11.12.2014

From the desert to the ocean. Next stop: Morocco

11.12.2014

From the desert to the ocean. Next stop: Morocco

200 km southwards, from Marrakesh to Legzira. A journey that begins with a cup of mint tea in Jemaa el-Fna Square and ends with an orange juice on the ocean shore. An ‘inshallah’ and the muezzin’s call to prayer can always be heard in the background.

Marrakesh: the city that can be both full of bustle and bartering and still in prayer.

Jemaa el-Fna Square is the soul of the city: the perfect combination of souks and street food, storytellers with hens on their heads and tourists with reflex digitals around their necks. Leave your Lonely Planet in your suitcase and simply follow the rhythm.

During the day, lose yourself in the medina and wind your way through the snake charmers and sellers of all types of wares; enjoy the sunset with your hands around a warm tea and wait for the Square to fill slowly as you eat soup and meat kebabs at one of the tables at Aicha (top food stall on Tripadvisor). You’ll get used to walking about in a haze of roasted meat smoke and you’ll find you like it.

In Morocco, I discovered a love of snapshots, the desire to stop and wait for an unprompted and natural shot. No rules; just time and luck in finding a subject I like.

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The way to Argan. Ochre earth, dusty villages, goats in the trees and female cooperatives. After the inevitable shopping-bartering break to get some Moroccan oil, we got to Essaouira. For those in search of sea, white narrow streets and sky blue doors, it will be love at first sight; you are won over by the Qasba and the now abandoned Jewish quarter, by the men crocheting in the street, by a bag of toasted chickpeas and a 10 Dirham Special beer.

For a more full-on experience, visit the fish market: jubilant seagulls, giant moray eels, women in burqas snipping away, fishing boats coming in and others setting out to sea. Forget about the conventional meaning of ‘restaurant’ for a moment, then find a table between a seagull and a turbot and ask to be served freshly caught fish. Don’t ask yourselves any questions; eat and save for your return home any questions such as “Where and how do they cook it?”.

In the photos taken in Essaouira, I focused on contrasts: combining different colours such as black and white helps to create images of great impact that stand out to the observer.

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In the car going to Taroudant, the ‘little Marrakesh’ surrounded by orchards. Castellated walls, clay ramparts, crowded squares and chaotic souks: young, lively and welcoming, this is Taroudant.

In the heart of the Medina is Benyara, the perfect riad; the great Mustapha is there to welcome you with unforgettable homemade baghir and family dinners to the sound of Bob Marley.

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An absolute must is a tent lunch of salad and tajine in the green of the Tiout Oasis, 30 km from Taroudant. Enormous palm groves, vast stretches of wheat, long and winding streams: all far too big to be contained in one image. What to do? The answer can be to focus your attention on one detail, telling a story from a new perspective and leaving things to the imagination.

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The journey continues on to Tafraoute, the town of the babouches that reminds you of Bedrock in the Flinstones. We’re at 1000 metres, surrounded by enormous mountains of pink granite that, towards evening, reflect their colour onto every inch of the town, offering an unforgettable rose-tinted sunset.

The essential elements for a perfect evening are: a bench in the central square, sugared peanuts and sunset reflected from one of the rocks surrounding Les Amandiers hotel. Lunch or dinner for a very reasonable 6 Euros at Le Marrakech (128 Rue Ennahda), where I was given the best harira (Moroccan soup) and tajine of my trip.

Just a few kilometres from Tafraoute, we stop in the paradise palm grove of the Vallee d’Ait Mansour and at the Painte Rocks, the 12 enormous ‘blue rocks’ created by the Belgian artist Jean Veran, using 19 tonnes of paint.

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Next stop: Tiznit. To get there, you take the R104, one of the most spectacular routes in Morocco: stone, palm groves, flowering almond trees and entire villages set in the mountainsides. This silver capital of Morocco is a succession of men in burnoose, veiled women and hands at work crafting Berber articles; a stroll within the 7 km of town wall, a ‘snack’ of hamburgers, fries and Coca Cola in a small bar in Place Mechouar (total of €2.50) and a slice of cake in the heart of the Medina on the terrace at the Riad Le Lieu will make sure you are at peace with the world.

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The mountains give way to the ocean. You can feel the desert, it’s close, but here you are still in the kingdom of water, wind and surfers: here we find Mirleft, a tiny village of absolute peace. One piece of advice: if you haven’t already tried it, put yourself to the test with a surfing lesson.

Just a few km further on is the final stop in this journey to the south of Morocco: the Plage Legzira, destination for artists in search of inspiration. The reason why is easy: imagine the longest beach, often deserted, with a light mist lifted by the waves and an incredible natural architecture consisting of three pink rock arches. The perfect inspiration.

The star of the scene has to be the ocean, but when I photograph water I often choose to create my composition by introducing elements to make it more interesting.

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Roberta Longo

My name is Roberta; I was born, live and maybe will stay forever in my beloved Puglia. Journalist and travel blogger, in 2010 I founded www.infoturismiamoci.com, a travel and thought journal characterised by a healthy and pungent dose of irony. Lover of travelling off the beaten track, street food and beaches in winter, I would never miss a Robert Capa exhibition, a trip to the Middle East or Brezsny’s horoscope.

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