97 imagesA waterfall of white and blue buildings enclosed between two mountains. Chefchaouen, or Chaouen, is a holy city a bit surly with a blue medina that seems an Orientalist painting still populated of veiled women and men hidden by their djellabas, white in summer and brown in winter. An Arab city of the sixteenth century arrived virtually intact up to us where the traditional Moroccan architecture blends with traces of Andalusia and a blue unusual for an Islamic country, where generally dominates the green. It is the legacy of the Jews fled after the conquest of Granada and the arrival of Reyes Catolicos with Inquisition in tow. With them had arrived too numerous Moriscos, Muslims originating in Al Andalus. Chaouen El-Madina Es-Saliha, the Holy City, remained a forbidden city to Christians until 1920, and only thanks to a disguise as rabbi the French explorer Charles de Foucauld visited Chaouen in 1883. An isolation that has saved the soul of this Arab Andalusian city of merchants and weavers who in 2010 was entered in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Medina, the old city, speaks with its blue walls. Especially in the two oldest neighborhoods of Andalous and Ansar who remember the Albaicin neighborhood next to the Alhambra in Granada where many Moriscos lived. From Outa-El-Hammam, the main square, a range of narrow and inextricable streets spreads out like snakes stone between Arab-Andalusian buildings covered by the ubiquitous blue loved by painters like Matisse. A Chaouen even thoughts of those who live there are blue. Streets, squares, carpets and stairs near to the sky become an uncertain border between the street and the intimacy of the houses. Borders made by blue, because the alleys where even the paving stones are total blue indicates a dead end, or an open door on glimpses of a family life.
70 imagesOuallywood, aka Ouarzazate, is coming back. After some years of crisis Morocco’s best movies location is gone back to his full glory with 18 movies and TV serials only in 2014. Today for the Guardian Ouarzazate’s sets and locations are betewwn the best ten of the world and suitable for any type of production, the Jerusalem created for The Crusades of Ridley Scott has been transformed into Baghdad and in a location of Game of Thrones. The secret weapons of Ouarzazate are a weather with sunshine three hundred days a year, lights that don’t need filters and biblical landscapes better of thewildest dreams of any director. After Lawrence of Arabia, in 1962, Roman legions, Crusaders and Egyptian armies, passionate loves and palace conspiracies shaked forever this French Foreign Legion outpost founded in 1928 in a strategic position between the Sahara desert and the Atlas mountains. It is estimated that in Ouarzazate about thirty five thousand people, and indirectly about thirty thousand of the seventy thousand inhabitants, live almost exclusively of cinema. In his golden years Ouallywood has become one of the favorite locations for large productions on historical themes, from The Sheltering Sky to The Gladiator and Kundun, interpreting also a lot of holy cities. The ancient Rome materializes inside the Musée du Cinema opened in 2007 where Pompeian frescoes precede a barbaric-fantasy golden chair, the Throne Room that serves also as Roman Senate, while the Jerusalem of The Kingdom of Heaven is at the end of a desert track. Thousand of tourists go every year on pilgrimage to the historic Atlas Studios where an orgy of wood and styrofoam reveals the forbidden world of the temple of Luxor revisited by Asterix and Obelix or the Tibetan monastery of Kundun. Out of town spectacular kasbahs are good for any set, while en route to Agadir some rusty Oldsmobiles before a distributor that promises "Cold Beer, Gas Haven, Last Stop 200 miles" announces the ruins of post-modern set of The hills Have Eyes, a horror-splatter movie by Alexandre Jouan-Arcady, a remake of Wes Craven’s movie.
73 imagesThe old trans-Saharian trade routes starts in some small towns and villages of the south of Morocco. After a dangerous two-month journey across the Sahara from Timbuktu thousands of camels and their owners returned with the gold, slaves and ivory that would make Maghreb cities wealthy. From Taroudant, a major city Berber market with spectacular old walls still intacts, to Tafraout the "pink city" surrounded by scenic rock formations in the heart of the Middle Atlas. Pink casbah-like homes perched on red boulders or clinging tenaciously to the walls of cliffs erected by men who leave the town to seek their fortunes elsewhere. A rough track arrives to Illigh, a impressive fortress scattered in the mountains that once was the crossroad of the traffic of Trans-Saharan gold in the axis Gao-Tombouctou and Tombouctou-Taroudant. Illigh disposed of a army of thousands of horsemen, the "Black Guard", and was at least powerful and wealthy as Morocco's sultans. His wealhy originated in a track vanishing in the mountain, the old road for Timboctou. From Kerdous pass the main road arrives to Tiznit, a traditional "desert harbour" once fortified by French Legiòn Etrangère against nomad warriors raids. Tiznit is still a Berber city with stunning mudstone townwalls and mosques builded in the same architectural saharian style of Mali, on the southern side of Sahara. The road reaches the Atlantic at Sidi Ifni, once a Spanish colony and, more to south, the village of Goulmin (Goulimine), "the Gateway to the Desert" once a famous camel market and an important center for caravans of camels coming from the Sahara.
78 imagesThey call it the Window on the Strait, but Tangier is all along the capital of the obsession of the elsewhere. Phoenicians, Berber, Arabs, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Moroccan, Roman soldiers, nobody never knew if Tangier was an outpost of Europe in Africa or of Africa in Europe. Here people don’t come for what it is but for what it has been, for a cursed and romantic image handed down by the collective memory and nourished by cinema and literature. A place of nostalgia impregnated of ghosts of an eclectic international community of artists and western writers, from Kerouac to Ginsberg, from Matisse to the Rolling Stones, to end with Paul Bowles, whose name is is connected to Tangier forever. Today, reduced to few ghosts, the camarades of Tangier, poor African people looking for a boat towards the mirage of the Europe Fortress, the energetic atmosphere of Tangier is casting towards new plans that should make of it the “Harbour of Africa”. Tangier is divided into an old city of medieval alleyways, the Medina, with the walled kasbah of the sultan, and a new city, a tantalising introduction to a culture so different from that across the Strait of Gibraltar. Far from the exotic postcards of traditional Morocco, Tangier’s architecture is unanexpected landscape of Moroccan old towns mixed with Mediterranean European harbours of Spain, France and Italy. After many years of shadows the city again become a great place to live.