Morocco Photography Workshops for 2023 l Fes, Marrakech, Chefchaouen, Essaouira, High Atlas, Sahara
Our Morocco photography workshop has always been one of our favourite photo vacation destinations. This exotic country, located on the north west corner of the African continent, borders the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean sea, and includes a wonderful mix of Berber, Arabian, African and European influences. It is this mix of tradition, authentic customs, geographical diversity, ancient cities, stunning architecture and wonderfully photogenic people makes for excellent photo opportunities for the architectural, landscape, environmental portrait and street photographer. From the High Atlas mountains, to the Atlantic ocean, to the Sahara desert, this fascinating country is one of the most geographically diverse locations that the traveller can explore. Simply put, for the avid travel photographer, Morocco has it all. The duration of the Morocco workshop lasts for 9 days when we end in Marrakech, or 14 days with the extension that continues over the High Atlas mountains and into the Sahara desert.
Beginning in Fes [pronounced Fez], the imperial city dating back to the 13th century, our adventure starts by exploring the incredible Medina within the city walls. Containing over 9000 streets, Fes is a labyrinth of chaos and an overload for the senses. Due to the combination of photogenic backgrounds, interesting subjects and even lighting, Fes offers some of the world’s premier street photography. As the locals meander the Medina in traditional local garb, the soft lighting changes to directional, high contrast scenes at every turn, creating an atmosphere like nowhere else.
The cities of Fes and Marrakech in particular, are the perfect destinations to practice street photography. Morocco will test your technical abilities to it’s limits. In our experience, being in an environment where photographing the locals in a foreign country – likely outside of your comfort zone, will challenge your skills and boost your confidence in practising candid street photography on future trips. We are confident that overcoming your anxieties, once you have absorbed the chaos around you, is invaluable in getting you the shots you want. You will learn to become street-smart by becoming more inconspicuous, understanding the norms of the culture, and becoming aware of your surroundings. This type of photography requires an arsenal of different camera settings and techniques, and we will practise many of them of them during our time together.
This is where the help of an experienced photography guide who knows the locations and culture well is invaluable. Laurie Cohen, a professional photographer with 30 years experience in leading international photography tours and workshops, leads these workshops through Photo Workshop Adventures – our affiliate with over 150 photo adventures, in more than 50 countries, and on 7 continents.
Our time together will revolve exclusively around photography, while also experiencing the local cuisine – a fusion of cultures and influences from over the centuries has resulted in a unique cooking style, and has more in common with Middle Eastern cuisine than that of the rest of the African continent. Morocco is known for the quality and diversity of it’s cuisine, and popular dishes are Couscous, Tagine, Bastilla, Harira soup, Zaalouk, and other delicacies. As well as the local cuisine, a great way to wind down after a long day of shooting is by relaxing at some of the most beautiful hotels and Riads throughout the locations on the itinerary. Riads in particular, are mostly eighteenth and nineteenth century townhouses that revolve around an open patio. These residential buildings have been renovated and refurbished into the most beautiful and ornate living spaces and are now mostly used to accommodate tourists. Riads are some of the most beautiful and unique accommodations that we stay in on any of our international workshops.
One of the highlights on our trip is a visit to the town of Chefchaouen. Also known as the Blue Pearl, this charming hillside town perched within the Rif mountains is completely covered in every shade and tone of blue imaginable, and makes for a stunning background for environmental portraits and architectural photography. The custom of painting the town blue dates back to the 15th century, when Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition settled here. They brought with them their tradition of using blue paint to mirror the sky and remind them of the holy presence above. This tradition can also be seen in Safed, one of the 3 holy towns of Israel. Chefchaouen is much more relaxed than other towns in Morocco and moves at a slower pace. In this peaceful atmosphere, it is a pleasure to meander through the narrow streets, wander through it’s stairways and share a friendly word with the locals while enjoying the stunning scenery,.
Another favourite location on our itinerary is the coastal town of Essaouira. Life here centres around the dynamic fishing port that has been hauling in catches from the Atlantic ocean since the eighteenth century. Like many other sites in Morocco, the Medina of Essaouira is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Formerly known as Mogador, the Medina is an exceptional example of a mid-18th century fortified city surrounded by a Vauban-style wall. We love wandering within these walls, where urban decay has taken over facades due to the winds coming off the Atlantic. The sight of the waves pounding the walls of Essaouira is fabulous. Its Kasbah is also stunning to behold. Visiting the port never gets tiring, as this dynamic and bustling area is crammed with fisherman, traders and boatbuilders going about their day. Nearby to Essaouira is the small town of El Jadida. The fortified walls were built by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century, and the Kingdom of Portugal would continue to control the city until 1769. Equally impressive is the semi-subterranean chamber of the Portuguese cistern, constructed with five rows of five stone pillars and columns. The cistern is ideal for capturing directional lighting in an atmospheric setting while perfecting your composition.
Some of our favourite locations are often the most undiscovered hidden gems, and wandering through the quaint coastal town of Safi is definitely one at the top of our list. Located further north of Essaouira, Safi is a great stop on the way to continue north to El Jadida, and has some of the most interesting little alleys and decayed facades. Much of Safi is quite derelict, but this all adds to the charm of the place. Practicing street photography here is a delight, as an occasional local would pass through your frame, before you arrange your composition to predict their movement and capture the decisive moment. Compared to the hustle and bustle of the larger cities, Safi has a small town charm, and is the perfect spot to stretch our legs and absorb the friendly atmosphere before continuing on our journey.
When one thinks of Marrakech, the image of an exotic city where caravans of camels rest, Berber traders, snake charmers and fortune tellers argue over a glass of tea, and the aroma of spice markets fills the air, may come to mind. Marrakech is a pearl polished by history and a taste for hospitality, knowing how to welcome its guests with open arms for centuries. Arriving to Marrakech and entering the vast Medina is literally like stepping back in time. Surrounded by over 10km of fortified walls, this 11th century city really does have a lot to offer the photographer. The narrow alleyways meander through markets, mosques, palaces, religious schools, food stalls, artisan workshops, tea shops, spice wholesalers and shops containing just about every ornament known to man. The Medina is a fabulous maze of streets, alleyways and souks. Filled with character, it is an ideal location to get lost in and simply concentrate on photography. At night the famous Jemaa el-Fna square comes to life, and is a favourite local hang out for families coming to eat at open air food stands, have their fortunes told, sit amongst elderly storytellers, experience traditional music and watch the snake charmers in action . Wandering around this chaotic square with all this going on is an experience you will not forget.
Guests joining us on our 9 Day Morocco photography workshop have the option of extending the duration to 14 days, where the adventure continues over the High Atlas mountains, Dades valley and the Sahara desert. Stretching for over 1000km and separating the Mid-Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines from the Sahara desert, the High Atlas are North Africa’s highest mountain range, and contain a long and rich history. This region contains some of Morocco’s most remote and authentic villages. The Berber population are the original inhabitants of the region, and have refused to abandon their ancient traditions and habitat, despite often inhospitable weather conditions. The Berber people have origins here that date back over 10,000 years.
Known as the Valley of a Thousand Kasbah’s, the Dades Valley contains some of Morocco’s most stunning views, authentic rural traditions and unique villages that blend into the dramatic landscape. Heading through Boulmane Dades, giant rock stacks perch on the hillsides in all manner of shades of terracotta coloured rock. The Todra Gorge is a dramatically spectacular section of the valley, separating the Atlas Mountains from the Anti Atlas, and is one of southern Morocco’s great natural wonders and most spectacular canyons, with Kasbahs built into the rock, precariously overlooking the river below. Due to the soft, balanced light, exploring the Todra Gorge also offers us a great opportunity to photograph some of the regions most photogenic inhabitants. Kasbah’s are essentially fortresses, watchtowers or fortified citadels. The architectural designs are magnificent and unique in the choice of building materials used. Rammed earth, adobe, palm wood and cane result in buildings that are the very essence of sustainable environmental construction. They also look stunning within their surroundings.
Continuing East, we arrive to our desert camp in Merzouga between the dunes of the Sahara desert. This is an especially fun and unique part of our journey, as we enjoy camel rides over the magnificent sand dunes during sunset and sunrise. Relaxing by an open fire under a star filled night as Tuareg musicians entertain us before we rest in our private luxury tents really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the desert people and dramatic landscape of the world’s largest desert. After our sunrise camel trek, we enjoy breakfast before heading back to Marrakech, where we end our fantastic Morocco photo adventure and bid you farewell.
Our 2023 Morocco Photo Adventure will run on the following dates and spaces are limited:
MOROCCO l SEPTEMBER 30 – OCTOBER 8, 2023
MOROCCO & SAHARA DESERT l APRIL 15 – 28, 2023
MOROCCO & SAHARA DESERT l SEPTEMBER 30 – OCTOBER 13, 2023
Travel photographers that have up until now delayed their travel plans due to Coronavirus travel restrictions can now finally get ready to pack their camera bags and explore marvellous Morocco! With an increase in the global vaccination rate and a decrease in Coronavirus infections, Morocco has slowly but surely begun to open up to tourism since 2022. To find out about the current travel status and the necessary documentation needed according to your country of origin, we recommend that you initially visit the government website from your home country. The halt on global travel has caused travellers to reflect on what they want to get out of their travel experience, and this in turn reflects in travel trends for 2023. Research has shown that demand for educational-based tours will increase next year, as travellers yearn to absorb new experiences, learn a new hobby, or simply get inspired through new eyes. Our Morocco workshop is based around small groups of 4-8 guests, as we believe that this makes for a more productive and enjoyable experience.
Please contact Laurie or directly through the PWA website. We have limited availability, so be sure to book as early as possible!