Morocco in the eye of the camera – Morocco

We stand next to a huge mural in red-blue-and-white near the non-touristy market of Shipshaven, the mesmerizing blue city in northern Morocco. There are no foreigners there, and it is doubtful whether this market is at all in the route of any tourist. Just before we buy two kilos of sweet tangerines for 3 shekels, we realize we can stay there for hours, and wherever we look, we see attractive frames and wonderful photo opportunities. And that’s before we even talk about the alleys of Paz, the magical port of Assouira, the sprawling Jamaa al-Fanna Square in Marrakech, and the breathtaking dunes of the Sahara.

In this article we will take you on a journey in fascinating Morocco, through the eyes of a photographer. We will tell you how we see the world, decide what to photograph, and no less important – what not, and how.
Even if you are not a professional photographer, I will give you tips and tools for satisfying and exciting photography, even on your mobile phone.

Let’s get back to the beginning.

A direct flight (serious upgrade!) Lands towards evening at Manara, Marrakesh International Airport. After a quick unloading of the equipment at the hotel and a short drive, we arrive at Jama al-Panna Square in the city center. Yigal, who is having his fifth visit to Morocco, guides the photographers… Do not bring a camera! First of all breathe the place, take a picture with your eyes, inhale the smells and sights, and start to understand what Morocco is. Do not worry, we’ll be back there again.

Photo: Rafi Koren

Photo: Rafi Koren

Casablanca – Rabat – Tangier

In the morning we leave Marrakech in the direction of Casablanca, the beautiful city on the Atlantic Ocean, and land in one of the highlights of the journey – the Hassan II Mosque. The impressive mosque complex, which can accommodate up to 80,000 worshipers, 25,000 of them inside the building (!), Is almost completely empty. A combination of tourism in the corona period and the early hour. For photographers looking for clean images, this is a great joy. Some are looking for reflection in small puddles, interesting framing (framed photography), or architectural photography that combines geometry and textures. In addition, the special light that enters the halls through the slits in the walls, create a wonderful opportunity for photographing silhouettes.

After visiting the fruit and vegetable market, and first encounters with the locals, we leave Casablanca for a short drive towards the Moroccan capital – Rabat. Rabat’s ‘State’, the Old City, overlooks the ocean from a high hill. Beautiful alleys in blue and white, inlaid with graffiti, provide great photography opportunities, and the group is experimenting with first portraits.

On the third day we continue north towards Tangier, a large city from which one can easily see Europe. Along the way the group gets a taste of what sets photography trips apart – the photo opportunities off the beaten track. In English it sounds even better – Off the beaten track. It starts with a spontaneous stop to photograph a flock of sheep on the way, and continues with a visit to the coastal town of a-Sila, which turns out to be a real and very photogenic gem. After a tour of the white alleys, the rich stalls and a delicious chicken shawarma meal – we head back north.

The market of Tangier is tough, whether in the Rooster Alley or the fragrant fish complex. Too fragrant. A tip for authentic photography of cultures – look for the market. Not the touristy one, but the one where the locals buy. A short round and we finish with sweet tea and rich cookies that warm the heart and stomach. In the morning, after a short visit to the port, we go up to a beautiful lookout, another sweet tea, or nosnos (half coffee-half milk), and say goodbye to the city.

Yigal Selvin - Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

Yigal Selvin – Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

Rafi Koren - Hassan II Mosque Casablanca

Rafi Koren – Hassan II Mosque Casablanca

Rafi Koren - Tangier

Rafi Koren – Tangier

Rafi Koren - The State of Rabat

Rafi Koren – The State of Rabat

Rafi Koren - Rabat

Rafi Koren – Rabat’s “State”

Shipshaven – Paz

A trip to the southeast brings us to one of the wonderful points of interest of the trip – the city of Shipshaven, famous for its blue country. The bus can not bring us to the heart of the old city, and it’s good that way! We get out of the car, start climbing through the narrow alleys, and dive into the heart of the city. The photographers’ eyes are shining. Countless photographic stimuli from every direction – the blue streets, the stalls full of handicrafts, and fascinating figures wearing the traditional Moroccan coat, shaped like a pointed hoodie. It’s hard to know what to shoot first. We again recommend doing a short orientation round, looking without taking a picture and then deciding what to focus on. The accompanying benefit of this round is that the locals discover the photographers and adapt to them. One of our favorite styles is to locate a photogenic background, and wait for an interesting character to enter the frame. Shipshaven is built for this like a glove next to it – colorful squares and courtyards, narrow streets with games of light and shadow, and walls in fifty shades of blue. By the way, according to the belief, the Jews were responsible for painting the city streets blue in the 18th century under the influence of Kabbalah. We were not satisfied, and we returned to the same alleys the next morning as well, and when we left town, all the photographers were with full tickets and a song in their hearts.

This is the place to point out that on a trip to Morocco it is important to take care in advance of an accurate operation, which helps greatly in making optimal use of time. It should be taken into account that there are quite a few long journeys, which should be cut in stops, planned or spontaneous, on the way. Breakfast and dinner should be eaten in hotels or restaurants, and at noon rely on street food. Just walk between stalls, be impressed by the cleanliness and freshness of the products, and sit down for a quick meal.

What sets Morocco apart from all the destinations we have photographed in the world, is that the journey consists of many small trips. Each transition from one destination to another opens up a new adventure for photographers, with fascinating locations and unique scenes. Thus, after the blue and caressing Shifshavan, we come to the tough red Paz.

To add to the dramatic atmosphere, a steady drizzle of rain accompanies our visit to Paz and nearby Meknes. The red-orange alleys in the country of Paz, the largest old city in the world, are crowded and challenging to lead the group, but often provide photography opportunities – portraits, reflections, and wonderful compositions. After visiting the synagogue, we arrive at a lively, colorful and very rich local market. We spend the next few hours between the food stalls, candy and dried fruit shops, before continuing to one of the fascinating sites – the ancient tannery market. Dozens of pits are left in the ground, some of which are used to clean and soften the skins, and others to color them. The gnarled workers stand between the small pools, cutting the pieces of skin. Spectacular and photogenic spectacle, not for those with a sensitive stomach.

Rafi Koren - Shipshaven

Rafi Koren – Shipshaven

Yigal Selvin - Shipshaven

Yigal Selvin – Shipshaven

Rafi Koren - Shipshaven

Rafi Koren – Shipshaven

Rafi Koren - Paz

Rafi Koren – Paz

Yigal Selvin - the tannery market in Paz

Yigal Selvin – the tannery market in Paz

Rafi Koren - Paz's Market

Rafi Koren – Paz’s Market

The Sahara

We part with Pez and head south towards the Sahara Desert. At this stage of the journey, the photographers internalize that we are only half of it and have already experienced a huge wealth of sights and photography adventures. The journey to the desert is long, and we break it into stops in remote towns and nomadic encampments, who rejoiced at the opportunity to host the photographers and tell their story. We were greeted with a cup of hot tea when the temperature outside was close to 0 degrees.

Towards evening we arrive in Marzouga, a small town in eastern Morocco, at a perfect time – the setting sun lights up the spectacular dunes of the Sahara. Enthusiastic photographers rush to the mountains of orange sand, like excited children. Some catch first frames, and some roll in the sand. A tremendous experience, which is just the prelude to what still awaits us. The next day, early in the morning when it is still completely dark outside, we put on colorful scarves, dress warmly and go for a brisk walk to the camel guest who is waiting for us. One by one the photographers get on the camels, and with peak excitement go out in a slow ride to the heart of the dunes. Towards sunrise we settle in a pristine dune, and open our eyes to the slowly discovering landscape. The sun’s rays color the space, creating photogenic games of light and shadow. A camel guest who walks slowly between the dunes is wonderfully photographed, as are close-ups of camel carriers dressed in traditional clothes.

After arranging our breathing, we got in the car and started driving west towards the Atlas Mountains and the city of Varazazat. On the way we pass a palm-laden desert in the Dades Canyon and the Tudra Valley, where a number of Jewish communities once lived. Some of us are reminded of the song “With us in the village of Tudra” of natural selection. After a meal of harira soup, olives and spicy sardines in one of the villages, we arrived towards evening in Varazazat. In the morning we drove directly to Ait Ben Haddo, a beautiful and special village, which was used for filming historical films, among them – Lawrence the Arab and Gladiator. Even for still photographers like us, the site provided rich and varied photography opportunities, among the red spiers and in views of the deployed landscape.

Yigal Selvin - Sahara

Yigal Selvin – Sahara

Rafi Koren - Sahara

Rafi Koren – Sahara

Rafi Koren - Sahara

Rafi Koren – Sahara

Yigal Selvin - Sahara

Yigal Selvin – Sahara

Marrakech – Aswira

We cross the vast Atlas Mountains and reach the last third of the journey. We spend the next two days in the inexhaustible Marrakech. On the first day we concentrate on Jamaa al-Fanna Square (remember?). Although we were not far from the square, some of us measured over 20,000 steps that day. The square changes from hour to hour, providing endless stimuli to all the senses. Bands and dances to the rhythm of music that will accompany us for days to come, street performances with monkeys and snakes, crowded and very colorful stalls, and most importantly – countless alleys, markets, shops and stalls. What is being photographed there? A world full of fascinating portraits, narrow streets shared by vehicles and pedestrians, stalls with mountains of colorful spices or gleaming olives, and lots of dialogues of light and shadow. We find a modern and inviting cafe, and take the opportunity to sit on the roof of the building for a cup of sweet tea and to photograph frames from the bird’s eye view.

The next day we leave Marrakech and drive about 30 km towards the Eureka Valley, a green valley with a beautiful river flowing, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, whose dome is already snowy. Arrive at Zohara’s home, which allows us to photograph the meal preparation in traditional tajines in its modest kitchen. The location is attractive and appetizing, literally, but challenging to photograph. The kitchen is small and the light is weak. The delicious meal at the end of the filming was a wonderful ending to a great day.

Yigal Selvin - Aswira

Yigal Selvin – Aswira

Yigal Selvin - Aswira

Yigal Selvin – Aswira

Yigal Selvin - Spices in Marrakech

Yigal Selvin – Spices in Marrakech

Rafi Koren - in Zohara's kitchen

Rafi Koren – in Zohara’s kitchen

Then we got to Aswira, and it was as if we had started a new trip.

A magical port city on the Atlantic coast, whose former name was fenced off, and over the years changed to Aswira, a “picture” in Arabic. As photographers, these two days were the perfect dessert for the trip, before returning home. In a relatively small area we found beautiful locations, between a photogenic boat dock, picturesque alleys and bustling markets. In the first light we photographed the harbor area, with dozens of blue boats, fishermen preparing the nets for going out to sea, and hundreds of seagulls hovering above. After a full day on the beautiful narrow streets of the old city, we sipped a golden sunset over the ocean.

All in all – Morocco is a fascinating, rich and perfect destination for travel and photography. We are happy to see that Israelis are welcomed and happy. During our stay, the Minister of Defense paid a public visit to Morocco, and relations between the two countries seem to have warmed up even more. Direct flights to Marrakech and Casablanca make the visit particularly accessible. We returned to Israel, after two rich and fascinating weeks, under the strong impression of visiting a fascinating country, which combines tradition with modernity – with a lot of taste of more.

Rafi Koren - in the port of Aswira

Rafi Koren – in the port of Aswira

Rafi Koren - in the port of Aswira

Rafi Koren – in the port of Aswira

Rafi Koren - in the port of Aswira

Rafi Koren – in the port of Aswira

Rafi Koren - Aswira

Rafi Koren – Aswira

How to take winning photos!

The secret in terms of authentic and satisfying photography and documentation is to get to the right places at the right hours.

Whether you are shooting with a professional camera or a mobile phone – you should know him and his abilities in advance. Type in the model name on YouTube or Google and you will get a short and useful guide.

What to photograph? We call it the “photographic mosaic”. The collection of photos that will make up our unique story – people, landscapes, details / textures, culture and religion, food, animals.

It is worth balancing between the main points of interest and authentic destinations, for example, the non-touristy market, where the locals do their shopping.

More practical photography tips:

Bring backup equipment – memory card, battery, etc.

To shoot in the “golden hours” – sunrise and sunset.

Understand the light, where the sun rises from and where it sets.

Basic composition – hold the camera / phone straight, where to place the subject, eye contact using diagonals.

Get to know the capabilities of the phone – how to take a quick picture, shoot both lengthwise and widthwise, shoot short videos.

Advanced technique – compensation for exposure to highlight illuminated areas, find a location (background) and wait for the subject to fit into it.

Rafi Koren - a mural in Shipshaven

Rafi Koren – a mural in Shipshaven

Rafi Koren - Sunset in Awswira

Rafi Koren – Sunset in Awswira

Yigal Selvin and Rafi Koren Zuming Selvin-Koren, Breathing photography and photography instruction 24/7. In recent years we have specialized in building photo trips to special places in the world, and we are excited time and time again to take to them groups of enthusiastic photographers with sparkle in their eyes and hearts beating with passion.

Map of Morocco:

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