The past in the pictures – The Museum of Photography in Marrakesh.

I longed for a sun so I quickly made my way up, to the top of the Museum of Photography in Marrakesh. I wanted to sit on a terrace, bathed in the yellowish afternoon. It was our first day in Morocco, our first encounter with Moroccan cuisine and famous mint tea. The terrace was filled with people patiently waiting for the waiter’s attention and we joined in with our stomachs rumbling with hunger. From the top of the building we could admire the roofs of the town, stretching out on every side, up to the horizon and beyond.

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The construction of the building created a white well, with rooms concealed away. The balconies, surrounding each floor, enabled a visitor to move around and explore the space hidden behind white curtains. You could look into the eyes of the people of Africa without a shadow of embarrassment. Fish out an extraordinary story. Track down the wind of the desert in the delicate hooves of a camel. Compare the ancient roofs of Marrakesh souks, immortalized in the black and white pictures, with the reality outside.

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All the pictures on display were black and white: my favourite type. If you can take a good black and white picture, showing the soul of the person, you can call yourself an artist. Sometimes pictures are all what is left from the past, capturing the moment, the look and the feeling. In here they were traces of life that was no longer with us, closed by the time which passed. The drops of the past; framed and enclosed in a space the lens allowed capturing.

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There was wisdom of a hard life in the eyes of an elder men and the concern hidden in a shy smile of a girl.

The camels were making their way through the dunes of the desert and the towns were rising from the ruins, fighting against advancing sand.

The roofs of the souks, made of straw, were giving shelter from the sun in the same way as they do today.

The palm trees in the oasis were casting shadows over the clean lakes – the source of life in the harsh environment.

The crowds of people, all dressed in white, paraded through the narrow streets of the medina, saying goodbye to the loved once.

Two men looked straight into the camera, challenging the photographer or perhaps trying to look tough and heroic.

A bald shepherd, wrapped up in a piece of cloth, hiding tiredness in his eyes.

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We had our dinner at the top of the museum, enjoying the view and the disappearing sun. A summon for a prayer cut the stillness of the silent air and woke me up from a daydreaming. It was time to submerge into the narrow streets of Marrakesh souks again, to discover another face of the town. Time to come back to the reality to see how little has changed since these pictures were taken.

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Practicalities

The museum is well hidden and you need to be clever to find it. Get past the most popular souks and try to find the signs located on the walls. Do not hesitate to ask a seller for the direction and the map is helpful too. More information can be found here, sadly the official website of the museum is in French. The tickets cost about 40dh.

Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech

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