Photographing Morocco - Marrakech to the Desert

mibreit-photo
mibreit-photo @mibreit-photo4 months ago | 5 min read

With this article we take a little break from my world travel series. Last months I visited Morocco for 15 days and I just have to share some impressions and photos with you. For a long time it has been a dream of mine to visit and photograph the desert. While we travelled through Peru a few years ago we already went to a desert landscape near Ica. But despite the enormous dunes, this didn't feel like a real desert. There was too much tourism and noise there.

On the trip to Morocco I once again had the chance to visit the desert. And not just any desert. With Wild Morocco we did a tour to the Erg Chigaga, which is part of the Sahara, the largest hot desert in the world.

But before we started our tour, we first explored the Medina of Marrakech for two days. And this was different to any experience I've had during my years of travel so far. I have been to crowded and busy cities in the past, especially in Asia. But the bustle of Marrakech and also the other moroccan cities we visited was different.

For one thing it's nearly impossible to take photos, especially, if your camera looks professional. Many people don't want to be photographed, which I can totally understand. But even if I tried to just photograph some buildings or do a general cityscape photo, the looks I got were not very friendly most of the time.

Another thing, which is quite annoying, is that, even if you know where you are going - GPS on my self-phone worked pretty well - people will try to show you the way somewhere. It doesn't matter, if you want to go there or not. There are always some youths trying to convince you that you have to turn left or right or that you cannot go there, that this or that is closed and so on. The funny thing is that nobody of them had just the slightest idea where we were actually headed.

Once I learned to ignore these folks I could enjoy all the new impressions I got while exploring the Medina. It's like a huge mall full of colorful and shiny goods. And eventually I even found a view where I could take a photo of the city and even see the Atlas Mountains in the distance.

The Atlas Mountains rise behind the city of Marrakech
The Atlas Mountains rise behind the city of Marrakech

But it was still good to leave Marrakech on our third morning and head over the Atlas Mountains towards the Draa Valley. There we had a wonderful stay in the Hara Oasis lodge. This place of silence was the perfect contrast to the city.

In terms of photography though I had some problems finding a good photo spot for sunset. When photographing with a wide angle lens, which is what I tried to do, it's important to also have some interesting foreground in the frame. Otherwise the photos will often lack depth and interest. And this was exactly what I was struggling with.

The solution presented itself the next morning when I decided to take some photos with the long lens instead. Now I was able to focus on just the important parts of the landscape, its different layers and the beautiful morning light, as it crept over the mountains.

The mountains near the Hara Oasis during Sunrise
The mountains near the Hara Oasis during Sunrise

The following day we had another long drive past Zagora and Mhamid into the desert. After two hours of off-road driving, which I was glad I didn't have to do myself, we finally arrived at the beautiful Camp Al Koutban. To get there you really need a guide who knows his way through the dunes.

Once at the camp we didn't waste much time and with two hours to spare until sunset we started our hike towards one of the largest dunes in the Erg. After 45 minutes we crested the top of dune. It really was worth all the driving of the previous days and the hike. Such views were what I had dreamt of when I planned my trip to Morocco and finally I could photograph them.

The endless dunes of the Erg Chigaga during sunset
The endless dunes of the Erg Chigaga during sunset

The way back to our camp in the dark was a bit tricky, but thankfully the GPS on my phone worked. So we just had to walk in the direction of the markers, which I had set in Google Maps in advance. After a great dinner with typical Moroccon food - the best we had during our trip - it was time for our first night in our cozy Berber tent.

The next morning I got up two hours before sunrise and once again found my way to the summit of the great dune. The wind of the night had cleared all footprints off the ridges and it was finally time to get out the wide lens.

The Erg Chigaga during sunrise
The Erg Chigaga during sunrise

Besides taking all the photos I also recorded a Vlog, in which I show some behind the scenes footage and also more places we visited. So lean back and enjoy some impressions from Marrakech and some desert moods.

Michael Breitung Photography
Michael Breitung Photography


I must say the desert dune photo's look amazing and glad you got some decent shots in. People are weird when it comes to photographs and I don't really care if someone snaps me or not. I just think it's natural and should n't bother anyone.

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For me, you are one of the best photographers on Steemit. I also like your videos and the way you explain what you do. It's always easy to grasp and maybe try as well.

I went to Medina in Casablanca but I couldn't stay there for long. They were selling a lot of animals in horrible conditions and the smell there was just disgusting. I quickly went to the part with spices, got what I needed and left the place as soon as possible :) Not my best memory of Morocco.

I love your photos - the light, texture and softness look so good. You must have been happy to finally visit the real desert. Oh, I also met those people who were trying to 'help' but they were just confusing us. I don't know why they do it but I think it's just for fun..

Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your curie vote!

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Thanks a lot :-)

We also visited Casablance for one day on a layover to Fes. I went to the big Mosque. Have you been there? It's a really impressive building. Otherwise I didn't think Casablanca was very interesting, but I didn't go to the Medina. In the other Cities the Medinas were mostly spices, clothes, leather, lamps, interior an so on. I didn't see animals beeing sold other than chicken. You have the typical butcher here and there but nothing too bad. I'm glad I didn't visit the Medina in Casablanca then. I wouldn't have been able to stay long too.

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fredkese
fredkese @fredkese4 months ago

Lovely photos. Glad you ignored the guys giving you directions. Could be a plot to get you somewhere.

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When you are on a travel trip..simply avoid all the local ideas and references. Simply walk and keep going on viewing and exploring your own angle...Morocco's is famous for orange I belive but you have shown a totally different view the..city of Morrocoo. Photography in public is annoying for many especially when people think they are getting photographed but you bright something very special with the skyceapers and the top city view

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Off-roading is one of the best parts, enjoyed it a lot back in Dubai. Can't even imagine how beautiful the sunrise would have been.

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erikah
ErikaH @erikah4 months ago

I'm glad I bumped into your blog, what a wonderful description of your journey. I haven't had the pleasure to visit Morocco yet, so I only know what people can know from TV and books.
I understand that people don't want to be photographed, but I don't understand why they don't like people photographing places, buildings etc. What are they afraid of, or what are they trying to hide?
The other odd thing is they want to misguide you. Why? What is there for them to gain? It's strange but that's another world, another culture.
The photos are absolutely stunning. You did a great job capturing the beauty of the place.

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I think most people just didn't know I didn't want to photograph them even though I was just interested in photographing architecture. As soon as the camera comes out there is a chance that they end up in a photo and they don't want this. I think one problem is that many photographers will snap photos of them anyways, even if they don't want it. Hence they get easily annoyed, which is understandable. But for me this made it harder to even take normal cityscape or architecture photos.

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erikah
ErikaH @erikah4 months ago

Crowded streets and places makes your job harder ans there's no way to avoid photographing people even though you want to photograph only the buildings. Let's how they will change in time ans will be less suspicious.

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Beauty landscape photographs, I think you able to transform the feeling into your works. So did you travel to Morocco only by alone? I bet that was hot weather on that desert.

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Hello there. The weather in winter (november - feb) ist quite ok in Morocco. We had around 20 - 25 C during day. And during night it can get quite cold. In the desert we had around 4 C. cheers

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pekisch
pekisch @pekisch4 months ago

great picture! Last year I spent 10 days in Morocco.
I really loved the mountains around Fes, have you been there?

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We have been to Fes but not to the surrounding mountains. I actually didn't do too much research on the landscapes around Fes because we just had two days up there and exploring the city already took up that time.

but maybe next time ;-)

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WOW! Such amazing shots. Love how much you put in to grab that one or two perfect shots. Your video chronicling it is so great too.

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