Marrakech – pure joy of life

It is the 25th of March 2017 and already for the 5th time I sit in the plane on the way from Basel to Marrakech. And again, I am looking forward to the unabashed Arab life there, the countless colorful photographs, the delicious Moroccan food and a group of photo-learners who have not yet suspected that they will soon maybe infected with the “Morocco virus”!

Lobby of the new airport terminal in MarrakechKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Lobby of the new airport terminal in Marrakech

Finally back! | Djemaa el Fna | Maison de la Photographie | Jardin Majorelle | Le Jardin Secret | Essaouira | Ourika Valley | Restaurant recommendations | Riad recommendations | equipment | Further informations

Marrakech is one of the six Moroccan royal cities and for many centuries a hub of numerous caravan routes from all over Africa and Europe. Today, it attracts around 11 million people from all over the world there every year, with a strong trend. The jetset fascinates the city as well as the backpacker, the culture enthusiast and thanks to countless photographs, not at least of course the photographer. One arrives in one of the most original of the Arabic cities – alive, mysterious, oriental and at the same time cosmopolitan and tolerant. An excellent mixture, therefore, to capture with his camera images from 1000 and one night.

But also the surrounding area has a lot of places of interest such as the Atlantic coast with Essaouira, the beautiful Ourika valley at the edge of the High Atlas or a little further away the Tichka pass and Ouarzazate with its medieval clay fortress Ait Ben Haddou.

Ben Youssuf Mederssa in MarrakeschKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Ben Youssuf Mederssa in Marrakech

Finally back!

Sun, friendly people, chaotic activity and seductive fragrances everywhere. For me it is a bit like coming home when I arrive in Morocco, although that is not my home. Also some dealers welcome me in the streets, because they recognize me, even though my last visit has been a year ago. But they’re just happy that I’m back. And me too …

Händler in MarrakeschKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Dealers in Marrakech

The way through the labyrinth of the medina (old town) is always a challenge with the luggage, because the most beautiful Riads are usually not directly accessible by taxi or bus. But at the very beginning of his visit to Morocco, one learns that the clocks here tick differently than in far Europe. A Moroccan told me:

“The Lord gave the Germans the watch, but the Moroccans gave it the time.”

Koutubia Moschee in MarrakeschKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Koutubia Mosque in Marrakech

Djemaa el Fna

Most visitors to Marrakech are the first to go to the large market square, Djemaa el Fna. It is the center of the old town and the daily and nocturnal market, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, has been taking place every day for several hundred years. However, I would advise against starting a business there when you first come to Europe from an Arab country. It’s just “too much”, pure over-stimulation! I think you should slowly approach the lively life there. The endless streets offer plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the labyrinth on the way to the large square to get to know people and mentality, life and shops, Moroccan tea and the hospitality of the Moroccans.

Souk on the Place des EpicesKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Souk on the Place des Epices

And you will be surprised that you can go for a few hundred yards without problems two, three hours and already have the first hundred photos “in the box”, because there is much to be discovered in the alleys of the souks (markets). Just buy one should be nothing at first, too big is the temptation to miss the “unique” bargain, but too small is the experience to recognize the right price and above all – negotiate! Because a Moroccan is offended, if one immediately accepts his first price claim, one takes (and himself) the fun of the action and amusing conversations.

Maison de la Photographie

Photo lovers visiting Marrakech should pay a visit to the “Maison de la Photographie” in the Medina. In a restored riad you will find on four floors a great overview of the beginnings of photography in Morocco. You can conclude the visit to the roof terrace in the small, museum-style restaurant with Moroccan tea and a few treats in a relaxed atmosphere and a view over the roofs of Marrakech. More information is available in the article La Maison de la Photographie in Marrakech.

Maison de la Photographie in MarrakeschKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Maison de la Photographie in Marrakech

Jardin Majorelle

The “Jardin Majorelle”, the former domicile of Yves Saint Laurent is a beautiful green oasis in Marrakech and if you are lucky that not a dozen busloads of tourists populate the small park, it is a very beautiful place of silence in the turbulent City. Although it is sometimes quite busy there it is worth a visit especially for photographers. The offer of motifs is very numerous. This, however, is also a photographic challenge, because one is completely overwhelmed by the numerous, optical impressions. The eye gets so many impressions and perceptions, so that one needs besides the fragrances and noises a while to sort its senses. However, if you have looked around for a bit, and you have the first impressions processed, then it is no longer a problem to leave the tourists out of their photos and to get attractive and unusual pictures.

Blue is the dominant color in the Jardin MajorelleKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Blue is the dominant color in the Jardin Majorelle

The intense color contrasts of the indiguous, former Yves Saint Laurent house, the lemon-yellow ceramic vessels and the lush green of the plants are a feast for the eyes and the camera!

Jardin MajorelleKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Motifs in abundance in the Jardin Majorelle

Le Jardin Secret

The name is program, the “secret garden” is actually much less known than the Jardin Majorelle.Therefore it is (still) not as crowded, as it’s well-known colleague, although it is very centrally located in the medina not far from the Ben Youssef Mederssa. After a private investor has taken over the ruin, three years of work has created a true gem of centuries-old Islamic garden culture, which has been publicly accessible since 2015. Photographs are possible both botanically and architecturally, the afternoon hours are best suited due to the light situation.

In the rear part of the garden is a small photo exhibition with a very small but interesting black and white collection of photographs by Luca Braguti about the restoration of the garden.

Essaouira

The small harbor town Essaouira on the Atlantic coast with its old town and the fishing port is definitely worth a trip. The old town by the sea has a very special flair, because unlike in Marrakech, which is dominated by its red architecture in its colors, determines in Essaouira white and blue the cityscape of the medina and thereby makes it very maritime.

Essaouira can be planned from Marrakech as a one-day trip, but also several days can be worthwhile (and more relaxing).

Fishing port of EssaouiraKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Fishing port of Essaouira

In order to visit the city by the sea, of course, a rental car is suitable, the well-developed route of about 180 km has been covered in about two hours. Numerous tourists in Marrakech and even many hotels offer organized bus tours, which are however usually quite expensive. The best and most convenient way to get to Essaouira is by public buses. The company CTM, a subsidiary of the state-owned Moroccan railway, operates a regular regular service between Marrakech and Essaouira, as does “Supratours”. If you want it to be particularly luxurious and comfortable, you take the Premium Comfort bus from Supratours – I do not have seen such a comfortable travel bus in Germany yet.

For more information about long-distance traffic in Morocco, please visit Morocco – General informations.

Further information about Essaouira will follow soon in another travel tip on “www.travelin-camera.com“.

Ourika Valley

If the journey from Europe to Marrakech is already a leap into another world, then this is again the case when you take an excursion from the Marrakesh into the Atlas Mountains into one of the small Berber villages, for example, in the Ourika Valley.

Poppy blossom at the end of March in the Ourika valley with Atlas mountainsKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Poppy blossom at the end of March in the Ourika valley with Atlas mountains

Restaurant Recommendations Marrakech

Djemaa el Fna

The every evening newly built dining stands on the large market square offer authentic cuisine, cookshow and entertainment in one. The food tasted good, but is not quite cheap, but one experiences the most exciting evening in Marrakech. If you have not eaten in the evening in one of the food stalls, Marrakech has not really experienced!

Dinner at the Djemaa el FnaKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Dinner at the Djemaa el Fna

Café Majorelle

When visiting the Jardin Majorele you should not miss a visit to the Café Majorelle. It offers a very good kitchen in a relaxing atmosphere.

Terrace des épices (not to be confused with the Café des Epices!)

Stylish restaurant on a roof terrace in the medina of Marrakech, very good cuisine, attentive service, views over the rooftops of Marrakech

Café des épices

Café and restaurant with roof terrace and interior with large panorama window on the square, good kitchen, friendly service

Place des Epices, Marrakech

La Table de Marrakech

Opposite the entrance to Palace Bahia is the restaurant “La Table de Marrakech” with a small, beautiful roof terrace.

Nomad

The “Nomad” offers a modern fusion cuisine of traditional Moroccan dishes and international influences at Place des Epices. A reservation is necessary.

Riad recommendations Marrakech

Riad Soumia

The Riad Soumia is close to the Palace Bahia and offers the best value for money of all the riads I have ever met. The furnishings are high quality and very tasteful, traditional Moroccan elements are complemented by modern accents. It is the first riad in Marrakech with a central heating! So it is also warm at night in the winter cuddly warm there. The rooms are bigger than most other Riads of this price class.

Riad SoumiaKarl H. Warkentin | Travelin’ Camera
Peace and relaxation can be found at the Riad Soumia in the medina of Marrakech

Riad Dar Attica

The suite and rooms are very elaborately decorated in Moroccan style and each room has a different color. The roof terrace invites you for breakfast, as well as dinner is served there.

Riad Des Oliviers

The Riad des Olives is one of the bigger houses, but it has a lot more rooms than most other Riads. On the large roof terrace there is a swimming pool.

Riad des Eaux et des Epices

In the Riad des Eaux et des Epices, everyone will find a cozy home that is looking for a well-maintained and reasonably priced riad in a central location. Mustapha is very friendly and fulfills every wish. In the courtyard there is even a small pool.

Equipment

As usual, my travel camera is a Nikon D750 with the zoom lens AF-S Nikkor 24-120 mm 4.0 G ED. It covers almost all the requirements in Marrakech and offers a high optical quality and a continuous aperture width of 4.0. Since I do not like “stolen” portraits, ie photos of people from a great distance, the 300mm lens has only been used for a few sunsets and landscape photos outside Marrakech.

What is in the photo bag:

Nikon D750 (24 MPx full-frame camera)
AF-S Nikkor 24-120 mm 4.0 G ED
Nikkor IF-ED 300 / 4.5
Replacement battery EN-EL15 and charger
Phottix wireless trigger set WXD-188 m. Electric wire
Tripod Giottos Vitruvio Aluminum (similar to Sirui T-005X Traveler)
Solmeta N3 GPS receiver
32 GB 95 MB / sec Memory cards from SanDisk
MacBook Pro
IPad Air

… the whole fits in my favorite photo bag Vanguard UP-Rise II 38.

Further Informations

Morokko – General Informations
Marrakech – General Informations
Maison de la Photographie in Marrakech