A TRIP TO MARRAKECH – GUEST POST
Thursday, July 20th, 2017
on behalf of Holyrood Partnership
HOLYROOD’S resident photographer, Wullie Marr, recently took a trip to Marrakech and has documented his experience with an honest blog and some candid photos.
By Wullie Marr
So, I went to Marrakech for a week at the end of June. Having last been there in 2011, just a couple of weeks after a lone terrorist blew up the Argana cafe in Djemaa el-Fna square, I was keen to see how things had changed, if at all. Nice to see the cafe rebuilt and popular with locals and visitors.
My trip was solely to spend my time photographing the city, not as a tourist, but away from the tourist areas.
As anyone who has visited this part of the world will know, around the tourist areas of the square, and associated souks, you are under intense pressure from stall holders and street hawkers. This can get tiring, but a firm attidude, and a thick skin gets you by.
I spent most of my time in areas only frequented by locals. No one telling me you are going the wrong way for the square. No one trying to drag me into a shop to buy yet another mini tagine. Although, this did mean that the amount of people who spoke English was minimal.
This can prove a bit of a challenge, but not a complaint, as when you are in a country where they speak two languages, and you haven’t even bothered to learn the basics of one, it’s your fault you can’t communicate. (Maybe a wee lesson there for some tourists!!)
I did however visit Djemaa el-Fna square in the evenings for a meal, and the atmosphere. Anyone who has visited will know the snake charmers, Berber musicians and monkey owners make way for food stalls in the evening. The place takes on a whole new persona, as the darkness falls and the square comes to life with the smells of cooking.
I had deliberately gone for the last couple of days of Ramadan, which meant I was there for Eid also, to experience first hand how things would be different, if any.
Ramadan was kind of quiet, with temperatures 45 degrees and above every day, the local Muslims were understandably trying to conserve energy during the fast period of around 14 hours or so.
At the end of fast each day, the prayers at Koutoubia, the largest and main mosque in the city were a great sight, with the main road through the medina being closed off, and prayers held outside, with thousands of families turning up to pray in the open.
Being away from the tourism, allows you to relax, and take everything in. You can really slow down your photography as everything is at a slower pace. Most people are happy to have a picture taken too, without wanting you to dip into your pocket every time the shutter clicks, which is a bonus.
Taking in the locals market places, isn’t for the feint hearted either though. Some of the butcher shops can be quite an eye opener for even the hardiest of people, but I won’t go into that here.
As I walked around the areas I had chosen to visit, I passed through some of the same bits regularly, and saw something different in them every time. It really is a great way to see a country, but be prepared for things not to be quite to the same standards as the tourist areas.
There were some choice smells at times, and I’m not talking cooking here, but all of these things are acceptable, as that is the way the locals live, and not the way they think people want the place to be.
A trip to Morocco though, would not be complete without the obligatory spice picture…
All in all, I absolutely love the place, and street hawkers and hard sellers aside, the people are amazing, and pretty friendly. Sometimes the Arabic way can seem ignorant, but it’s the way they are, and not ignorant. I sat and watched groups of people interacting at times, and they don’t look at each other when talking,sometimes walking away as they speak, and with Arabic sounding (my words) like an angry language, it’s often seen as aggressive nature. They are just different in their interactions with people from the way British interact, so accept it, absorb it, and see the country, not just the tourism.
I will hopefully be making a trip back in the next couple of months then it’s off to Iceland in October.
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