The Streets of Morocco

November 05, 2022  •  1 Comment

Morocco, which I visited last month, can be a challenging place for street photography. Its cities and towns, at least the ones I visited, are warrens of narrow alleys wihich can plunge from brightly lit to very dark from one step to the next. On top of that, a lot of Moroccans don't like to be photographed. They will turn their faces or say. "No photo," if they see a camera lens pointing at them. I don't speak Arabic, so I had no way to cajole anyone into permitting a picture. I tended to shoot quickly and walk away before there could be a discussion. 

The woman above was walking up a street--or a staircase--in the city of Chefchaouen, in the hills of northern Morocco. Chefchaouen is called the Blue City, because of the way many of its houses and walls are painted. Our guide noted that the women of the city do the painting, three times a year. Women's work in Morocco also includes a lot of toting. In this case, I believe the woman was carrying a container of cooking or heating fuel. 

Her hat and dress indicate that she is a Berber. Berbers are the indigenous people of the area, though Morocco's rulers have for centuries been ethnic Arabs, who conquered in the name of Islam. 

I don't know whether the dog cared about being photographed or not.

Not all Moroccans refuse to be photographed. This man in Tanger cheerfully nodded when I gestured with my camera. It could have been becauze he proudly bears a mark of piety. That is the discolored callous around where his hairline might have been years ago. He got that callous by faithfully answering the call to prayer year after year, pressing his forehead to the floor as he prayed.

This cemetery photo was technically not street photography, since there was no street involved. I shot from a dirt trail approaching a village some miles outside of Chefchaouen. I have been told that under Islam, graves may not be adorned with images or representations of the deceased. So, white painted stones are often used to mark them. These stones look impossibly haphazard and close to be each marking a grave, so I don't know what exactly they are. Nor do i know if the spiky dead trees on the hill were killed purposefully to give the cemetery a suitably stark atmosphere, or whether they naturally died that way.

I was in the town of Moulay Idris (named for an Islamic luminary who was called Idris), when I saw this donkey carring jugs of water, being whipped by a man wearing his baseball hat backwards. My assumption is that this guy's trade is selling water to households that don't have piped, potable water. I further assume that the donkey is his delivery vehicle.

Well, I have never thought highly of the character of men who wear their baseball hats backward instead of letting the visor shade their faces, as God intended. My judgment of this man was confirmed when he scowled and said, "No photo." So I waited until he turned a corner and took this picture. The burro-driver realized what I was doing and scowled again, but he didn't stop to berate me further.

I plead guilty to being insensitive. I guess I'm lucky he didn't turn the whip on me.

Moroccan society seems very gender-segregated. I almost never saw a man and a woman walking or seated together. Men sat in cafes together and drank coffee. Women took their coffee, or tea, in places sheltered from a tourist's gaze. Even when they waited for a bus, as did this group in Fes, men and women seemed spontaneously to separate into gendered groups.

The woman with the eyeglasses, by the way, is an outlier in that she's showing her hair.

These are storks, nesting atop a rampart in the middle of Fes. This is odd, because Fes is in arid country, and storks are birds that need a wet environment. I think the answer is golf. King Hassan II, who ruled from 1961 to 1999, was a golfing enthusiast. He had courses built within the spacious, walled enclosures of his various palaces, including the one in Fes. This royal enclave happens to be  few blocks from the storks and the ramparts pictured above. Its golf course is reputed to have water hazards and the kinds of green, open spaces conducive to stork happiness. The palace walls are no problem if you can fly.

In Chefchaouen, a little girl is escorted to school by an older woman, perhaps her mother or grandmother. Both wear the accepted garb for their ages. Little girls can show their hair and wear pink smocks to school. But women generally cover their hair and wear drab colors and shapeless styles. Morocco's current monarch, King Muhammad VI, is an advocate of universal education, for both girls and boys, and it's easy to spot new school buildings as you travel. Perhaps the king thinks that he can have both an educated populace and a populace that accepts the traditional gender rules of Moroccan society. This little girl, though, may dream of a future in which she lets her hair shine in the sun and bares her shoulders if she wants to, just like the Disney princess, Moana, on her backpack. Maybe that's what the king wants, too.

Three boys whose paths I crossed in Fes, near my hotel. I do not know why they were made up as they were. It was more than a week before Halloween, and I don't know if Halloween is even recognized in Morocco. But they were innocently happy to have their picture taken. Then I gave them the change I had in my pocket and probably corrupted them for life.

On the coastline in Tanger, there is a rocky clifftop with indentations in the rock in the form of graves. It is called the Phoenician Tombs. The graves long ago were emptied and their contents placed in museums. On the morning when we visited, there were half a dozen Moroccans sitting on the rock, gazing silently out over the Straits of Gibraltar. On a clear day, you can see Spain.

 


Comments

ed starr(non-registered)
thanks for the trip.
the young girl's backpack was wonderful.
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