27 Nov 2022

Back to Morocco after so many years

There was a time when I felt at home in Morocco more than in Italy. I also lived a full year in Essaouira, the windy city right on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. From the professional point of view I used to go back and forth between Italy and Morocco since I had assignments one after another from the travel magazines I was working for. I definitely knew Morocco, from North to South and from East to West. Then, for not specific reasons, as it happens sometimes with the love of your life, this relationship came to an end. After so many years I have had the chance to go back to Morocco even though it will be for a very short time. I have been invited to a press trip, which I usually refuse since I cannot be free to work as I normally do since I am forced to stay with the group, to visit Rabat, Meknes and Fes. Three cities in three days. It is not the ideal timeframe to know a place, but in my case it’s different. I’m going back to a place once I called home. The curiosity made me accept this invitation and also the fact that we will be just three persons so not a large group, did the rest. I do know, though, that I won’t be able to do an extensive work, but I consider this an opportunity for a fact-finding mission. Marrakech won’t be touched in this coming trip since quite far from our itinerary by private van.

After landing in Casablanca at night, we drove to Rabat to sleep so the next day we’ll take full advantage of being already in place. I don’t want to be too specific about the travel to not bore the readers but I note some general thoughts that crossed my mind. Generally speaking I found less people with traditional attire than before. The old people still wear djellaba but the majority seems to have accepted the European style with a moroccan taste, of course. I also noticed less people wandering around the Medina, but this can be a side effect of the World Cup in Qatar where the moroccan team is competing during these days. What I didn’t recall at all it is the heavy presence of the police and army patrolling any corner of the cities. I am sure that plenty of plainclothes agents were between us as well, going unnoticed unless when, crossing some friends in uniform, they revealed themselves confidentially chatting and smiling to each other. As result there is much control in the streets, myself being questioned about what I was doing when I set my tripod for night shots. It looks like they are primarily concerned about video more than pictures since, as soon as I told them that I was taking pictures and no video, they left. By the way, talking about photos and permission… If you fly drones as part of your workflow, as normally I do, forget drones in Morocco. They are obsessed by drone, specially if brought in and operated by foreigners. It’s a dangerous risk trying to sneak in a drone ending with a seizure and, in the worst case scenario, the arrest and a fine. I am aware of people that successfully managed to enter the country with their drone, but it’s a risk because, as said, there are a lot of plainclothes agents anywhere and in the end it’s not worth the risk. 

Back to this travel of mine. In Rabat not to be missed is the Kasbah of the Udayas. Go to the conveniently located Cafè Maure, right on the ramparts with wonderful views over Salè and the sea. In Meknes don’t skip the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail an historic Islamic funerary complex. It contains the tomb of Sultan Moulay Isma’il, who ruled Morocco from 1672 until his death in 1727 and is located inside his former Kasbah. And the last but not the least, is Fes, the oldest city among the four Imperial Cities. Fes has the largest medina in Morocco which also is the largest area in the world forbidden to motors. In the old Fes-el-Bali, traffic is only about donkeys and humans pulling carts. According to me Fes is even more charming than the overrated Marrakech. As soon as I was able, I made my way to the Chouara Tannery which is one of the three tanneries in the city and the largest one as well as one of the oldest. It is located near the Saffarin Madrasa along the Oued Fes. I spent some times there taking pictures among the local workers, very few since I ended up being there during the World Cup match between Morocco and Croatia and many cats peacefully lying down in the sun. Cats… I forgot this presence. Cats are everywhere since they are very respected in the muslim religion. It is said that the Holy Prophet Muhammad had a cat named Muezza to whom he was very fond. One day he found her sleeping on his djellaba and to not disturb her sleep, cut the sleeve of his attire where she was accomodate in order to get his dress. 

It’s time to scroll trough the following pictures describing my quick tour in Morocco after so many years. Enjoy!