Marrakech; Sat 13th
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 day.
The 5:30PM the call to prayer echoes through the Djemaa el Fna plaza from the minaret. (It has a sister mosque, built by the same architect, in Seville, Spain. We will see it in a week and half.) I do not notice any decrease in activity as the call plays out over the plaza. We head for the snake charmers. Ishmael makes a deal with the head man. We will photograph them, and the snake action, and the music man for a set fee for as long as we want. “No snakes on the shoulders of any of the photographers. OK for the tourist but not the photogs.” Black cobras with forked tongues flicking the air, arched and ready to strike. The boy in the blue djellaba teases the snake to strike at/near him.
One brave guy wants to be draped with the rattlesnake. The snake is real but doesn’t seem too lively. Money is exchanged…friends take pictures…flashes from point and shoots. The handler removes the snake and tries to entice another young woman tourist.
We mount our cameras to tripods and walk from place to place shooting the lights, the motion, and action of the night. Fruit stands, meat stands, souvenirs, vendors, families, couples on motor scooters, a caliche with tourists. Hands in front of faces when they see a camera looking in their direction. Set-up tripods to try panning motorbikes; the stationary background in motion and the moving bike frozen sharp.
We are shooting a group of men gathered around a light and talking. Great shadows, silhouettes, light lines and blurs. A uniformed policeman approaches me and talks to me in French. I think he would like to see my great shots! I show him a few. Finally he says in English that I do not have permission to be shooting!!?? I do a dickythedunce look at all the tourists with cameras and say “OK, I’ll stop.” My colleagues continue to shoot as I shut down. I walk toward them and tell them we have been moved on. I guess he was referring to the tripod? OK move on. We plant tripods a hundred yards away near a stand of a vendor who sells mint tea and sweets. He is happy to pose and sell to us. The stand beside him looked at us with an unwelcoming eye.
There is tension here. Many seem to welcome the foreigners…others barely hide their dislike. Is it because we are “wealthy” visitors taking their picture? Or are we “too far” from their (religious) culture?
“Travel light and wear a smile.” Jack Holmes