Since it’s exactly two years today since I moved to Morocco with my partner and our cat, I thought I’d share one of my favourite parts of this country with you: the mountains! There are two mountain ranges that stretch through Morocco: the Atlas and the Rif. The highest mountain in North Africa, Jbel Toubkal, is situated in southwestern Morocco and its highest peak is 4,167 metres above sea level (13,671 feet). I haven’t yet visited that particular mountain, but I intend to!
The Moroccan mountains are home to many endemic species (that is, species that only occur in a specific region), such as the Atlas cedar, the Atlas mountain viper and the Barbary macaque (that I made a post about before I even moved here). To me, the mountains add yet another stunning natural habitat to this country of extremes. To the west, we have the long coast with the Atlantic, always humid and often fertile; further east, going from north-east to south-west, there are mountains covered in snow and coniferous forest; and along the eastern border, the great, ever-expanding Sahara desert, the world’s largest. There’s certainly something for everyone.
So here’s my photographic ode to this country where I’m happy to say that I have found yet another home:
Crossing the High Atlas, one of the three sub-ranges in the Moroccan Atlas mountains.
Have you ever seen a photograph that has not only brought back memories of a summer forest after rain, but actually made you smell it? Or one that, like a large seashell, has brought the sound of the ocean to your ear; or one that has made your mouth water? When a picture gives me that experience, I almost feel like it surpasses its task as a photograph. What fantastic things our brains can do! Not only are we able to translate a two-dimensional photograph into a three-dimensional scene, face, detail full of depth and colour, but at times, we can even experience things through our other senses, without any input. It always impresses and surprises me.
Because I like impressing myself, I sometimes try to do exactly that: evoke a non-visual sensation through a picture. In this post, I’ve gathered a few photos which awaken my sense of touch – images that tickle my fingertips. Let’s see if it works for you, too!
Wet sand on a beach in Essaouira, Morocco. Imagine burying your hand into the coldness of it…
Sometimes small (in relative terms), seemingly insignificant geological formations can have a surprisingly significant impact on human history and life. That was what I was thinking about when I got onto the ferry to cross from Tangier (Morocco) to Tarifa (Spain) to take the short journey across the Strait of Gibraltar.
This strait separates Morocco from Spain and connects the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The narrowest point is 14 kilometers wide and the depth ranges from 300 to 900 meters. It has played the opposite roles of an easy bridge from Europe to Africa (or the other way around) and a formidable wall between continents and empires. Already the fact that there are areas on both sides of the strait that belong to other countries than those that “actually” are there – Gibraltar (a part of the UK on the Spanish side) and Ceuta (a part of Spain on the Moroccan side) – suggests that it’s a very important place.
But enough of that.
Ferries between Morocco and Spain don’t take the shortest 14 kilometer route, but it’s still quite a short journey. We had beautiful, clear weather when we crossed and when you’re in the middle between continents, it’s quite an impressive sight: there’s the huge African continent on one side, and Eurasia on the other.
Spain (and Jesus) on the left, Africa on the right, the Mediterranean straight ahead.
Sometimes, you can find a whole other world right outside your kitchen window.
One morning, as I walked past the flowerbed outside our kitchen window, I spotted this marvellously coloured grasshopper. The green really stood out against the orange flowers, and the insect looked so yummy that I was surprised that no one had eaten it yet. I wasn’t going to, obviously, since I’m a vegetarian.
I grabbed my camera and my flash and decided to see how close I could get.
A handsome grasshopper.
After hours and hours of driving along the winding mountain roads, it reveals itself behind a magnificent wall of rock: Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of the north.
Chefchaouen, a city in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco.
Sometimes, I just start seeing things. Not made-up things, but things that are actually there and have always been there, but have escaped my attention in the constant avalanche of sensory information. On my recent trip to Germany and France, I started paying attention to numbers, and when I did, they turned up everywhere: in a particle accelerator, in a forest, on a house wall.
Numbers are symbols, carrying information. That’s not the only reason why I got so interested in them, though – it’s also about figuring out the use of it in that particular place, whether it’s been specifically designed to fit in with its environment, if it’s mass produced but still unique to its use, or if it’s truly unique and handwritten.
Does it matter which number it is? I don’t know. The fascination is not entirely clear to me, but part of it is certainly the act of removing the number from its environment and giving it attention.
Do you have a favourite number?
7. Place: HERA particle accelerator in Hamburg, Germany.
It’s spring here in the northern hemisphere, in case you hadn’t noticed. Spring in Morocco is a bit like summer in Finland – windy, warm, with the occasional rain. Summer here is beyond anything we get in Finland; likewise, winter in Finland is beyond anything we experience in Morocco.
I’ve never had a favourite season, or a least favourite one – there’s something marvellous about all of them. It’s satisfying to see large changes happening and trying to understand the links between seemingly distant phenomena: like enjoying the mist in late autumn, as the air gets very cold while the sea water retains its heat, or seeing the rivers and streams rush through snow-free landscapes as the mountains slowly release their white blankets.
I recently came back from a three-week trip to Germany and France. It was early spring, and it even snowed – the only snow fall I saw this year. I have to admit that I had missed it a bit. The rivers were being unusually active and exciting and I spent many hours photographing the way the water moved and hissed. What a perfect holiday: watching and listening to spring rivers rush by.
And afterwards, a fire place and a glass of wine.