ccfc entrances & doors: the blue doors of chefchaouen

A couple of years ago I spent three remarkable weeks in Morocco. There are endless things to love about Morocco. I loved the incredibly diverse natural landscape that stretches from the Sahara desert in the south, across the High Atlas Mountains, to the seaside cities of M’Diq and Tangier in the North – with hundreds of little micro-climates and towns that fall in between.

Everything I saw seemed worthy of a photo (or 100) and I took, quite literally, thousands of them. Of those, hundreds of my shots were of doors. I love Morocco’s doors. Morocco has fantastic doors. Morocco really, deeply gets doors. Morocco has never heard of contractor-grade doors. This post would be a mile long if I tried to share the stunning variety of Moroccan doors I shot, so I chose to focus on the blue doors of Chefchaouen.

Chefchaouen is a city in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco. It’s known for the gorgeous, many-hued blue wash that covers everything from trash bins to mosques. The custom dates back to the 15th century, when Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition settled in Chefchaouen. They brought with them a tradition of painting things blue to mirror the sky and remind them of God. That tradition has continued into the 21st century where many things, including the doors, are still painted blue.

chefchaouen door
blue door and tile stairs

Big doors, tiny doors, wood and metal doors, studded doors, doors falling apart, doors to narrow, dark stairways. A painting of a door, next to a door. Doors.

 

CCFC Entrances & Doors

 

 

ait ben haddou

I’m posting this photo because I am a little in love with the accidental tilt-shift, dollhouse effect I got by shooting historic Ait Ben Haddou from above. Despite its movie-model look this is, in fact, a real place. For a sense of the scale you can see some people in the middle right of the photo, and in the middle bottom some clothes are hanging outside a shop.

The Ksar Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO world heritage site located near Ouarzazate in Morocco. It sits in a valley near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains on an ancient caravan trading route. It is a city made entirely of clay that has somehow managed to survive for centuries, and is an absolutely extraordinary example of a southern Moroccan architecture. It was one of the places I most looked forward to seeing in Morocco and it did not disappoint.

ait ben haddou motorcycle
The old and the new

While most of it’s residents have long since relocated to the nearby town or to more modern structures across the river, a few families who have lived in Ait Ben Haddou for generations have been granted the right to continue living within the walls – some making a living selling art and hand-crafted textiles to tourists.

ait ben haddou woman
Showing off her beautifully carved door
ait ben haddou textiles
Textile shop

I was a little embarrassed to be almost as fascinated by the many movies and TV shows that have been shot in Ait Ben Haddou as I was by its history. Amongst numerous others, it was featured in Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorrah,  The Jewel of the Nile, 007: The Living Daylights, The Last Temptation of the Christ, The Mummy, Gladiator, Babel, and, my personal favorite, Game of Thrones (where it was used as the slaving city of Yunkai).

ait ben haddou
Ait Ben Haddou from outside the gates

A shot I wished I’d gotten is from the ground outside the front gates looking up at the city. Where the Khaleesi stood when she first arrived. Ok, enough geek.

May 2014

jemaa el-fnaa

This was shot overlooking the Jemaa el-Fnaa market in Marrakech just after sunset, towards Cafe Argana and the covered souq. The market has been in continuous operation for hundreds of years. Everything is on offer here – spices, orange juice (lots and lots of orange juice), pottery, brass lanterns, mass quantities of snails in bags, tea glasses in every shade of the rainbow for sipping Moroccan mint tea, produce, brightly colored leather slippers, and so much more. At night the square fills with street entertainers vying for tourists’ attention — snake charmers, drag belly-dancers, oral story tellers, soothsayers, and even a guy with a chicken AND a pigeon on his head.

May 2014