A Photographers Guide To Morocco
This was my first trip to Morocco or anywhere in Africa for that matter. I didn’t really know what to expect but I wasn’t disappointed! I had picked February as the temperature seemed bareable and it was even quite cool on a few of the days which is fine with me. The first thing you notice about Morocco is the diversity. There is a stark contrast between the old and the new, the traditional and modern co-existing side by side. You would see brand new range rovers parked next to a donkey and cart and friends together dressed in traditional religious clothing with others in jeans and t-shirts. Considering it’s location it’s not really surprising it is influenced by the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The landscape is just as diverse with miles of arid deserts broken with lush green oases and the snow topped Atlas Mountains leading to the greener coastal regions. Whatever you’re interested in Morocco will have something for you.
What Camera Equipment & Lenses to Take to Morocco
I took my standard kit for this trip as I wasn’t to sure what I would need. In retrospect I could have used everything but the logistics of taking everything not to mention carrying it on a camel meant I was glad I only took the basics. I took my Nikon 24-70mm and 70-200mm. I also took my 1.7TC to give me a bit more zoom for the wildlife photos. I took my travel tripod as well for some night time photography. I considered taking my flash gun and wish I had so if you have room I would recommend taking one. If you’re going to specifically photograph the birds and wildlife definitely take your biggest telephoto lenses. For general travel and portrait shots the smaller lenses should do. I packed a couple of Lee Filters as well for the landscapes.
Travelling To Morocco
Morocco is a pretty popular destination so there are plenty of flights from the UK to various airports in Morocco depending which parts you want to explore. There are also ferries from Spain. PLEASE NOTE* At the Airport you need to fill in a form on arrival and before you leave which no one told us about before arriving. So take a pen as this will save you time and help you avoid the crowds scrambling to borrow pens!
Guided Tour vs Exploring On Your Own
As it was my first time here I booked us some guided excursions and we did some exploring on our own. I booked us a three day trip to the Atlas Mountains, various tourist attractions and then a camel trek and night in the Sahara Desert. These trips can involve a lot of driving and the third day driving back over ten hours in some horrific weather on winding mountain roads is probably not a journey we would have made in one go had we been driving ourselves. The roads in Morocco are improving but can still be dangerous so if you’re driving yourself it might be a bit of a culture shock. Once you get to the cities it’s fairly easy to explore by yourself. You will get offered directions and advice on where to visit at every turn anyway but it’s hard to tell which people are genuinely trying to help and which are trying corral you into some shops or another attraction you don’t want to visit. It’s best to just use your judgement and if doubt ask a shop keeper, they might try and sell you something but the directions are more likely to be accurate.
The Sahara Desert
This is definitely a highlight of Morocco so I would recommend visiting if you can. It’s quite far from Marrakesh so the longer your trip the more places you can stop along the way. We travelled to the town of Merzouga before meeting our Berber guide who was taking us on a camel trek into the Sahara where we would spend the night. You can do multi-day camel treks to get deeper into the desert but from my experience I can say that 2-3 hours on a camel is more than enough! Having said that they were surprisingly good tempered camels and quite friendly. The first thing you notice when you get into the desert is a profound silence, it’s so peaceful and slightly eerie. Unfortunately it was quite hazy so we didn’t get much of a sunset but the sky’s cleared later on allowing for some incredible views of the night sky. Having timed our trip for when it was cool and out of season there were only two of us in the camp with our guides so we spent our evening round a small camp fire listening to traditional music and drinking Berber Whisky (mint tea). It does get quite cold in the desert at night so take some warmer clothes as well.
Photography In Morocco
Aside from the stunning landscapes and wildlife the main subjects in Morocco are the people and the architecture. Be aware though that the genuine travel experience is quite difficult to find. Those moments where you just meet someone or see something that makes a great image. While you can get the photos most now come with a price tag which you can’t blame them for but it’s not quite the same. The cities are worse and a lot of people will gladly offer you a photo opportunity only then to ask for money. Not that I have a problem paying to take photos but I tried to find the more genuine subjects! I would recommend always asking before you take photos of people, just to be polite as well as determining a price first. There is plenty of architecture to photograph from old palaces to beautiful Riad’s, you will always have something striking and colourful to see. There is usually an entrance fee to these places but it was never a great expense and there are many free public gardens as well. The primary languages are Arabic and French so it helps to learn a few phrases of each as most people don’t speak a great deal of English although we heard a few people impersonate Only Fools and Horses to try and get us into their restaurants or food stall.
Weather In Morocco
Obviously Morocco and the Sahara can get very warm in summer with temperatures as high as 50°C. I visited in February and the temperatures varied from about 10/12°C on the cooler days to 20/24°C on the warmer days. So if you’re not a fan of the heat visit in winter. If you like the warmer weather then spring or autumn are probably best. The mountains can have big fluctuations throughout the year and the Tizi n’ Tichka pass can regularly be closed because of snow. The desert will also feel much colder at night.
Accommodation In Morocco
There are plenty of hotels and Riad’s to stay in throughout the country ranging from £30/£40 a night and upwards. We also saw lots of signs for camp sites if you wanted to keep costs very low.
Food & Meal Costs In Morocco
Morocco wasn’t quite as cheap as I was expecting but it’s still good value. With two people eating out it usually cost between 150Dhs / 250Dhs (£12 / £20)
Breakfast was usually included in the hotel cost and the evening meal was also included on any excursions.
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