Irregular Posts; Morocco 8, Rabat

Casablanca; Monday 22nd Salaam, Fez to Casablanca via Rabat.   With a cold, I slept most of the way from Fez to Casablanca.  So I missed seeing most of the agriculture, and green fields, and activity of the region.  The highway was smooth and wide so my napping was not rudely broken. Rabat is a city for government and not that touristy.  But there was a neighborhood where there was a kasbah, Fes al Bali, of blue and white buildings and narrow and cobbled hilly streets. Again each turn has a pretty street and doors and flowers over walls.  As usual people are not happy to see a group of 7 photographers lined up like a “firing squad”.  We shoot the architecture, and respectfully not the people.  Kids do like to get involved with the shoots and make interesting candids as they play. At one small blue door, there appeared two young guys with a box that said “refrigerator”.  The entrance door was short and narrow, and set into a large arched door. There was no way that the box would go through standing up.  They tried to tip and slide through but the box was too wide.  Our guide Ishmael suggested to them to open the big arched door.  But it could not be done easily.  OK take the refrig out of the box and try again. The happy woman owner brought a knife and the unpacking began.  Soon the shiny chrome steel was tipped and moved through the door.  They had done a good job of knowing the refrig was OK for the smalldoor. A farewell dinner at the Sheraton in Casablanca was typical of these things.  The...

Irregular Posts; Morocco 7, Fes

Fes; Sunday 21st Salaam, Shopping and touring day in Fes.  [fez is a hat, fes is a city].  Busy day in the city;  arch doors at the King’s palace – Melih or Jewish quarter and cemetery from 14th century – a panorama of city from south fort – pottery artisan shop – medina [old walled city] – lunch – tannery and the stomach turning smells of leather work – rug coop – weaver coop.  Jeez Louisz, I am tired! Note the shopping venues listed.  Meg did her bargaining thing and quite well I suspect. Slippers (baboushes) for home and gift.  OK.  A million knot per square meter room living room sized rug for $30.000! Not for us thanks. “I want a small one, 2 ft by 3 ft.  The colors have to be…”.  The merchant was very disappointed that she didn’t want to see even the “small” 4×6 rugs.  He had the assistants, who let the rugs roll out with a flourish and snap, finally bring a handful of the desired size.  “Ali Baba, what do you want?”  “She is the one you need to talk to.”  The seller started at 1200 USD Meg countered at 200!   She hardnosed him to a final 260 USD!!  I bleed for sellers when they have to face up to her.  I get uncomfortable and just respond that “she is the boss”!  I did negotiate for a couple of fossils and a cheap Maroc shirt!.  But expensive stuff?  Not me thanks. Questions about Maroc-Jewish issue. There are 8 million people in Maroc with currently about 2500 Jews.  They no longer live in the Melih [Jewish...

Irregular Posts; Morocco 6, Sahara

Fes; Friday 19th Sabeh el Kheir, Maroc [and probably all the Muslim world] has been preparing for the holiday El Aid for many days.  It celebrates the Muslim version of the Abraham-Issac story of sacrifice.  Each family sacrifices a ram on the morning of the 17th.  The ram was purchased a day to a week prior to 17th at a cost of $180 to $300 USD. On the morning of the 17th everyone goes to the outdoor mosque to witness the Imam do the ritual ram, and then a second ram for the poor.  The attending thousands of people, dressed in their finest djellabas return to their homes and prepare their own ram.  Over three million rams are sacrificed in Maroc that morning. While the men attend to their family sacrifice, the women and girls go visiting.  They are dressed in their finest clothes.  Sheep are hung and bled and skinned.  This new meat must age a few days before it can be eaten.  Families and friends walk around the village or city visiting and sharing family time. As we drove through the villages and towns, we had glimpses up narrow streets.  We could see men holding a ram outside their door.  Another street, a ram on its side with men around it.  Women and girls on the main street walking arm in arm, greeting with cheek kisses, and talking. Another narrow side street, a ram being skinned.  Further up the road, ram hanging and “drying”.  [Here in Fes, two days later, we saw men who buy sacrificed ram skins to be processed for “dead wool” and leather.] Our guide Ishmael,...

Irregular Posts; Morocco 5, Skoura

Skoura; Mon 15th Salaam, “The road of a thousand kasbahs.”  We are west of Ourzazate, and east of Skoura at Kasbah ben Moro.  Our view from our third floor kasbah room was through a small 18×30 inch window set into a 18 inch thick adobe wall. The view west looked through a palm grove toward another kasbah a mile away across a dry river bed.  This was the fourth kasbah since we crossed an 7,400 foot pass in the High Atlas Mountains a couple of days ago  The old caravan route is lined with these forts. They provided services and protection to travelers, and collected passage taxes. The first kasbah was at Ait Benhaddou. It was a location for filming a lot of movies, “Gladiator” “Lawrence of Arabia” and many many more.  The city nearby is referred to as Hollywood Morocco.  It has a number of movie studios and housing for thousands of movie actors and production people.  A large sphinx could be seen a half mile away from the road!!  Maroc is friendly to tourists, and movie companies who bring good money.  Good Income [and they leave when they are done!]. This evening, we had a very nice supper of chicken tajine with pickled lemon and olives, couscous, and bananas and tangerines for dessert.  The Moroccan wine was expensive and unforgettably poor.  It reminded me of an old retsina from Greece. Perhaps this wine was just “gone by”. We did some night shooting.  Pushing our envelope with some light painting.  Someone uses a flashlight to “paint” the walls or palm tree or? with light.  Different colored gels over...

Irregular Posts; Morocco 4, Marrakech

Marrakech; Sat 13th Salaam, Here I sit in the lobby of this upscale hotel, Tichka Salam, in Marrakech.  The atmospheric lighting is too weak in our room to see the keyboard. The pretrip info suggested the need for a portable reading light; but in an expensive hotel in the city? I suppose I could put on my headlamp like I was on a night hike!!  I think NOT.  The entrance hall into the room is OK!  But the power cord will not reach any outlet. So battery it is while I sit in the hall!   “Type fast, Holmesie!!” Five days and I have shot 900 images.  Meg has about 700. Damn good thing we brought computers and portable hard drive to upload each day’s work.  Cards get full, batteries run low.  My new international power strip has decided that it does not like this hotel. With only two plug converters and up to four devices that need power…   I hope it likes the next hotel stop.  We are heading towards the Sahara and eventually the town of Merzouga. Pushing both of our photography envelopes.  Tripods for dark work at predawn in Essaouira.  ISO at 100 with 30+ second exposures.  Don’t forget to turn off the Vibration Control otherwise problems in sharpness of the image….  No flash for dark shooting. Now we are in the main plaza at Marrakech – Djemaa al Fna.  It is a very crowded and large plaza.  It could hold a handful of football fields and still have open space on the margins.  5PM.  The place is becoming alive after the quiet of the tourist...

Irregular Posts; Morocco 3, Essaouira

Essaouira; Friday 12th Salaam, Early morning rising for a 6AM shoot.  We are headed to the docks before sunrise.  Tripods, f11 and 100 ISO for the cameras.  No vibration control please; as this actually causes some vibration when on the tripod.   I had my hiking headlamp on to see the controls.  Still it is a bit trial and error to compose in the dark.  Waiting for the thirty seconds or so to elapse for the exposure.  Apprehension rises.  “What result?” Meg is having trouble with the autofocus on the old Canon Rebel.  She and the photoleader, Kathy Adams Clark, think I might have messed up the controls.  But after playing with it, they now think the camera is malfunctioning on its own.  Kathy has let Meg use her Canon 7D!!!  This HIGH end camera should be more than satisfactory.  The back up camera we brought is an old Pentax point and shoot. I set up to do multiple shots of the fort in case I later want to learn HDR processing.  Your eye can see 15 stops of light while film and digital might see only 5.   HDR takes overexposed [for shadow detail], underexposed [for highlight detail] and some midtone exposures.  These are combined in software so that a dozen stops of light become part of the one final image. Blue dories, tied together, rise and fall with the waves and winds in the small boat harbor.  Men work to load the larger fishing boats from these blue dories.  They will go out into the Atlantic later in the morning.  Dawn comes and the glow of orange surrounds and...