Marrakech: The Daughter of the Desert

Posted on Aug 14, 2013

Marrakech street with sun-rays shining through the roof

Portrait of a man dressed in djellaba with a moped

Taking purposeful portraits in Marrakech is quite a daunting task. Since Morocco is a Muslim country, most of the people you approach with a camera make it immediately clear that they wouldn’t appreciate being photographed. Even when you politely ask upfront, eight out of ten times you are going to get no for an answer. This leaves you with very few options; either sneakily shoot your way through with the speed of a ninja, or simply photograph anything but people. The best way is to keep a respectable distance, patiently awaiting the right moment.

Moroccan man in djellaba with a monkey

Man dressed in djellaba reading newspaper

A boy on a bicycle in front of a store

Portrait of a Berber pharmacist

The maze of narrow streets in old Medina is particularly charming.

Narrow street in Medina; Marrakech

Old blue door in Medina; Marrakech

Street of Marrakech filled with mopeds

It’s very easy to literally lose your way in the endless labyrinth of the souks. There are thousands of little shops crammed with various merchandise, and sellers competing for your attention, each of them assuring they will give you the best deal. Of course, only after you agree to spend some time haggling – a necessary practice in any Arabian country before money changes hands.

Sun-rays shining through the roof of Marrakech souk

Old man with a beard selling stuff on the street; Marrakech

Shop keeper writing a ledger; Marrakech

In Morocco, before you even get to the matter of the sale,
you have to coax the owner to sell.
— Tahir Shah

If you walk long enough, you will reach the tiny workshops of the local craftsmen. From workers assembling beautiful stained glass lamps, to textile dyers, leather tanners, and metalsmiths, nearly everything that is being sold in the souks can be traced here.

Leather tannery workers; Marrakech

Workers in a leather workshop

Sitting metal worker; Marrakech

Two boys working; Marrakech

Another sought-after location by many travelers is the house once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent in Jardin Majorelle, also known as YSL Gardens. An exquisitely peaceful place, it will let you forget that you are in the middle of a busy city.

Blue window of Yves Saint Laurent's house in Jardin Mojerelle - Marrakech

Detail of a water tap with blue/green tiles in Jardin Majorelle - Marrakech

Every day after sunset, the big square Jemaa el-Fnaa gets filled with a great number of food stalls offering a cheap dining opportunities.

Jemaa el-Fnaa square filled with food stalls

Moroccan cook serving food

Moroccan restaurant owner greeting customers; Jemaa el-Fnaa square

Contrary to many articles on the internet mentioning how unsafe and dangerous the city of Marrakech is, my impression is quite the opposite. I consider the city to be very safe and, even when wandering through the quiet streets late at night, didn’t encounter any problems.

Empty alley of a souk in Marrakech late at night

Night shot of a store selling traditional Moroccan lamps

The overall feel Marrakech gives is of a place where time has stopped, rewarding its visitors with a trip into an unusual forgotten past.


 

Bowls filled with a colourful dye powder
Busy street in an old part of Marrakech
Man sleeping on the ground
Food stall on Jemaa el-Fnaa square
Man peeling an onion
Tiny shop in Medina; Marrakech
Afternoon break on the souk
Old man with a walking stick
Textile dyer in his workshop; Marrakech
A man in the park reading quran, Marrakech - Photo by Zdenek Sindelar ~ CuriousZed
A child selling cigarettes on a street of Marrakech

 

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13 Comments

  1. Daisy

    What lovely, lovely post, Zed. The insights you give about the culture of this Muslim country and people’s reluctance to be photographed add an extra dimension to the pictures. Many people do not fully grasp this aspect of street photography and its even more challenging counterpart, international travel photography: you must be willing to understand and respect people on a deep level that allows you to capture them at their most natural. You have certainly done that here. I love the photo of the two craftsman talking and smiling while they work! The whole series sparks curiosity, emotion and wonder in a way that makes your work true fine art photography, and not just documentation. Congratulations! Looking forward to more.

    Reply
  2. MiriamK

    Glad I found your post on google+ :) About a month ago I had to go to Marrakech for a brief business trip. It’s an astonishing city, wish i could spend more time there.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie

    I love seeing pictures of different cultures and would really like to visit Marrakech. I have a question about one of the images – 5th pic down with the kid on the bike looking into a cooler. There appears to be an assault weapon pointing into the picture on the right. Is that what that is?

    Reply
    • Zed

      I’m sure it would make for a better story, but the ‘weapon’ is a motorcycle handlebar peeking into the frame. :)
      Thanks for the kind comment.

      Reply
  4. Kim Rawks

    I wasn’t aware of the Muslim prohibition (or fear) of having their pictures taken. But I think your candid pics actually came out better than if the subject posed for them.

    Reply
  5. Octavia Hearn

    Marvelous, what a website it is! Keep it up.

    Reply
  6. チャンルー

    写真家として非常に興味深い経歴をお持ちのようですね。:)

    Reply
  7. JennySiz

    Oh! amazing pix… I wanna visit this place

    Reply
  8. Jodi Christal

    Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my iphone! :) Just wanted to say
    I love your images and look forward to all your posts!
    Carry on the excellent work!

    Reply
  9. lisette

    I’m rreally impressed with your writing skills аs well
    as wіth your photography.
    BTW, thе layout of your site is awesome and mobile friendly. Is tҺis a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Αnyway, keep up the good work,
    іt’s rare tο see a nice site like tҺіs nowadays. :)

    Reply
  10. daniella_stein

    Great post with beautiful images. Continue the ɡood woгk!

    Reply

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