Our Photoshoot in Morocco
3rd March 2018 by Jamie Fisher
Embarking on an adventure in Morocco is akin to going on a journey across every continent. You can experience every climate, every landscape and a variety of cultures within a matter of hours.
Straight off the flight, you find yourself ricocheting down dusty roads at great speed into bustling medinas. You step out and suddenly you’re dragging your pack through smoggy markets, passing live poultry; venturing through a cloud of spices or incense; dodging a donkey carrying jerry cans on its back; and stopping only when you’ve succumbed to the flow of the hordes.
Preparation is key: we spent our first day in the old medina of Fes. It is absolutely essential to hire a Moroccan-speaking guide to take you round if you plan on spending a day or two in the old cities. Not only are they labyrinthine, but the culture of bartering and heckling is intimidating on first inspection. With a good guide – making sure to book directly through our hotel – we managed to find our way around with ease and avoided the usual tourist pitfalls of spending over the odds for market goods and, at worst, being led into unsafe areas of the city. An unexpected outcome for all of us was being able to meet some of the locals through our guide and his assistant. We were even welcomed into an ancient royal palace – not usually open to the public - for mint tea with a local man of nobility who knew every word to Hotel California by Eagles. At the end of a hectic day, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cup of sugary mint tea on a roof terrace with the sun setting and the Islamic call to prayer providing the ethereal soundtrack to the evening.
When we departed for Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of Morocco, the morning was unbelievably cold considering we’d been in 35 degree heat the previous day. This is the very nature of a desert climate – nighttimes and mornings are so chilly. By the time we reached the town, we were ready for another day of exploration and this time with one of the official city guides. Again, we managed to meet a group of travelers from Australia who recommended we get in touch with a local shop owner whose roof provided some of the best views of the town. And what an incredible view it turned out to be! Chefchaouen is one of those places where every corner of every street has something that takes your breath away and the people are much more outwardly welcoming than the more conservative cities due to its Spanish heritage from centuries past. It has also suffered in recent years with largescale production of illegal substances due to marijuana farming in the surrounding hills. Every road out of the city has a police checkpoint to check large vehicles and random drivers – which is somewhat scary if you don’t realise what you’re being checked for (as we didn’t!).
Chefchaouen is very much the gateway to the stunning natural beauty of the Rif and surrounding hills. As soon as we left the luminous blues and clear skies of the town, the heavens opened and we were greeted with what seemed like a never-ending storm looming overhead. The sheer volume of water to fall in the space of a couple of hours is impressive and nowhere more so than in the Rif where a small waterfall suddenly turns into a roaring cascade. Unexpected falling rocks are also fairly terrifying and are regularly followed by sightings of ever-sturdy mountain goats above. Cliff jumping is popular for many of the locals who are fairly conservative in appearance but – unbeknownst to our group – are more than happy to jump/somersault/dive into a ravine with seemingly very little gauge of the water depth below.
Driving between cities at night in Morocco is generally avoided but essential on longer journeys. We were fortunate to have a well-prepared local driver who successfully dodged buses with men clinging onto the back windows and roof rack; mules with whole families on; stray animals darting into the road without notice; and some pretty hefty flying insects that thankfully only come out at night. After three hours of nighttime driving on our final day – quite enough, I can assure you – there is nothing better than arriving back to a riad (a traditional Moroccan courtyard house) to take dinner on the roof overlooking the endless network of the rooftop city and then crash out in a traditional four poster bed.