“There is nothing like a train journey for reflection, and the passage from Casablanca to Marrakech is one of the most inspiring I know. Movement has a magical effect on the mind. It stimulates the eyes, distracts them, allowing real thought to take hold. I stared out the window at a landscape changing by slow degree from urban to farmland, and then again, to a desert panorama–baked terra-cotta red.” — Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights
My journey to Marrakech was a bit of a different route, but much the same experience–eight hours rocking away on a train, watching the landscapes change and feeling myself change from my time in Morocco.
My six-seater first-class car gained and lost a lot of people along the route, giving me time to watch how local people interacted: a wealthy couple in their late-20s–the man looking like he didn’t want to relinquish any control to his wife, but the woman was fiery and feisty and not ready to let him have the last word; an older couple who seemed so sweet and as if they loved each other so deeply that they’d drop anything to care for the other; and finally, my favorite–the old man.
In 2006, I took my very first trip abroad. At the time, I was in college and my interest in photography was growing my the minute. A lot has changed since that first international trip, but one of the biggest things has been my photography skills. I have worked hard to try to hone and perfect them, and while I’ll never be Ansel Adams, it’s amazing to see the growth I’ve made.
So, looking back over my photos from my travels over the last nine years, has made certain photos jump out at me and I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite photos from my travels! There are quite a few, so I’ll post them in a few parts, but for now: part 1! We’re visiting Iceland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, and the United States!
Has there ever been a country that has just called to you? Imploring you to visit? To explore its cities and roam its streets? To taste its foods and experience its culture? To buy its wares and immerse yourself in everything it has to offer?
I have known many: Italy, Iceland, and Morocco, to be more specific. And after visiting each one of those, my heart grew a little larger to make room to fit all of them inside. Each one of them was special and amazing in its own way and, despite some difficulties in a couple of them, they each earned this rightful place at the top of my favorite-places-in-the-world list.
I didn’t realize it until I left Morocco and backed up all my photos on my computer, but I guess I really loved shooting photos of Moroccan doors! I don’t know how many I ended up with in total, but here’s a selection of 13 of my favorites. Most of the blue ones you’ll see are from Chefchaouen, but the rest were from Tangier, Marrakech, and Fes. I absolutely love Islamic architecture and the ornate tile work on some of these doors. (Also, I’m always sort of curious what kind of magic lies behind them!)
Like most tours go in Morocco, the guides want to take you to every possible shop around so that you get an “inside view” of how people live there. In reality, they just want you to buy stuff. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes it can be a lot of fun and you might find something you really like, but generally, the guides and the shop owners are running a game together and are trying to sell as much as they can to unassuming tourists. And not only that, but they’re going to rake you over the coals to get as much money out of you as you can. Am I jaded? Probably. But after dealing with this time after time in my few weeks in Morocco, I learned their games early and learned to stand firm.
So, on my tour to the Sahara Desert, we stopped off at a house and makeshift attic carpet shop where our small group was given Berber whiskey (Moroccan mint tea) and shown a variety of carpets. I’d already purchased the one carpet my luggage could handle for my several-month trip, and I knew I wasn’t about to purchase anything else. After the presentation, my friend Chris and I found our way back downstairs and headed towards the front door so we were ready to go when everyone else finished with their purchases. On the way out, I found a room with a loom, where women would sit to make these colorful carpets. Only, on this pile of wool was a tiny little kitten who found the perfect sleeping spot. I quickly sat down in front of it and started shooting photos because it was one of the cutest things I’d seen on my whole trip (aside from the kitten who adopted me in Chefchaouen and came to find me a few nights in a row to curl up with me while I ate dinner). How sweet was this kitten?
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There’s so much to see in Jemaa el Fna, at all hours of the day. You’ll find people touting spices and cookies; orange juice stands; women who will chase you down and try to put henna on you; snake charmers; pop-up restaurants; monkey handlers; and cross-dressing men who dance in front of audiences. But one very popular past-time seems to be this odd game where you have a weighted ring tied to the end of a string that dangles from a wooden pole. You then try to get this ring around the cap and neck of a bottle of soda, which are arranged in a circle, and if you get it–you get to keep the soda! It’s a pretty inexpensive game, but also a mildly irritating one because it’s a lot more difficult than you’d think! The men who run the stands make it look so easy, but stand around and watch the people try it for a few minutes and you’ll see that it’s not. The guy who ran the place even explained to us how he did it, but none of us could figure it out.
If you’re hanging out in Jemaa el Fna, spare a few dihram and give it a shot!
Like the photography on Meganotravels? Check out my Etsy shop to order prints!
When I traveled through Morocco, I made a point to stay within the medina in every city in which I visited. While that meant a lot of chaos, cacophony, getting lost, and sometimes being overwhelmed, it also provided me with what I felt was an “authentic” Moroccan experience. I loved meandering through the souqs and seeing how regular people lived, how they shopped, and how they relaxed. This photo was taken early in the morning in Marrakech before the hordes of people filled the souq. I loved the light streaming through the thatched roof and the sort of quiet calm before the storm. The mornings and evenings were my favorite times of day in Marrakech–the mornings for their quiet beauty and the evenings when the streets and square were teeming with people.
The van cruised along, seven of its passengers asleep, leaving just me, our driver, and tour guide, Ismael, to take in our surroundings. They’d done this tour hundreds of times, but for me, it was the very first time I laid eyes on the Sahara–and it felt like a welcome sight after the past couple of days making it there.
My friend Chris and I booked a Sahara Desert camping tour based on a recommendation from his uncle and because of a blog post I’d read a year or so prior to my trip to Morocco. It was the thing I was most looking forward to–riding camels, camping under the stars in the desert, and sitting around a fire. But the journey there was a rough one. The driver, who’d navigated those roads and knew them like the back of his hand, took them at breakneck speeds–whizzing past other cars and whipping around hairpin curves. The control-freak in me was white-knuckling it through–holding on for dear life and, despite my lack of religion, calling upon Morocco’s deity, Allah, to keep us from toppling over the edge and plummeting to our untimely deaths. Others in the van were worse off than I was–reaching for the plastic bags that held their souvenirs just to have something to vomit into.