To me, Marrakech has for a long time conjured images of vivid colours, ancient buildings and staunch desert. Mountain folk with their caravans, selling lost treasures from lands time had since forgot.
Location: Marrakech, Morroco
Words & Photography by Callum Cunningham
Landing at Marrakech - Menara Airport, immediately greeted by hundreds of jostling taxi drivers, looking for their first customers of the day, I felt like I was thrown into the chaos without even having stepped foot in the Medina. Managing to find my transfer, I was driven past the Menara gardens and a group of weathered mountain men selling straw hats. My initial imaginations were pretty close to the mark.
Arriving at the Riad (a traditional house built around a courtyard) I dropped bags in the room and picked up my camera in eager anticipation of the adventures ahead. I didn't want to be a tourist here, I wanted to get amongst it, I wanted to explore every nook, cranny and alcove I could. I wanted to engage people and really get to know the city. I wanted to observe as a very large fly on the wall.
Having heard so much about the famous souks (Arabic/North African traditional markets) I wanted to get lost, I wanted to feel and smell my way around. I got what I wished for and after almost 5 minutes into my walk and I found myself completely and utterly disorientated, each new turn would lead onto a new seeming endless branch of alleyways and streets. My normally decent sense of direction was completely obliterated trying to negotiate the claustrophobic streets and identical looking shops selling an endless variety of almost anything Moroccan.
I couldn't help but notice how quiet the streets were as the midday sun seemed to pierce its way into the walls and heat them till they baked. The intensity of the warmth seemed to drive everybody into an almost constant daze of lethargy, myself included, whom being so energetic couldn't help but feel the need to want to find a cool spot to hydrate and find my bearings.
Late afternoon crept into the evening and I decided it was time to get moving from the cafe where I ate the most delicious beef tagine and drank mint tea (remarkably refreshing considering the heat). Following a distant and rhythmic beating sound, the souks opened up into the Place Jemaa el Fna. I guess this explains the quietness of the souks, I thought to myself. Escaping the midday heat, thousands of locals gathered here at the centre of the medina for food, laughter and entertainment.
Dodging screaming juice vendors and sidestepping snake charmers almost throwing snakes at you at the chance of a few dinars going their way. Old ladies shouting to catch the attention of any female that walked into her proximity for a henna tattoo and shop-keepers trying to tempt you into their domain to sell you anything for ‘a good price’.
I found the energy addictive, the people charming and the atmosphere electric. I sat on a balcony overlooking the square as the sun set over the buildings in the distance. The red city was everything I expected and more. I was exhausted, delighted and intrigued. Mosques bellowed their call to prayer as I observed the maelstrom below. I felt so comfortable here already, I couldn't wait until tomorrow.