I fell head over heels in love with Essaouira, the gorgeous seaside town that was the repite from the chill of my sojourn in the High Atlas Mountains and where lunch came straight out of the ocean.
I could happily live in Essaouira with its orderly Medina and lovely eateries tucked away in the side streets. And the gelato sold on the Square, where I had the closest thing ever to Bangkok’s famed coconut ice-cream.
The quaint harbour reminded me of Kalk Bay back home, but with a North African backdrop 🙂 It’s little wonder that Essaouira was chosen as a location to film Game of Thrones.
I could do without the seagulls though. Their loud shrieks throughout the night kept me awake. So did the accoustics in the Riad where the one towel they gave me was so thin it was fraying.
Four years ago I made a rule that I will never visit the same place on my Bucket List twice because there are so many other places I still want to see. I made one exception after visiting Chobe in 2015. And I will make another for Essaouira 🙂
Travelling through Morocco you soon sense that the architecture is a cosmopolitan cultural blend reflecting the country’s long and rich history of rulers and invaders – both Arabic and European – and that the doors in particular are very much a gateway to another world. In Essaouira, once you are able to take your eyes of the array of blues, there’s some incredible history to discover. And not all of it is blue.
For centuries Moroccans of Jewish and Muslim decent lived peacefully side by side in cities such as Essaouira, Fes and Marrakech, which is evident in the hallmarks on their doors. These range from unique patterns and symbols to Jewish stars, some of which are even dated and evoke centuries of history.
But many of these Jewish familes fled the mellahs – the Jewish district in Arab cities – for Israel following the Six Day War. Some have never returned and many houses like the one in Essaouira pictured below are locked up and have been left to deteriorate. (Note the Star of David in the plasterwork above the arch, alongside the fading mosaics).
Other more modern doors bear Moorish style motifs, delicate mosaics and ornate and interesting door knockers.
Whether they are made of wood or weather-beaten steel, they all add to the charm of Essaouira.
Then if you can drag yourself away from the doors for a few minutes you will find yourself in the middle of a typical street scene that could be anywhere in Morocco – the inescapable washing and arches and cats and faded reminders of a byegone era.
I took over 1000 photos during a recent trip to Morocco, but if I had to chose only one favourite, it would be this shot taken at sunrise in the Sahara Desert.
For me photography isn’t only about skills and good cameras, but also about being in the right place at the right time. This particular capture is the payoff for sleeping cold in a humble tent during the coldest Moroccan winter in a decade with the wind lashing the tent entrance throughout the night. I had woken before most of the camp to photograph the sun coming up in the dunes when this small train of camels appeared out of nowhere and crossed my path.
It’s sweltering in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and my clothes are sticking to me like clingwrap when our guide Alen receives word that a solitary male lion has been spotted resting in some thicket not far away. He stops the 4 x 4 to warn us not to stand up in the vehicle when we approach. His caution is very clear and now I’m sticky AND a tad nervous, but the lion – which Alen estimates at between 15 and 20 years old – seems oblivious of our presence.
The big cat is majestic, even in his advanced years, and it’s a smart choice of hideout. He’s surrounded by shady camouflaging brush on all sides like a boma, making camera shots difficult, so Alen moves the safari vehicle around, bringing us at one point less than 4 metres away from this mighty beast whose paws are the size of bread plates.
Perhaps his belly was full, or maybe the heat was just getting to him, but either way the lion ignored us, flopped down and had a snooze while we all watched in awe.
Massive thanks to Alen Makgetho of Fallen Baobab camp whose knowledge and expertise as a guide and his love of the African bush made this amazing experience possible without me being eaten alive 🙂
Guides Simon Mothoiwa (left) and Alen Makgetho (right).
P.S. It really is a small planet we live on. Simon and I struck up a conversation and I discovered that he had spent many years working as a miner on goldmines around South Africa’s far West Rand, an area I covered extensively as a young journalist.
Fish Hoek is a much loved seaside village famous for its family-friendly beach, lifesavers, early morning swimmers and trek net fishermen. It’s often referred to as the largest retirement village in the world. It’s a great place to be at daybreak, especially in high season before that holidaymakers arrive with everything bar the kitchen sink.
2014 and my two week adventure in Thailand were drawing to a close when I stumbled upon this homeless woman sleeping under a monument only blocks away from some of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks. Homeless people are a sad reality in every city, but the tender and almost nurturing way she had covered up her companion, a large teddy bear, pulled at my heartstrings. The early morning traffic was as unaware of her as she was of them.