Malaga & Morocco

Growing up with stories of globe-trotting family inspired me to do my own traveling. Occasionally, I would walk in their footsteps.

My grandmother, Helene, re-married in 1950 and she and her new husband Roger traveled to Malaga, Spain. They then made the ferry journey to Morocco. Roger was an engineer and had brought along a fancy new movie camera. He took these terrific home movies during their honeymoon travel. I especially enjoy the parts at the end that show daily life in Marrakesh.

In my own experience, these towns have not changed very much since they visited. I always heard stories about the palace of the Alhambra and the lavish lifestyle of the sultans. It was amazing to see it for myself. A cool garden respite on a hot summer day.

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And to see that it is very much the same as when my grandmother honeymooned there.

Sam Chardin at the Alhambra 1999

Sam Chardin at the Alhambra 1999

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Helene at the Alhambra c. 1950.

I am, I admit, a little bit uncomfortable with the way we privileged people will travel to other countries and snap vacation photos of folks in the midst of doing their demanding physical jobs. On the flip side I think it’s amazing that Roger captured those street scenes of normal Moroccan life in the 1950s and that I get to share them with you now. I guess the thing to do is ask permission before filming? It’s weird though, isn’t it? Can you imagine working your job in your office cubicle, sitting in front of a computer, and a bunch of tourists dropping by to take your photo? Weird.

In any case, here are a few photos I took in Fez.

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In defense of this form of tourism, I found it interesting to see how leather products are made (the bottom photo). Many of the things I use mindlessly I now realize take an incredible amount of human effort to create. Leather tanning is a nasty business.

We witness people doing physical labor. And then we go and visit the palaces of the wealthiest citizens.

Helene and Roger at the Bahia Palace, Marrakesh.

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My own photos of the royal palace of Fez.

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I guess we’re ignoring the bulk of the citizens going about their normal life and not fodder for tourist photos. Those were the people who helped me find my way on the unmarked train system. The ones who showed me the proper way to apply kohl and taught me about the local food. They inhabit something in between the distance of tourist snaps and the intimacy of a photo with a friend. They are friends for the day. They’re probably the only reason I was able to enjoy my time in these foreign lands. Without the welcoming kindness of locals a tourist is merely an intruder.

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1950 or 1999?

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