jemaa el-Fnaa and if it wasn’t for the sheer number of tourists that were blocking the view and just sitting there and enjoying their cold drinks, I would have stayed a bit longer to capture the square at night. It was starting to get chaotic down there, so I went back to see if I could capture some more images before the sun completely disappeared to the horizon. Unfortunately, it already got fairly dark at that point and people were busy entertaining and getting entertained, so it was time for me to get some dinner.

Speaking of food, you get all kinds of food choices in Jemaa el-Fnaa – from beef and lamb kebabs, all the way to seafood and cooked sheep heads. And if you just want some fresh juice, you can get it for cheap as well:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 250, 1/50, f/5.6

Many juice stands have their prices specified on a piece of cardboard, so just go to those…otherwise, you risk the chance of getting significantly overcharged.

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/120, f/2.8

After spending some time in Marrakech, the next destination was the historic Ait Benhaddou (near town of Ourzazate), which took about 4 hours to get to by car from Marrakech. The drive over the Atlas mountains was really beautiful, and if I had not stopped in a couple of spots to take pictures, I could have gotten there a bit quicker.

Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou is a historic fortified village, along the former caravan route between the Sahara desert and Marrakech. Although it rapidly gained popularity after becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, it was already known to host a few popular religious movies such as “The Message” and “Jesus of Nazareth” before that. Modern Hollywood productions such as “The Mummy”, “Gladiator”, “Alexander”, “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Babel” contributed even more to Ait Benhaddou’s popularity, drawing tourists from all over the world.

Having seen some pictures of this location before, I knew that I had to come and photograph it, so I added it to my schedule, staying there for a night. There were plenty of lodging options in the area, but I wanted to be as close to Ait Benhaddou as possible, so I chose to stay in a Riad-type “Guest House” called Maison d’hôtes Dar El Haja, right inside the village. Having never been to the area, I thought it would be cool to do that, but after arriving to the location, I had a rough time figuring out where to go and where to exactly park my car. Thankfully, the owner of the guest house spoke some English and he instructed me to park my car by a nearby mosque, then walk to the location – he told me that it would take me less than five minutes to get there, but also warned me that I had to cross a stream. Whoops! I knew that I had to keep my luggage to the minimum, so I left my big suitcase in the car and only took the most important necessities for an overnight stay.

As I walked towards the village, I came across a set of buildings on the side of a hill and the view finally opened up:

X-H1 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 15.9mm, ISO 200, 1/280, f/8.0

Without a doubt, it was a breathtaking view! I snapped a picture, but then also estimated the type and the amount of walking I would have to do to get to the guest house. As you can see, there are a couple of streams one needs to cross. Thankfully, there were large boulders with sand bags on top of them to make the journey relatively easy, but keep this in mind while making travel plans. If you are going to stay within Ait Benhaddou like I did, you will need to be OK with getting there. The good news is, there is a bridge on the left side of the village (visible in the picture above), but it is a longer walk. That’s why most people just cross the stream directly. If you have large and heavy luggage, you will probably need to talk to the host and ask for some assistance (which they are surely ready to provide).

There were very nice clouds in the sky, so as I walked towards Ait Benhaddou, I took some pictures. The village itself is great and offers plenty of opportunities for those who are willing to find them:

X-H1 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 18.2mm, ISO 200, 1/150, f/8.0

Staying at the Maison d’hôtes Dar El Haja was a wonderful experience. The rooms were clean, nice and comfy, while the property itself turned out to be a great location to take some pictures:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/9, f/5.6

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/9, f/5.6

The whole building is decorated very nicely and having a balcony with some chairs was a nice bonus – I was able to sit and relax, which was important after spending a few days in crazy Marrakech. Everything felt so much more relaxed and peaceful – it was certainly a great getaway. However, keep in mind that the village itself does not have any electrical power, so there are no electrical outlets in rooms. If I were to do it again, I would probably stay on the other side of the river, purely for photography and convenience reasons. While enjoying my time at the guest house was nice after a long drive, I didn’t come all the way to Morocco to relax! It was time to get out and take some pictures.

First, I decided to go back to the other side and scout some locations for sunrise / sunset photography of Ait Benhaddou. I wanted to find a good vantage point that I could capture Ait Benhaddou from, which is not blocked by trees or other structures. The overlook I saw the village from the first time had a bunch of tall trees and other vegetation in the foreground, so my goal was to find a taller property. Walking from hotel to hotel was a great experience and a nice change after Marrakech, especially in regards to the overall attitude of the locals…they were kind and very helpful. I asked the hotel staff and owners if I could go up to the rooftop and check it out, explaining to them that I wanted to take some pictures at sunset / sunrise. Everyone said that it was not a problem at all!

After going through a few properties, I decided to stick to one rooftop that offered the best view in my opinion compared to others, “Guest House La Fibule d’Or”. It was a very nice view without anything in the foreground, and the staff was super friendly and eager to help. As the day was coming to a close, I moved to the rooftop and ordered some mint tea and snacks, while setting up my camera right on the fence. Here is the image that I ended up capturing that sunset:

Ait Benhaddou, a historic fortified village in Morocco
X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/40, f/5.6

I had high hopes for a beautiful sunrise with some clouds as well, but after getting up at 5 AM in the morning the following day and going to the same vantage point, I realized that it was not going to happen:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/5.6

Sunrise also had its challenges – with mountains partially blocking the view from the east, I had to wait a bit to get some light on Ait Benhaddou in order to capture the above photograph. If there some some clouds in the sky and sunlight reflected back from them, it could have still made a beautiful picture, so if you are planning to go there, make sure to not miss both sunrise and sunset opportunities.

I had a few hours left before a solid breakfast at the guest house and a long all-day drive to Meknes, so I decided to walk around a bit and take some more pictures in the village.

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/340, f/5.6

The beautiful clay on the face of the buildings that are full of textures, carvings and windows, can make for pretty intense shots, especially near sunrise/sunset times, reflecting some of the golden light. For the below photo, I had to desaturate the image quite a bit in Lightroom, as it looked almost too vivid:

X-H1 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 16.6mm, ISO 200, 1/200, f/5.6

Within the walls of the fortified village, as well as on the other side of the river bank, you will also find plenty of options to photograph beautiful doors:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/70, f/8.0

That was about it for Ait Benhaddou. Next, was a very long drive to Azrou through the southern route. My initial plan was to stop by in Errachidia or Midelt, but due to time constraints and a very tight schedule, I had to skip those towns and get closer to Fes / Meknes area.

Azrou and Meknes

For me, Azrou was a perfect place to get to after the desert, because it offered stunning mountain views, fresh air and even some wildlife, which I did not anticipate to see! I left Ait Benhaddou early, so by the time I got to Azrou, it was not too late and I got to see quite a bit of scenery before arriving to my hotel. As I drove on a mountain pass, I somehow ended up in a beautiful park full of tall trees and wild monkeys:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/170, f/2.0

The monkeys were very friendly and not very camera-shy. It looks like they are often fed here by the tourists, which is why they hang out close to the roads.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/40, f/5.6

I stayed at a small town next to Azrou, which offered great mountain views:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/900, f/5.6

And if you are willing to find some good landscape shots, there are national parks around that have even more beautiful scenery options. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to explore this area, but if I were to come back again, I certainly would.

After staying at a very nice European-style hotel called Le Palais des Cerisiers (their restaurant is pricey, but excellent, and their duck steak was marvelous!), I drove towards Meknes to see the ruins of Volubilis, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Mauretania. Although it was a very hot day, touring Volubilis was still a wonderful experience and something I would certainly recommend. While it might not be as grand as Ephesus in Turkey or Jerash in Jordan (especially in terms of restoration efforts), there was quite a bit to explore, photograph and learn about.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/800, f/8.0

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 1250, 1/50, f/5.6

There was also a stork nest right on top of one of the tall columns:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1400, f/5.6

After spending a few hours in Volubilis, it was time to move on to Fes, where I intended to stay for 2 nights before heading out to the blue city of Chefchaoun.

Based on what I previously read about Fes, I knew that it was going to be a place where I should spend some time, to get a true taste of this old city. That’s why my original plan was to stay in Fes for two nights. I’m glad that I chose to stay in Fes for two nights, as I don’t see how one could possibly even get a glimpse of it in a single day. There was a lot to see, taste and explore, and I have to say that Fes turned out to be one of my favorite towns photographically in Morocco.

Fes

Fes, which is also known as “Fez”, is the third largest city in Morocco (after Casablanca and Rabat), with a population of over one million residents. Founded in the 8th century, it is a very historic city with a rich culture. Its Medina was proclaimed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1981 for a good reason – there are so many mosques, madrasas, forts, souks, mausoleums and military monuments to see! In fact, Fes has so much to offer that it is considered to be the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco! I’m not going to spend much time writing about Fes, since you can read all about it on the Internet, so let’s just jump directly to its photographic value.

If you are into street photography, you will thoroughly enjoy Fes. First of all, the city itself is very unique and beautiful in its own way. It has an old city look written all over it, especially in Medina, so if you walk around, you will surely find good subjects to photograph. From arts and crafts to smelly tanneries, all you have to do is walk around, and there will always be something worth taking a picture of. After looking through all of my pictures, I ended up photographing in Fes the most for this reason – I just couldn’t get enough of it. People were also more interesting to photograph here, as they seemed to blend more to their environments. I found people in Fes to be friendlier than in places like Marrakech, although you should still be careful when taking their pictures. Personally, I found it great just to stand in one spot and wait for people, bikes and cars to pass by:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/550, f/5.6

Heck, even city cleaners in their yellow/red uniforms riding donkeys was cool to observe and shoot!

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

As you walk around in Medina, pay attention to everything – there is so much going on, all the time. Don’t forget to look back from time to time, as you might be missing other opportunities. As I was walking on a somewhat narrow street in Fes Medina, a man was watering the street. As soon as he saw me, he stopped, as he did not want to end up spraying any water or dirt on me. As I passed him, he resumed his job, so I turned around and took the below photo:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/800, f/5.6

What about architecture? Well, you will find plenty of it all over Fes! Like I said earlier, there is so much to see and photograph here – from beautiful madrasas and mosques to beautifully decorated gates to Medina, all of which are decorated differently. You can get creative with these gates, framing subjects such as minarets as part of your composition:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/640, f/8.0

Other times, locals passing through the gates can also become excellent subjects, if you are willing to wait for the right opportunity. Some of the gates have smaller arches that you can also use for framing subjects:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/140, f/8.0

Here is a smaller gate to the right of the main gate, which was closed at the time:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/600, f/8.0

One of the most impressive buildings in Fes is the University of Al Quaraouiyine. Founded in 859 AM, it is known to be the oldest university in the world and as you can see from the pictures below, it is absolutely beautiful. Here is the courtyard of the university, with the center fountain area serving as a place of ablution before Muslims can perform their prayers:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/600, f/5.6

Keep in mind that the university is also a fully functional mosque, so unlike some madrasas that allow tourists to explore them, you cannot enter the premises of Al Quaraouiyine unless you are a muslim.

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/400, f/5.6

The building is covered with beautiful islamic textures and calligraphy:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/125, f/5.6

And the prayer halls are also very unique, with white, repeating arches and red carpets:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/8.0

The university is located right next to the souk of coppersmiths, so you can check them out, see how they craft everyday household items by hand and photograph them:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/75, f/2.8

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 320, 1/60, f/5.6

If you are looking for hand-made items, Fes is perhaps one of the best places to shop. Here, you can find all kinds of hand-crafted items, including hairpins and hair combs made out of animal bones and horns:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 250, 1/60, f/5.6

As you tour the souks, don’t forget to pay attention to all the small details and beautifully decorated doors:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/30, f/5.6

In addition to the university, you will find other mosques and mausoleums that are worth visiting. The Zaouia Moulay Idriss II was also beautiful in its own way from the inside:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/80, f/2.8

Fes is very well know for its tanneries, which you will hear a lot about. Unfortunately, getting to the main Chouara Tannery in Fes is not particularly easy, as you have to observe it from one of the terraces that faces it. Due to the fact that all the terraces are owned by local businessmen that sell leather goods, you will need to either pay them a small fee to go through their shops, or agree to buy something from their shops to get in. Some of them might offer free entrance to the tannery, in hopes that you might still buy something while going through.

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/800, f/5.6

When you finally get there, be ready for some intense smells! It is hard to imagine what unprocessed animal skin coupled with chemicals and paint smells like until you visit the Chouara tannery. Although some shop owners give out fresh mint to visitors to be able to reduce the effect of the nasty smell, I didn’t find much use to it.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/600, f/5.6

The tannery is very colorful and you can take pretty cool pictures of the workers from above doing their work:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/350, f/8.0

And if you have a telephoto lens, you can concentrate on other areas and capture some other angles:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/8.0

I took a few pictures of the action, but after about 10-15 minutes, it was hard to keep going. It was a hot day and it certainly made the smell worse to bear – it was time to move out and get back on the streets!

Street photography was very enjoyable in Fes. Thanks to all the arches, doors, steps and other beautiful architecture, all I had to do was find a good spot and wait for action.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

Whenever I got bored photographing people, I moved on to buildings and their details:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/8.0

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/750, f/8.0

And when I got bored with both, I moved on to finding other subjects like motorcycles, cars, decorated donkeys and cats:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 320, 1/75, f/8.0

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/2.2

Speaking of cats, Fes is one place where you will find a lot of unattended cats and starving kittens. The kitten situation was particularly heart-breaking, as there are just too many starving kittens everywhere! These two were laying practically dead on the ground, looking very malnourished and sick:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

I wish the government of Morocco found a way to take care of the cat problem by spaying / neutering cats, so that their population stays under control, especially in larger cities like Fes…

After Fes, it was time to move on to explore the blue city of Chefchaouen, the last location that concluded my trip. Similar to Fes, I planned to stay a total of two nights in Chefchaouen, as I wanted to explore its photographic potential. Chefchaouen turned out to be another gem of Morocco, a town I would not hesitate to come back to again in the future.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/180, f/5.6

Chefchaouen

The blue city of Chefchaouen is located in northwest Morocco, which you can reach in roughly five hours from Casablanca, three and a half hours from Fes and two hours from Tangier by car. When compared to Fes, it is a relatively new city – it was founded in 1471 as a fortress on the side of a mountain.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1250, f/5.6

There are different theories that explain why the city to this date paints its walls and doors in blue color. Some say that it has to do with keeping evil spirits away, others say that the blue color symbolizes the sky and the heaven, and some even say that it all started with the Jews painting their houses blue when they lived there. It does not really matter at the end of the day, but what does matter, is that Chefchaouen offers unique photographic opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else in the world!

Interestingly, you will find different shades of blue in Chefchaouen. Some streets have a combination of darker blue watercolor paint on top, with lighter bottom:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/340, f/5.6

While others are the other way around, looking like they have been covered with oil paint:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 400, 1/50, f/5.6

What makes Chefchaouen unique, is the contrast that gets created with other subjects of different color, especially red rooftops and window tiles, as well as green vegetation:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/8.0

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/170, f/8.0

Any subject would stand out in such environment, which opens up a lot of opportunities for street photography. Find anyone who wears something other than blue and you have yourself an interesting photo:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/5.6

And if you just want to blend in with the environment, simply wear some blue clothing:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 250, 1/60, f/5.6

What’s cool about Chefchaouen, is that even many of the doors are painted in blue color, often a bit darker than the walls to stand out:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/850, f/5.6

However, it does not mean that every building looks the same – some areas have brown bricks and textures on the face of buildings, with blue elements covering specific parts like windows and doors:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/210, f/5.6

While other locations have yellow, orange, brown and gray colors, with blue doors or windows adding contrast to the scene:

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 1250, 1/50, f/5.6

Overall, cats seemed to be taken care of much better in Chefchaouen compared to Fes and they looked healthier and prettier in comparison too. This guy was hanging out on a cart that had some windows with blue rims. As soon as I saw it, I started taking pictures and the cat cooperated with the photo shoot:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/80, f/5.6

This kitten was super friendly and didn’t mind me taking its pictures from different angles:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 800, 1/300, f/2.0

While this orange kitty just wanted to sit and observe people passing by:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 800, 1/280, f/5.6

As you walk the narrow streets of Chefchaouen, make sure to take it easy and slow down. First of all, walking in Chefchaouen is not particularly easy due to the slope of the mountain, and second, you might miss good opportunities.

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/180, f/5.6

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/300, f/5.6

As sunset approaches, I would recommend to do the short hike up the mountain to get to the old Spanish mosque. Many locals, as well as tourists come to this spot at sunset to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. As I got up, I decided to walk a bit further up and I spotted a herd of sheep with a shepherd:

X-H1 + XF50mmF2 R WR @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/800, f/5.6

The view from up there was great and something I would certainly recommend for sunset:

X100F @ 23mm, ISO 200, 1/200, f/5.6

After sunset, you can come down to the main square to taste some local Berber food, but keep your camera handy just in case. As I was walking towards a restaurant to eat, I found these cool lamps that were set up on the ground, probably being offered for sale (although I did not see anyone standing next to them):

X-H1 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 640, 1/17, f/2.8

I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo guide to Morocco! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section!

#Morocco #StreetPhotography #Travel #TravelPhotography

The Photograohers
The Photograohershttps://www.photoeskape.com
Welcome to The Photographers, your go-to source for all things photography. We are a team of passionate photographers and enthusiasts who are dedicated to providing you with the latest news, reviews, and educational resources to help you improve and excel in your photography skills.
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