When choosing a destination for Episode 8 of Photo Number 6 I had no hesitation in choosing Morocco. Hugged by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea this country in Northern Africa is spectacularly diverse in it’s landscape, cultures and ethnic mix.

I had visited Morocco as a tourist 10 years earlier but, sadly, I put my back out prior to the trip and I was essentially restricted to Marrakech, Essaouira and Casablanca. I could only gaze wistfully at the High Atlas and dream of the deserts and kasbahs that lay on the other side of this spectacular mountain range.

Our concept for this episode was to travel from Sea to Sand, from

the seaside fishing city of Essaouria to the sandy land of the Bedouin in the Sahara. As is usual in every episode of Photo Number 6 we had plenty of adventures and photo opportunities planned for the long journey.

Starting the journey in Essaouria we set out to explore two of the city’s key elements, the sea and the port it services. Arriving late in the day we powered down to the port seeking the sunset vista that the city is famous for and it certainly did not disappoint.

The next day, after engaging a local fisherman’s services, we decided to follow the path of the City’s renowned seafood dishes from sea to plate by fishing for our supper and cooking it ourselves. Shortly after setting out on our fishing expedition the romance of our concept paled significantly as, one by one, we were overtaken by sea sickness!

Back on dry land preparing and eating our measly catch was a far more enjoyable experience.

From Essaouira we travelled inland to the legendary Marrakech subject of countless films, books and songs. We set out to explore the city’s teeming markets or souks with their bewildering layout and overwhelming selection of products. This adventure would have been too daunting without the invaluable assistance of local guide Mohammed Zara’s (affectionately known as TAF TAF)

 

Marrakech is one of the most fascinating and vibrant cities in the world and it was a joy to explore deep into its heart.

Onward toward the desert we traversed the High Atlas. This mountain range runs the length of Morocco and effectively divides the country’s deserts from the coastal plains.

The mystique of this mountain range is felt around every bend with fascinating details emerging amongst the seemingly barren landscape. Of greatest interest to me we’re the photographic opportunities presented by the twisting mountain roads. We scoured the Atlas for some of the more iconic examples of these tortured stretches of tarmac.

 

As we descended from the High Atlas a completely different world awaited us. We were in the land of the Berber with its towering, often, derelict Kasbahs scattered along ancient trading routes. Our journey took us through hugely contrasting environments from dry and barren mountains to and oasis and famous desert towns.

Our next story was an investigation of the film studios of Ouarzazate. It was extraordinary to discover the scale of the film industry in Morocco. The film studios in Ouarzazate have hosted some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies.

Mammoth sound stages sit, almost forlornly, in the desert sand with decaying plaster columns and faded canvas imitating solid stone and brick. For a Game of Thrones fan like me, wandering the empty alleyways of Khaleesi’s palace was a rare treat.
We drove on toward journey’s end in Erg Chebbi to marvel in the majesty and isolation of the dune seas of the Sahara.
It was here that we met a nomadic Bedouin family eking out an existence in the hard stony ground of the desert’s fringe. Our journey from Sea to Sand had been one of remarkable contrasts. We had experienced Arab, Berber and Bedouin culture and marvelled at scenery more diverse than imaginable.
I can promise you Morocco that I will return to explore the cities and desert of the north as soon as possible because this country remains one of the most seductive and interesting and photographic destinations I have ever visited.
Special thanks must go to our amazing Moroccan producer Karim El Amri. Karim ensured that we never missed a moment of adventure on the trip and his film ‘fixing’ skills were incredible when it came to securing and negotiating permits and appearances. Karim can be contacted through Facebook @moraction.fixerinmorocco