Taking the tourist road of Morocco

Photographer Stefan Haworth in Musée ben Youssef, Marrakesh, Morocco
Sony Ambassador

Digital Imaging Ambassador

Camel ride with KamKam Dunes nomadic Sahara Desert, Morocco.
I had envisioned Morocco as being a place that’s hard to find the beaten track, but it seemed the clear tourist track was very much imbedded. In my opinion mainly due to the fact the best places were well and truely found, although I did find some lesser known areas that I loved.
Roads through Morocco
Leather tannery at Fes, Morocco
Kasbah Ouarzazate, Morocco
Photographer walking though Sahara desert Oasis, Morocco
To me, Morocco seemed like a far fetched place that was close to unexplored. Yeah, maybe 20 years ago or pre social media which made destinations like this, desirable to everyone. That and the fact Europe was right on it’s doorstep for Morocco as a cheap destination. I don’t often take the tourist route but my time in Morocco was mostly on it, so I’ve shared my thoughts on the experiences I had.
Gorges Toughra, Morocco
Within minutes of landing into Marrakech’s hustle of the main square or as it’s called the Jemaa el-Fna near the old Medina. I’m not a fan of tourist areas at all, it’s just high commercialism and pushy people after your money, it’s not always the real culture i look for. But I was in love, the smells of food, the accents, the sounds. I knew these feelings wouldn’t last, but I was really done with India. It all got a bit too much. You can read about it HERE. It honestly felt great to be in a tourist area which isn’t words you’d normally hear from me.
Gorge Du Dandes, Morocco
Leather tannery at Fes, Morocco
Kasbah Ouarzazate, Morocco
Backflip in to desert oasis, Morocco
Tourist areas are known for haglers or street sellers, it can ruin your holiday for many, you can get ripped off or just simply annoyed. I had been warned that going to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt would be the worst of the worst. In fact I found it easy. If you look like an easy target, they will seek you, they will hound you. Look like you know what you’re doing, you’re a hard sell and they will miss the easy targets.
Things I found easy to avoid getting hounded, basic tips:
-walk with pace and know exactly where you are going. If you dawdle they see you as easy meat, easy to get their sales tactics across.
-listen but don’t signal you understand them, look like you’re on a task or completely oblivious. They wont bother if you don’t trigger, to “bonjour, hola, g’day, hello”. They have their languages or responses for certain countries they stick to. If they are walking beside you keep looking ahead. If they get pushing and can keep up with your pace, don’t acknowledge them, or even further put your hard up to stop with a made up language. They wont bother. If you seem too hard they wont waste any more time. Easy tourists to them is dumb tourist and bigger opportunity for more money.
-if they see you looking for street signs or buildings like you’re lost, easy meat. Know where you are. I find it easy as I find it easy to look at a map and know exactly where I am for hours. Last resort for me if they keep bugging is saying you’re waiting for your friend, looking around at the people every now and again.
-There’s good and bad ones. Don’t be rude, they could save you ass, you’re in their area.
-cut your airport luggage tags off as they know you’re fresh.
-my f-stop camera bag is a pro and a con. It looks like a normal bag and not full of thousands of dollars of gear, so it’s less of a target for thieves. A downside is looking like you need accom. You get the locals looking for a cut on bringing tourists to accomodation.
-Don’t believe everything you’re told, some will lie like it’s closed or can’t go that way knowing we will trust them, then take you a different route for commission on guiding or way to make money. They know they wont see you again so they make the most of it with your trust.
-once you ask a price in Morocco, it means you want to buy and you’ve commenced bartering. I’ve found Morocco the most pushy of all the countries I’ve been to. If you’re not buying, you’re wasting their time and most of the time I got kicked out of the shops. There’s no looking in that country. The shops that did let me browse and did understand that I was getting an idea of price if i asked were the ones I purchased from.
-not everything you see is real and authentic, they might say they make it or their family does, it’s family tactics.
Al Attarine Madrasa, Fes, Morocco
Camel ride with KamKam Dunes nomadic Sahara Desert, Morocco.

I love the Spanish, I’m not talking the girls, I’m talking the influence they had in the conquering days. with all the negative stuff behind empires conquering and wars also brings the good with combination of cultures. The food, culture architecture, it’s really something else. Mexico for example, amazing. Morocco is just as mind blowing. Don’t quote me on to what extent the Spanish has influence, it’s only what I heard as I was near a tourist group. 
Wandering through a maze of mud plastered buildings with the intricate details of beauty is something that wont be forgotten. I repeat the maze, it’s like a rabbit warren with stone alleyways. Each building is like a castle, big walls and inside an internal courtyard where the rooms surround. Every corner I didn’t know what to expect.
Ruins in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

Giveaways and More

Join the Monthly emailer for Competitions, discount codes from Sony, News and what I’m up to!

Blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco
In Morocco there is antique stores like nothing else, it’s like something from the jungle book. daggers, chests, shiny plates, vases. You’ll find more interesting treasure than what the Queen of England has. OK a lot is made to look like it’s hundreds of years old but it’s really something else. It’s not like all the stuff you find in Asia. Shopping in Morocco is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of things that I would actually put in my home… thats if I had one. So at least it gives me an excuse to get back there.
The food, one I was really done with India’s food so my mind was blown away from the cuisine, the tajine were amazing, like a roast but terracotta plate and a cone lid with a hole for steam to exit and to be filled with water so it can be slowed cooked. I found in the villages the food selection would be a bit slimmer in choice but the larger towns were something to thrive on. This trip has been the most I’ve even stayed on the tourist trap, looking back it would have been interesting to stay with a local family eating more of their food as I found myself sticking to my usual tajine or their meat sandwiches.
Ruins in the Sahara Desert, Morocco
Capturing timeless images of people within their culture is what I really seek while exploring these countries. I’m not talking about the people that are dressed up and pose for photos at the tourist spots then you have to pay, i’m not talking about locals that are wearing clothing plastered with commercialism like ‘coca-cola’ or ‘Bintang’. It’s the locals doing their usual daily life in the fields or selling at market in authentic or unlabelled clothing. Capturing what they really do. Morocco wasn’t hard to avoid the commercialism side of things, it was that no one would be happy with their photo being taken. Like very very hard to get an image. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing or if they are very used to tourists taking images but they aren’t happy at all. It’s not just in the main area, far villages too. Men would put up their hand or use a newspaper to hide their face, the women would pull their headdress to cover their face in the far distant before I’ve even noticed them. And this would happen well before I’ve even touched the small camera hanging off my shoulder. Every country I go I have a goal to get 10 portfolio portraits. Morocco I struggled heavily. I have my tactics but they still didn’t work, no one was happy.
Aït Benhaddou famous movie set for gladiator, Game of Thrones, Morocco
Photographer Stefan Haworth reviewing photos in Morocco
Mother and Baby walking through Marrakesh, Morocco
Portrait of street performer in Marrakesh, Morocco
Markets in Marrakesh, Morocco
Portrait in the Sahara Desert
End of day tea celebrations at KamKam Dunes nomadic Sahara Desert accomodation
As soon as you ask to take a portrait the image is a right off. Any lack of communication will make it close to impossible to get an authentic pose. I’m always on the lookout for a special portrait that tells a story. When I spot something I like, I sit down on a step or curb, from the angle I want to shoot from. It’s usually opposite them so I drop my bag as if I’m tired and need a rest. Get out my drink bottle and take a sip, I’d look around and be smiley, look to the subject and smile or nod, sometimes I’d sit for 10minutes or 30mins. I’d chat to the locals around. I’d have my camera preset with the focus range set. Not pulling it up to my eye I shoot from my hip or off my knee. Making sure all capture lights are turned off and no sound is noticeable, if they notice the aperture blades close then it’s time to move on. Next is to check the 20 or so images I snapped but to do it in disguise I pull out the SD card pretending like i’m switching it. Next I’d go over and buy some fruit or ask some questions on what they are doing, be super amazed. It’s all about communication, hand over the correct change and point to 1 item like an apple. It’s good to hand them the change before they ask like you know what you’re doing and know how much. Thank them, ask their name and shake their hand, shaking a hand goes a long way, no one with wealth will shake hands with someone of a lower class. You’re now looking at them as equal even though your camera staring them in the face could be their year’s earnings. Sit down where you were and eat or rest again. Now is the dummy part as if photos weren’t on your mind. Go to leave and then 2 steps later pretend as if you’d just thought up you’d like to take their photo. Return and ask if you can take their photo, but use gestures to indicate they have a good stall or do a great good job, emphasis it. They are more likely to say yes. Don’t take the photo that second, look then take 2 steps back to where you planned your photo, take the image, then show them. Shake their hand again and show them, point to your mouth and and smile over the top, give them a thumbs up to show they have a good smile. It may seem stupid but the smile or over the top expression goes a long way. They get tourist after tourist and never see the photo again, go over the top and show how much you appreciate it. Give a massive smile and wave goodbye. Buy more fruit or biscuits. Might seem tedious but it works. The first photo is them in their element, the second is them happy and looking at you with passion. You may have sat there for an hour and they decline which happens but you’re more likely to get an image that will be worth keeping. Plus it’s only good if you’re solo too, mates can be distracting, that and the fact you would have long lost your friends by now.
Investing the time into meeting them authentically and not come across photo hungry will mostly avoid them asking for money. I can’t stand paying for a portrait, not that they don’t deserve it, more that they see it as easy money and it can dramatically led to dependancy or get used to a normality of begging. It changes them looking anything they do for a tourist deserves money. It takes away from natural human interaction.
Le Bain Bleu, Marrakesh, Morocco
Morocco has become a very unique culture and I can’t get enough. Throughout the ages have been hammams, like Turkish baths, a communal hot wash room where you go get scrubbed down. I had no idea to any of this until chatting amongst tourists, after reading some interesting stories how you strip down and get scrubbed roughly. It seemed like a bit of a laugh, maybe something I’d do once and never again or enjoy it. In the old Medina of Marrakesh the hammams would be very easy to pass by, It’s only by google maps did I find them and I had been past a couple several times before knowing about them. The historic hammams would normally be next to the bakeries reusing the heat from the ovens. You’d pay your small fee, undress and get washed down before going to the mosque. Now in a modern day there’s more luxurious types in hotels and high end massages. I’d normally shy away and go localised but 6 months on road my body was dusty and run down, I felt I could splurge out. After googling and still undecided to which one I’d like to go to, I wanted it as authentic as possible but some well earned relaxation. Weaving my way through the maze of alleyways I found Le Bain Bleu. A boutique Hotel with an underground hammam. I arrived early so sat around the courtyard pool unsure what it would be like, surely better than the $5 Bali massages. I read online at the local hammans, they get buckets of hot water and chuck it at your body, roughly scrub it down. Led to the changing room, it looked fancy, I undressed into robes, led underground to this massive stone chamber with candles lighting up the blue pool. The heat hit me. I got led down the hall to a room of my choice, big sliding doors I look inside. A large room with a bench that hugged the sides, the ceiling like something from a old age movie. I entered this hot steamy room, the floors warm, I sit down on this large warm step where she pours hot water over my body, again and again, removing all dirt, soaking me. At home I usually just stand in the shower for 20 mins, when I say stand, I just stand and let the water run over my body. Here with splashes of the water hitting the floor I felt like a king, every corner of my body was getting washed down. Don’t think I’ve been that clean and that was just the start. That was just the rinse and it lasted for ages, I’d be laying down and then sit up right for every step. After each step I’d stand then get washed head to toe again. Each step I felt more and more calmed and slow. It was much more bearable than a sauna, everything was warm, the floor, the walls, the step where you lay. Now came the scrubbing, I was nervous incase it all went to shit from there onwards. NOPE. I was rubbed with this textured glove, removing all my skin, rinsed, scrubbed again, rinsed. She would calmingly let me know every procedure but I was out to it. She’d ask me to sit up but I’d just agree and do nothing. I was with the fairies. Hammams should purely be a reason to go to Morocco, just for this. After my 2 hours I put the robe back on and was taken to the underground pool where I dipped to subtle temperature. Back upstairs and taken to a private room for a massage. I’d like to say I remembered it all but I was out to it, trying to keep myself awake, in and out of sleep, I gave in. I got a strong massage but I was so relaxed that there was nothing to do. I woke up slowly. To this day I’ve never had my body so relaxed, never been so calm. By far the best massage to date and the longest. I slipped into new clothes and felt like I was a new person. Not that weird one with earth shit, I mean I had a hop in my step and it wasn’t from sex. I felt so fresh, every part of my body felt like it was just born, all my sensitivity was awake. The inside had strict privacy due to other patrons there so I was gutted I couldn’t get a few photos but then that would have taken a bit of the experience away from it. I like reading trip advisor about the best places to go to but never adding my input as my favourite places I want them to stay my own little secret that doesn’t change with popularity but this was too hard not to share. Le Bain Bleu is a must do, I hope the next time I go back it’ll be just a good.
Campfire in Nomadic Camp in the Sahara desert, Morocco
Palm tree oasis in Sahara desert, Morocco
All through Morocco there’s trips advertising the Sahara Desert. There’s two areas of the Sahara desert that are most commonly visited by the tourists in Morocco, Zagora, a stoney desert thats closer or the further Merzouga. There’s no lack of options to get transport to the deserts at all, the problem is they’re rushed, the road there is some of the most beautiful areas you’ll see. It was some of the best of Morocco I had seen, huge oasis’s with mud fort or properly named kasbah’s crested amongst Grand Canyon shaped valleys. Going back I would add a lot more time to explore the valleys. It was something from the movies, which yeah a lot of movies were filmed in the area from Games of Thrones to Gladiator. Arriving just main hub of Merzouga I was excited for the endless sand dunes I had seen pictures of, I raced out into the dunes for sunset. To be honest I was hugely disappointed, I climbed the largest sand dune close by and could see the edge of the sand dunes a km away. Everywhere the eye could see was tracked out, not just by humans but motorbikes. Finding those untouched sand dune shots weren’t as easy as I had thought. The Merzouga dunes area was in the shape of a giant-jellybean-pear shape so I hoped the larger north end would be much better. Maybe it was the off season for the winds to clean them up. I walked for 30mins and was halfway across the south end of the sand dunes and still not an untouched sand dune. All these images I’d seen plastered over instagram showed endless sand dunes with not a sole in sight. With such high expectations of Morocco and the wildness of it all I was feeling a bit more let down. I know again I was on the tourist track and this is only the edge of the Sahara desert but in my mind I pictured coming to the sand dunes they would be going as far as the eye could see. 
Booking any trip through a hostel is far from pleasing for the photographic minded. These camels treks are explained that you explore the sand dunes then stay the night then spend the day coming out. It sounded like a proper adventure for the night, but what I envisioned was a lot different than expected. A group of us left just before sunset on camels, watched the sunset, arrived at camp after an hour then you leave the next morning back to town on the same track. It felt a bit rushed and no time to actually enjoy the dunes. The camp itself had two other camps next to us, is a 15min run in the sand away and over 50 camps spread out through the dunes that tour companies had set up. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time and it would blow so many minds, watching the sunset sink over the dunes while on camel was something else, and the tribal drums around the campfire, sleeping in huts. I’m not saying it’s bad at all, just take in mind it’s catered for all variations of tourists from stock standard backpackers that are happy not washing for a week to a traveller with a bag with wheels and wouldn’t ride a camel for long. I had more of an adventure in mind, more rawness, but maybe that was what I had stemmed in my mind from social media. 

Driving through Sahara Desert, Morocco
Looking back to get that adventure I really seeked would be to really get into the desert away from the tourist route, get away from civilisation. So I put it down to this illusions or conceptions thats evolved from social media or mainly instagram. I wanted to see more though of the dunes though, but I didn’t want to risk with another companies camel dunes trek. Like heck there’s over 100 camels waiting on the edge of the town waiting to take you to one of the camps. I only had a few days before a little pulse in the swell hits, that allowed one a couple of days. Without renting a car and disappearing over the border I decided the best bet would be looking for a higher end camp into the north area of the sand dunes, the north looked bigger on Google earth and less camps scattered amongst the dunes. After some research I found KamKam Dunes in the furthest area of the dunes, away from main hub. I was Picked up early in a Land Rover and steadily taken through an old river bed to the camp. I was greeted and taken down a rug path to my room. I kinda thought to myself “O OH”, this is too fancy for me, I took things a bit too far in Morocco and I went all out, I hit luxury again. Double bed with linen, a shower, basin and toilet. The camp is on the outskirts of the sand dunes but overlooks sand dunes, …and untouched ones at that. This is what I was after, sitting back in a stack of cushion I attempted playing a 3 string guitar, main word, attempted. I think the dog was a sign that I should have given up a long time ago. Tea was served and the berbers that worked there joined in. The afternoon was spent chatting and chatting. I almost got carried away and forgot about sunset. They asked if I would like to go on a private camel ride for sunset which I couldn’t give up the opportunity. I was away, walking amongst giant sand dunes, the only tracks were from lizards or birds, some type of animals. This felt more realistic. We were the only ones around, I could see nothing but untouched nature. Nothing was a rush, we sat on the sand looking over this valley of dunes. I really enjoyed my first night in the desert but being out at KamKam felt more special. There was time to relax, time to take it in, appreciate the beauty that surrounded me. After wandering back to camp we sat around the fire to later be taken away for dinner. Bellies full and around the fire pit again. The following morning was a hard one to leave. My time at KamKam Dunes was too short, yeah it was complete luxury at it’s finest but ignoring that, it was a treat to see the landscapes from a relaxed environment. Both options were great but I thoroughly enjoyed my time at KamKam Dunes.
Playing guitar at KamKam Dunes nomadic Sahara Desert accomodation, Morocco.
Sand dunes in the Sahara desert, Morocco
KamKam Dunes nomadic in the Sahara Desert accomodation, Morocco.
Camel ride with KamKam Dunes nomadic Sahara Desert, Morocco.
Celebrations at KamKam Dunes nomadic Sahara Desert accomodation, Morocco.
I hadn’t seen the coast for quite some time and Morocco is well known for it’s epic surf. I was so eager to get some swell but I wanted to time it right so I’m not inland and have ‘fomo’ if there were waves hitting. Luckily over the month I timed it perfectly and had a few days of decent waves but far from the size I’d really like to see. The most famous surf centre is Taghazout, a small hub where everyone is there purely to surf, it surprised me though, I didn’t expect to see the quantity of surf schools there. It was just off peak season and there were soo many crowds. Drop dead gorgeous long point breaks perfect for long boarding but an termite mine of learners. But hey gotta start somewhere. Ignoring the fact of the lack of swell, i could imagine this place pumps when it’s big. It’s really on my list to get back to and explore properly.
Surfing in Morocco
Surfing in Taghazout, Morocco
White and blue buildings in Morocco
Surfing in Morocco
Surfing in Morocco
Photographer Stefan Haworth in Morocco
Surfing in Morocco
Chefchaouen, famously known it’s blue alleyways has your eyes tinted with beauty. I had no idea what to expect, at first light I was up and exploring, everywhere I went I recognised every famous photo spot. The blue alleyway with pots, the blue courtyard, the alleyway with rugs. I was quite taken away or maybe it was my eyes seeing blue all day. I tell you what I had the “I’m blue, double dee double daa, .. I have a blue house with a blue window, blue is the colour, the colour you know” Maybe the ‘blue’ sent me a little loopy. A great lookout and getaway I found nearby the the main restaurant area on the edge of the main blue city there’s a park that you pay to enter. It was once the prison where you can climb this tower. It’s a great way to look over the gardens and the blue city. 
I have no idea what made them think of painting it blue if it was for the tourists or something behind it all. either way it’s quite amazing. It’s really something to visit.
Blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco
Blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco
Morocco has really taken my breath away, like really. It’s very different to what I thought, but I blame that on instagram and how it has presented itself. It set my expectations much higher but then looking back it was frickn awesome and would love to go back any day.
Photographer Stefan Haworth in Musée ben Youssef, Marrakesh

@Stefan_haworth on Instagram