For in-person workshops during 2021, Santa Fe Workshops requires that all participants attending workshops be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. This requirement applies to students, staff, and instructors.
They say that within the shadows of the Sahara Desert it’s possible to the hear the sound of the stars as they glimmer with the embroidered melody of the infinite sand. Indeed, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakech, and the Sahara are places that live in our imagination with their endless array of immortal stories.
Join world travelers Jennifer Spelman and Derek Baron on a winding journey into the heart of Morocco and through a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, enticing aromas, and evocative sounds. We venture deep into the markets and side streets of ancient cities, straight across the mesmerizing dunes of the Sahara Desert, over towering mountain ranges, and into isolated villages and valleys home to a traditional way of life that few visitors have the chance to experience.
We begin our 12-day adventure by meeting in Morocco's economic capital, Casablanca, for a welcome dinner. To get our cameras in order and find our bearings, we spend our first day exploring this melting pot of a city on foot. We then travel in a 15-passenger Mercedes van to the imperial city of Fez, where medieval roots are still visible and a never-ending maze of lanes and streets waits to be discovered and photographed. Our home for two nights is a traditional riad in the center of the old walled city. So we can move at a slower pace and make deeper personal connections with the people we meet, we explore Fez in small guided groups.
Our fourth day takes us on a scenic journey across the magnificent Middle and High Atlas Mountains. We stop for nourishment and to create new images along the beautiful Ziz Valley and in the alpine town of Ifrane. We arrive at the edge of the great Sahara Desert and the remote town of Merzouga. Before spending the night once again in a traditional riad, we end our day photographing the sunset over the desert. Then, in the early light of morning, we visit local Berber and Gnawa communities—a rare experience enjoyed by few travelers.
The vast Sahara ahead of us, we each make a choice to trek on camelback or ride by Jeep across the brilliant Erg Chebbi sand dunes to reach our desert campsite of luxury yurts. A delicious dinner, traditional music around a campfire, stargazing, and night-sky photography conclude a full and exhilarating day.
Day six begins with a multicolored sunrise over the sweeping Sahara and ends with last light in the palm groves of the lush Dades Valley. In between we take a journey over the Jebl Sahro Mountains, discovering the souks and kasbahs of Tinerhir. The next morning, we head out from Dades Gorge in 4x4 vehicles and drive across the high desert valleys to the remote town of Bou Tharar. Along the way, we stop to visit nomadic Bedouin cave dwellers, learn about their traditions, and photograph their daily lives. Once in Bou Tharar, we take a guided walk to explore and photograph this beautiful village with its 300-year-old kasbahs and endless fields of flowers.
Our eighth day is a portrait photographer’s delight, and we focus our attention and cameras on the families that live in the small villages in the Dades Valley. In addition to being invited into Berber and Bedouin homes, we make portraits of locals among the spectacular rock formations. A relaxing picnic lunch alongside a nearby stream and an afternoon of hiking Monkey Fingers Gorge or a cooking class hosted in a private residence rounds out this special day.
Next, magic and mystery loom large ahead of us. We depart the Dades Valley and again cross the Atlas Mountains, stopping in the UNESCO-recognized village of Ait-Benhaddou, known for its traditional mud-brick homes and as the location of many movies, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. As the light fades, we enter the most beloved city in all of Morocco—Marrakech. Our finals days are spent exploring this enchanting metropolis of incredible architecture, bustling markets, centuries-old crafts, constant celebrations, intense colors and aromas, and an infectious positive energy. Marrakech dazzles all the senses, and we record stories of the city through our images.
On each day during our adventure, Jennifer shares techniques for street photography, dynamic portraiture, and capturing layered landscapes. Our enduring focus is on creating mindful images, and group review sessions allow space for valuable feedback. As relatively wealthy tourists in a country with visible poverty, we occasionally encounter unwanted attention from unofficial guides, but Morocco is a safe and politically stable place to visit. Our well-planned daily itineraries—combined with the expertise of our local guides—assure a pleasant, inspiring, and wonder-filled experience.
Morocco is situated at the very intersection of Europe and Africa, a place of preserved traditions and warm hospitality and the perfect backdrop for capturing memorable photographs. From Bedouin to Berber to Gnawa communities, this promises to be an unforgettable journey.