An Endless Trip

“Travelling, one accepts everything; indignation stays at home. One looks, one listens, one is roused to enthusiasm by the most dreadful things because they are new. Good travellers are heartless.” ― Elias Canetti ―

In Morocco, more than in other places, is so. Islamic and in respect, a society in some ways less advanced than others but perhaps, much more advanced in aspects of humanity and respect.

Marrakech Essaouira Chichaoua Morocco Africa - Travel People Photography - Michele Belloni Leica Photographer

From the Atlas mountains to the Sahara desert, Morocco steals your soul, twists it and return it to you. It’s up to you to adapt your thinking after a trip to this part of Africa.

Marrakech, perhaps the most visited of all the moroccan areas, is really a place to discover and rediscover at every opportunity being indeed full of photographic ideas.

Once landed and passed through long and cumbersome security checks at the airport, I finally arrived in my “riad” (a typical guest house), situated between the ancient kasbah and the original medina of Marrakech, threw the luggage on the bed and took my cameras and headed into the crowd.

Despite being low profile on the street, keeping away all suspicion in any situation, evidently a white european guy in a moroccan kasbah at night with a camera in hand causes suspicion and attracts unwelcome attention.

In a moment I found myself assailed by schizophrenic vendors and unsavory characters who do not leave me alone. It was only a few minutes later that I began to understand the non malevolent intentions of those men. They are weird: it seems they’re always arguing but this is a normal way of talking for them, often with good altruistic intentions.

The next day I woke up among so many little birds chirping and fluttering all around my breakfast table! Then I went into the medina: getting lost in the “souk” that branch out from the Jemaa El Fna square is a recommended experience for all those who wish to take home high impact images of typical characters.

Marrakech Essaouira Chichaoua Morocco Africa - Travel People Photography - Michele Belloni Leica Photographer

Bicycles and scooters whizzing just centimeters from people, shops full of handmade ornaments, pashminas, typical street food. Colors everywhere! So many colors that you can’t think about your photographs in black and white.

Marrakech Essaouira Chichaoua Morocco Africa - Travel People Photography - Michele Belloni Leica Photographer

Jemaa El Fna at night is wonderful: populated by dozens of stalls full of food and sweets, trainers of monkeys and snake charmers, old distilled water sellers. Once again the colors are the key to bring out your images, while the stark contrast of the sweet and sour smells of the food is going to contrast inexorably with the less pleasant scents emanating from the open sewers nearby.

I was looking for a way to reach the city of Essaouira, the famous seaside town for its international music festival and for being a destination for surfers from all over the world.

I found a local driver, who after five minutes of conversation became a friend: Ibrahim. We drove off-road and in three hours arrived at our destination, passing through many local villages and stopping at an Argan tree plantation showing goats climbing on the highest branches (yes, you read that right) feeding the soil naturally.

A farmer, holding a goat, approaches our vehicle as soon as he saw us: two words, some photos. The real subject was the goat but I found a strange similarity and decided to focus on him.

Once arrived in Essaouira I immediately perceived a different approach from the people: more sociable, or, rather, less suspicious. Smiling, relaxed people and the city itself generates a strange feeling of tranquility both of the ocean and in local markets and souks of the medina.

Marrakech Essaouira Chichaoua Morocco Africa - Travel People Photography - Michele Belloni Leica Photographer

There were no lack of tourists, but it’s always up to us to be able to find the story in the picture or the picture is the story of our journey, before you even think about whole –and more complex- reportage work. Get in the shops, make friends, know your subjects and have the ability to quickly understand their soul, asking for a picture or, in some cases, stealing it.

In Essaouira I especially appreciated the shops of butchers in the open air, the thousand and one handcrafted works carried out directly on the street and people that are always smiling and ready to offer you a cup of tea.

Marrakech Essaouira Chichaoua Morocco Africa - Travel People Photography - Michele Belloni Leica Photographer

When I left Morocco I didn’t realize immediately how much you gain in terms of personal growth. I realized it after a few days of falling back into my daily routine: you are no longer woken up at 5am by speakers blaring out Islamic prayer, the colors and vibrancy of the people seem lacking in a city like Rome, the absence of any form of stress despite high levels of poverty is a rule of life that in european capitals seem reversed, giving instead, high value to false material happiness that have nothing to do with the wonderful souls met in that part of Africa.

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