While previous experience of other cultures and countries with similar economic and social backgrounds, had given me a decent appreciation and understanding of what I was going to see and experience in Marrakesh, expecting and experiencing are two very different things.
As I’m used to, the initial culture shock that you normally experience when arriving in such a different country was quite a step and, as usual, exasperated by the tiredness of traveling for such a long time to get there.
We went to a local restaurant on the first night, just in a square down the street from the hotel; before we settled on a place to eat we went for a quick explore around the local souk and down a few of the back streets around the square. Though I was really tired and quite disoriented, but it was really nice just to go out and get a feel for the local area directly outside of our Riad; even if we didn’t make it very far. Our first meal was really nice, couscous with chicken and veg; we later learned that this would be one of the staple meal that we’d be eating while in Morocco. Moroccans certainly don’t skimp on their portions and we got olives and bread to start for free; again, this became the norm over the whole holiday, but it was especially nice on the first night, when we where all quite hungry and tired.
The guided medina tour was really good, we did a ton of things in the short time that we had and I got a lot of really nice photos of the places and the tombs, as well as a guided tour of the souks that we would later be raiding for tagine dishes and scarfs to take home. we also made a visit to a very entertaining spice and herbal remedy shop keeper, he was really enthusiastic and put on a great show when explaining the various remedies, beauty products, teas and spices. This was defiantly one of the highlights of the trip, purely because of the show that he put on during his demonstration. The best of the tour, however, was defiantly visiting the Ben Youssef Madrasa, which was an old collage founded during the period of the Marinid (14th century) by the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighbouring Ben Youssef Mosque.
Normally non-Muslims are not allowed to visit mosques, there are in fact only 3 functioning mosques in Morocco that you can visit- working mosques are not supposed to be ‘contaminated’ by non-Muslims, as it would be hugely disrespectful-, but the mosque that we visited had stopped being used as such for quite a long time and open to visitors as part of the old collage. The architecture and the intense amount of detailed tile and wood carving was really impressive and I had a great time exploring the cool spaces with my camera. All the buildings in Marrakesh have such strange layouts, they sprawl out in a maze of odd little rooms and open spaces full of detailed design work. No expense is spared and it made for some fantastic photo opportunities.
Marrakesh did not disappoint me or my camera at any point throughout the whole trip, I don’t often get the chance to take my camera out anywhere new; there’s only so many photos that I can take of Cardiff. So it usually ends up gathering a bit of dust in between events and photo op’s. Which is neither good for my photography skills or the camera.
Throughout the trip, though, I very rarely left the Riad without my camera and took a ton of pictures of everything and anything that I saw worth snapping. I really want to use the photos that I took as much as possible in the work that I do in the follow up. I’m not sure if that’s gonna be just using the actual photos or just the shots that I captured, we’ll have to see how I can go about combining my work in painting/print and photography.
The main things that I got out my week long trip to Morocco were the strong influences of colour, and the bright and bustling constant energy of the medina; I think these are the key aspects that I want to carry through in my response, along with a further exploration of print and possibly fabric painting.