Sunday, May 1, 2011

Before the Bomb

It seems that my habit of visiting some place within a month (either side) of some news-worthy event or disaster continues.

On Thursday lunchtime an explosion destroyed the Argana Cafe (in the top left of the first image) in Djemaa el-Fna, the main square in Marrakech, Morocco and took the lives of fifteen people.
It took me a solid day to get hold of any details however because of some ridiculous event in the UK clogging up all the news channels, but it was strange getting my photos back from the lab yesterday and comparing them to the ones in the newspapers. I took these photos just about two weeks ago when our train terminated in the red city and we spent a couple of days checking out the souks in the Medina before moving on to the mountains then the Ocean. It's an amazing place, designated a UNESCO world heritage site and just an incredible place to set up a camera and watch the world happen, particularly at sundown. Around this time the centre of the square is transformed into a giant outdoor food-court with stalls and a lot of steam and smoke, surrounded by carts selling orange juice and mint tea, musicians, snake charmers, story tellers and men with tame monkeys all of whom are vying for the attention of all the visitors (many of whom are local Moroccans as well as a solid number of European tourists), not to mention the soundtrack of the muezzins from all the nearby mosques.
Morocco has escaped much of the recent change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East thanks to it's comparatively liberal monarchy and government and their recent reforms, so it is unclear why the attack took place, should it be confirmed as such. Makes me shudder to think about it though, as there's never anything less than a thronging mass of humanity moving through and around Djemaa el-Fna.

Hopefully though recent events won't change the place and life there can carry on, it's too interesting and fascinating a place to allow a bomb to alter such a culturally rich tapestry.

The food stalls in the centre of the square, all air-conditioned and some, I was assured, with 5 michelin stars. They're smokey, insanely busy and a lot cheaper and more interesting than the fancy tourist restaurants surrounding the square.

Carrying a tripod can be a massive pain, until you arrive somewhere like this at night and it becomes clear why you bothered.

A stall selling traditional Moroccan lanterns inside one of the souks. Cross processed colour transparency film.

The menu. Cross processed colour transparency film through a 40 year-old camera.

Mint tea.

A friend of mine once said that it's worth getting a budget flight to Morocco just to have an orange. Then you can go home happy. He's not far wrong.

Two frames from my panoramic wonder-camera from the roof terrace of a cafe on the edge of Djemaa el-Fna. I paid some ridiculous price for a mint-tea just so they'd let me in and I could take some photos from up there.

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