Take a Trip to Tantalizing Tangier, tip of Morocco

Gateway of Tangier, medina

Take a trip to Tantalizing Tangier. Tangier is calling me.  It is my birthplace.  It is beautiful, It is exotic, historic, it is mysterious and magnificent. My camera is packed and I’m doing my recce for what will be a fantastic photography tour in 2021.

The name Tangier evokes so much. As a free zone It was once home to spies, travellers, business men, artists musicians and famous writers such as Paul Bowles and William Burroughs amongst others.  Even back in the early 19th century artists such as Matisse and Delacroix found inspiration there.  Thirty years ago the Rolling Stones made a recording so its notoriety continued although gradually since its heyday the city had fallen into decline but no longer.

The King, Mohammed the VI who owns a magnificent palace there that he visits regularly, decided that Tangier deserved to be rediscovered and hugely improved.   Masses of money was ploughed into it.  A new train station opened in 2003.  The old port and marina were replaced with a modern state of the art deep water port, then the marina and seafront were developed.  All this new infrastructure demanded a new airport which was inaugurated in 2008.  Meanwhile, the 17th century Medina was restored, new restaurants and boutique hotels began opening up and Tangier has been reborn.

I decided to stay at a riyad in the beautifully renovated medina near the Socco Chico as it was called back before independence.  Being driven from the new Tangier airport we pass many modern buildings along wide tree lined avenues and it’s a while before it becomes familiar to me again.  As we drop down towards the beach and pass the Rif hotel I see there is a new corniche and that the beach has been reduced to make room for the new marina.  There are signs to the port and there rising up in front of us is the Medina.  I just can’t wait for the car to stop!

Medina

The taxi lets me out by the grand renovated mosque, as it can’t navigate all those narrow lanes.  I am assured that I will find the riyad which is not that far away.  I ask some locals the way, the Tangerois (locals of tangier) I found to be very friendly.  Dar Souran turned out to be charming and very convenient, just around the corner from what was the market square once called the Socco Chico.

I check in to my gorgeous room and within minutes I’m taking pictures.  The café’s of my childhood are still there although of course it isn’t a market anymore.  Old photographs of the past hang on the walls and one large one drapes over a corner of the square leading to the lanes.  The medina has been brilliantly restored, it is so picturesque I barely know where to start.  There are few tourists compared to anywhere else in Morocco which surprised me.  The few there are, mainly French or Spanish.

I find a great place for lunch right by the museum and castle walls, LE SALON BLEU, I climb up the stairs to the top where there is an absolutely fabulous view of the whole of Tangier.  The food is delicious, the people charming and friendly and I end up there almost every day! It’s a fantastic spot to photograph the whole town.

After lunch I walk through the arch to the view point overlooking the port and the Mediterranean.   I walk back down again via back alleys taking more and more photographs and end up near the Continental Hotel.  It is time for me to meet up with a great friend who also has roots in Tangier.Medina

You can easily spend days walking through all the lanes of the Casbah, it is teaming with people in beautiful jellabas, there are leather, carpet and gold shops, craftsmen working outside their shops, food stalls, a large covered market, bars and restaurants.  The lanes are painted white, there are flowers, plants and street art to enjoy.  I marvelled and photographed the wonderfully restored and stunning heavy studded wooden doors.

One of the superb places to visit in Tangier is the old American Legation.  It has a particular appeal to me as my father was stationed there during the war and several of the post war years.  He talked about it his whole life.   It is indeed a beautiful building and the oldest overseas building owned by the United States.  A gift from Sultan Moulay Suliman presented as a symbol of the American-Moroccan Treaty of Friendship in 1786.  Part of the ground floor is dedicated to Paul Bowles with his old typewriter, objects and photos of him.

Tangier is not just the Medina.  It is a huge glorious part of it but not all.  Arriving at the Grand Socco, just up the hill is St Andrews English Church, a haven of peace and tranquillity.

On market days wonderfully photogenic Berber men and women with huge hats and tattooed faces  sit outside its walls and sell fresh produce from the hills.  If you take out your camera be discreet because they don’t like it! 

Just up the hill from the church is the stunning Hotel Villa de France where my mother boarded for a while when she arrived in Tangier before meeting my father in 1951.  Now we’re in La Ville Nouvelle,  so called as it was built by the Spanish and the French over the late 19th century and early 20th century.  A short walk and I arrive at the newly renovated Hotel Minzah, the Place de France with it’s embassy and then into the Spanish quarter where I lived as a child.  The whole of Tangier is about art and architecture anyway.

Cap Spartel and Cave of Hercules

Cap Spartel
Under the trees at Cap Spartel

No trip to Tangier would be complete without a visit to Cap Spartel and the Caves of Hercules.  The drive from the Grand Socco around the coast is absolutely spectacular and will have you drooling at the magnificent villas you pass on route including the Royal Palace.  There are pine forests up there and of course a picture must be taken at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean, a classic spot for selfie. 

After Caves of Hercules we proceed to the stunning town of  Assilah, just under an hour away where we have lunch before venturing into the old town which is VERY photogenic.  I take a ton of photos and make a note that I must add it on the Tangier Photography Tour. You won’t want to miss this!  The medina has been beautifully restored and there is street art everywhere.  There are groups of Moroccan tourists as well as foreigners.  Tangier is more authentic but this is pretty stunning!

I’ve spent 5 whole days in Tangier including my trip to Assilah and enjoyed every second of it.  Early childhood memories have come flooding back.  I want to share this town, my town in a way, with others so join me on a photography tour to Tangier.  You will love it as I do and go home with some stunning images.  

Sri Lanka women, colorful dresses, saris

Thanksgiving 2019 on a Photography Tour and Workshop to Sri Lanka

sri lanka, lunchtime, food, curry traveling,
Lunch time train to Ella

Take my 12 day Photography Tour to Sri Lanka from the 27th November to the 8th December.  A Photography Tour and Workshop to Sri Lanka ticks all the boxes a keen photographer could wish for.  This stunning island in the middle of the Indian ocean offers the greatest diversity of images that anyone could wish for.  Sri Lanka has it all, lush tropical green landscapes, rolling hills covered in tea plantations, friendly people, amazing archaeological sites, colonial towns, wild animals and a dramatic coastline.

Negombo

All you have to do is get to Colombo and I’ll do the rest!  We’ll spend our first afternoon and evening just north of Colombo in Negombo and photograph the fishing boats and beach as the sun sets before going back to the hotel to relax and talk about our trip.

It’s now 6am, the day has just broken and we’re photographing the fishermen coming in with their catch and taking it to the market. Two hours later and I’m pulling you away for breakfast as we are leaving in our air-conditioned mini bus to Anuradaphura.  It’s a 5 hour drive and time to relax and talk.

Anuradhapura

anuradhapura, stupa, temple,
Anuradhapura Stupa

The photography tour is going to visit and photograph the marvellous Buddhist temples and stupas built around the 3rd century AD.  There are usually monks in orange robes and often children on school trips. There are black and white-faced monkeys and brown monkeys everywhere and they too are very photogenic. Our best pictures will be at dusk, people come and offer flowers, it’s very beautiful.


Polannaruwa

Next morning we take off for the second stop in the cultural triangle which is Polonnaruwa. Very different from Anuradaphura, here we photograph wonderful ruins in a jungle setting and a reclining buddha covered in greedy monkeys eating the offerings brought worshippers.  We check into our hotel at Sigiriya, discuss our pictures and take off to try and see some wild elephants before night falls in the nearby wildlife park.

Sigiriya and Dambulla

It’s Saturday so there will be some locals climbing Lion’s rock as well as tourists. Sri Lankans like Indians wear wonderfully colourful saris which look great against the green of the jungle and the starkness of the rock.  In the mid-afternoon we are going to Dambulla cave temple which is one of my favourite places. One of the reasons to go on my photography tour is that I try to get us to places at the best time of day.  Although this isn’t always possible I do know that Dambulla is best visited in the afternoon when the light filters gently into the amazing caves and light up the frescoes.

Kandy

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock

We’re going to Kandy today but first we are going to stop off at Dambulla wholesale market and take some amazing photos.  This market is the centre for the whole island for fruit and vegetables.  It’s very photogenic, the place is heaving with people loading and offloading and traders buying.  Not too long though because there are more pictures to take in Kandy. It’s Sunday and Kandy will be full of local people shopping and visiting.  We will go to Temple of the Tooth and perhaps the Royal Botanical gardens if we’ve time.  The best pictures of the lake will be just before dusk and we don’t want to miss that.

Elephants

Dambulla, frescoes, temple, praying, buddhas
Praying inside Dambulla Cave

As it is early December and not the best time to see animals in the wild and even harder to make good pictures, I am making a change in the usual itinerary and we will go to Pinnawala elephant orphanage and omit Yala National Park.  Each day they take the elephants down to the river for them to bathe and be washed.  It’s quite a spectacular scene watching a herd of elephants walk through the village.  There are great photos to be made and it is an enjoyable trip. It also gives us slightly more time in Kandy which is well worthwhile.

Tea Plantations, Mountains and Nurawaeliya

elephant, portrait of elephant,
Elephant at Pinnawala

Our photography tour is leaving Kandy today for Nuwaraeliya and start to climb the surrounding foothills we are entering a different world.  As the temperature drops we are surrounded by tea plantations, and the colourful dots in the lush greenery are the tea pickers.   We will stop several times on the way and visit at least one tea plantation and photograph the tea pickers and the factory. Then suddenly we’re in England! Nuwaraeliya definitely has something very British about it, the cottages, the cold! We are going to sit in our hotel, order tea of course and enjoy a photography workshop looking and discussing everyone’s photos.

Horton Plains and the train to Ella

Tuk Tuks, transport, driver,
Tuk tuk drivers in Sri Lanka

We are setting off very early this morning to go to Hortons Plains, a landscape photographers paradise.  We’re going on a hike, it will be cold and misty but magical.  There could be an outburst of rain but hopefully we’ll see the sun too, so we will dress appropriately and make sure that our cameras are well protected.  Back to our mini-van that will take us to the Nanu Oya Train station where we will board the lunchtime train to Ella.  This wonderful train journey is great fun, it passes superb scenery and stops at dozens of stations.  There are passengers and hawkers and a real slice of local life to photograph. We disembark at the very picturesque town of Ella where we will spend the night.

Galle and the Sri Lankan coast to Colombo

Ella, tropical scenery, jungle, sri lanka, Greenery
Lush tropical scenery of Ella

Today, we are going to photograph the streets and markets of Galle both inside and outside the fort.  We will also be going 24 kilometres down the coast to photograph the famous stilt fishermen which is an amazing sight when they are all out there standing 2 metres up in a rough sea fishing.  If it’s a sunny day we’ll be there in the late afternoon to make magical photographs against a dramatic sky.

Wednesday morning, a walk to the waterfall and the surrounding countryside and time for a short workshop before setting off for the spectacular coastal city of Galle and it’s famous fort where we will spend 2 nights.   The fort was originally built by the Portuguese before it fell to the Dutch who built many of the buildings that we see today.  The British took it over in the late 18th century.  We will take a walk and photograph life inside the fort which is also famous for its lighthouse and a top venue for weddings.   At dusk there are newly-weds posing on the rocks against the dramatic vibrant colours of sunset. 

Train to Colombo

Fishermen, dusk, sunset, stilt fishermen, sri lanja
Stilt Fisherman near Galle at dusk

Tomorrow we’re going to take the local train to Colombo that rattles along the coast.  I love taking pictures at train stations in Sri Lanka, it’s so full of colour and atmosphere – there are some super photographs to be made.  This is a local train so we won’t have any pre-reserved seats and will mingle with the locals.  The journey takes about 3 hours with stops, so plenty of time to make photos and relax. 

On arrival in Colombo we will check into our hotel before going to the oldest parts of the city, the bustling Pettah and Slave Island where we will get pictures of street life before going back to our hotel for a final photography workshop and dinner.

The photography tour and workshop officially ends today but I will be available to help with tips, editing, an additional walk, whatever anybody would find helpful.   Check out is at midday but our bags can be left in reception.  I hope you’ll join me, Sri Lanka really is a jewel in the Indian Ocean.