MOROCCO


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Stepping off the airplane, your senses are immediately enlivened by the exotic scents, colors, sounds and sights surrounding you. You may think you have stepped onto a film set. Can this be real? Welcome to Morocco!

Unbeknownst to most people, flying to Morocco is shorter than going to Europe. Casablanca is only 6 1/2 hours from New York and then another short flight to Marrakesh. In March the weather is very temperate and wild flowers abound.

Morocco is very tourist and American friendly with a unique combination of cosmopolitan flair and exotic old world charm. Many wealthy Europeans and Americans have homes here. I have often wandered the city streets and souk by myself and felt perfectly safe. However, we will be accompanied by an English speaking guide when necessary. Entering the Marrakesh souk (which is a large labyrinth of tin covered alleys) is like stepping back in time. Market stalls filled with rows of saffron, gold, sienna and ochre colored spices are piled in neat rows before you, multi colored jars of olives, colorful pottery, and unusual silver jewelry await you. Vendors are hawking their wares including the brilliantly colored caftans called djellabas, slippers fit for a sultan, rugs of all imaginable colors, a plethora of leather goods, ceramic dishes and silver boxes encrusted with stones.

Each corner that you turn in the souk is another photo opportunity. Bolts of brightly colored dyed silks are hanging overhead to dry, shops of gleaming brass sparkle in the sun, a boy peddles an ancient wheel while he forges metal works, sun beams burst through slats in the tin roofs, and bottles of brilliantly colored pigments are neatly stacked on shelves. Besides the photo ops, it is truly a shopper's paradise!

Leaving the souk puts you in the Place Djamma El Fna where are all the action takes place. Water sellers (pictured above) in their splendidly colorful costumes, offer toothless smiles and water in shiny brass cups. Storytellers and magicians charm young and old alike. Snake charmers sit and play their melodic, enchanting flutes, enticing their unwilling snakes to dance. Monkeys perform clever tricks for their masters. Women apply intricately beautiful patterns of henna dye to the hands of eager women, fortunes are told, and the local dentist sits at his table ready to add to his pile of extracted teeth. Wafting through the air are the delicious aromas of exotic foods grilling over open fires and tajines of tasty Moroccan fare, along with the ever present rhythmic sounds of Moroccan music.

Everywhere you look is a riot of color. Women in brightly colored djellabas of chartreuse, orange, fuchsia, red, gold and every color imaginable go about their day. Traditional women are veiled or always have their heads covered, while their babies are wrapped tightly to their backs with scarves. They can be seen walking arm in arm with other Moroccan women in modern Western style dress. Periodically throughout the day, you will hear the haunting chants calling the faithful to prayer at the mosque. Wandering through the streets and narrow alleys, each building is gaily adorned with exquisitely painted tiles and the ever present key hole doorways and arches. If you like to photograph architecture, this is the place!

Marrakesh is wonderful at dusk when we will photograph the illuminated open aired stalls of the Place Djamma el Fna from above. Another stop will be the beautifully illuminated Koutoubia Mosque and its reflecting pools.

After 2 nights in Marrakesh, we travel to the coast to visit the town of Essaouira, the "jewel of the Atlantic". Essaouira was the first port to trade with the non-Islamic world and a caravan destination from Timbuctu. The walled city with its monumental gates and fortified with ramparts and cannons pointing out to the sea, has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage site. No motorized vehicles are allowed in this artist's community once home to musicians Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens. The movie "Othello" was filmed here.

Reminiscent of some Mediterranean Islands, the town is resplendent with its white washed buildings and blue doors, which provide the perfect back drop for the colorfully dressed people. Baker's bread is delivered by bicycle and delicately balanced as the delivery man hand carries the loaves across the street. The fish market provides non-stop action along with a lively harbor filled with colorful fishing boats, fishermen mending their nets and great reflections.

Traveling through the country side you will often encounter a shepherd or goat herder dressed in a colorful robe tending his flock, surrounded by fields of yellow flowers and the snow covered Atlas Mountains. If you stop by the side of the road, brightly clothed children will literally appear out of nowhere eager to pose for you.

Fantasies about the Sahara have held travelers spellbound for centuries. Images of timeless waves of sand and camel caravans navigating by the stars are part of this mystical world of solitude and unfathomable beauty. Here salt and agricultural goods were exchanged for gold, ivory and slaves from deepest Africa. We will journey to Ouarzazate over the Tizi N'Tichka pass in the High Atlas with incredible views of the mountains and valleys in all directions. We will be stopping at small villages along the way. Not to be missed is the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, an impressive 11th century site that's now declared as a historical treasure by UNESCO. Just imagine a fabulous sand castle transported, as if by magic, to stand in the middle of a field of flowering almond trees. So beautiful and playing so artfully with the light that it has often been used as a setting for films such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Un Thé au Sahara". It is considered a wonderland for photographers.

Explore the mystical Saharan landscape as you ride by camel over the stunning sugar-fine sands of Merzouga as the red sun is setting. As night falls, watch traditional folkloric dance and listen to the heady intoxicating beat of Berber drum music and song during the traditional pouring of mint tea. Watch bread being baked in the sand, and delight in a Moroccan feast of harira soup, a savory tagine (stew with meat and vegetables), couscous, fresh fruit and exquisite Moroccan pastries. You will experience a sense of timelessness in the still, silent desert unchanged since caravans loaded with spices, gold and indigo crossed long ago. At nightfall, you’ll sleep under a nomad tent beneath billions of flickering stars in the clear desert sky. You will be awe struck by the Saharan night sky. On our last tour, 2 people slept outside the tent under the stars. We will be in a perfect for place to capture abstract patterns on the dunes at sunset, and camels silhouetted against the rising sun.

Another day, traveling the road of a "Thousand Kasbah's" will be spent visiting the Dades Valley also known as the "Valley of the Kasbahs" which boasts one of Morocco's most spectacular canyons, the Dade's Gorge. The following day we visit the spectacular Kasbah Tifoultoute on the way back to our last evening in Marrakech. The Draa Valley is another photo op where we find green oases filled with palm trees, flowering date trees and waterfalls. On our way to Tinerhir we will visit the Todra Gorge.

From the souk of Marrakech to the colorful coast, to the Atlas mountains, and the gorges and dunes of the Sahara, we will experience the best that fabulous Morocco has to offer. It is in one word - exotic!

Come join us for a photo adventure of a lifetime.

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