They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is in the heart of the Red City where you will find a collection of photographs worth well over 40,000 words if we take the saying literally. The Maison de la Photographie, one of Morocco’s richest photography museums, is located in a hidden spot in Marrakesh’s medina. You will have to get past the popular souks and walk through some twisting back alleys to find the beautiful riad where the museum is set, but even if you get lost on your way, the museum is well worth the hunt.
Opened in 2009, the Maison de la Photographie was founded by two Parisian aficionados of Moroccan vintage photography, Patrick Menac’h and Marrakshi Hamid Mergani. Upon realizing the exquisite collections they had each curated individually, the two decided to open a gallery to show their collections in their original context. Thus was born the Maison de la Photographie, a museum showcasing over 4,500 photographs, 2,000 glass negatives and 80 documents (including vintage postcards) spanning almost one century from the 1870s to the 1950s, as well as a one-of-a-kind full-color 1957 documentary shot in Morocco.
Historical Morocco in Photographs
The vast collection at Maison de la Photographie contains works from both world-renowned photographers (such as George Washington Wilson and Marcelin Flandrin) as well as unknown artists who focus on the scenes of Moroccan daily life throughout the decades. Organized by region and theme on three floors, the exhibition rooms represent various historical and cultural aspects of Morocco including vintage photographs of the souks in the 19th century, the archaeological site of Volubilis, children pumping water from fountains in the 1890s, important architectural complexes, and various portraits. Berber culture is also featured prominently in the museum with various photographs depicting daily life scenes and the first full-color documentary filmed by Daniel Chicault in Morocco in the 1950s about the Berber tribes of the High Atlas. For an even deeper dive into Berber culture, the two Parisian curators founded the Berber Museum set in a restored Kasbah less than 40km outside of Marrakesh. With exhibitions of various artifacts and photographs, the museum is well worth a look.
Marrakesh through the Decades
Walking through the different exhibition rooms, it is an incredible experience to witness what Moroccan life was like for the earlier photographers of the 19th century and how it evolved until the 1950s. How much has changed? And how much has remained the same? Some scenes will be familiar to modern Morocco (the Pharmacie sign hung up on a corner on Djema El Fnaa Square, for instance, was captured by a photographer all the way back in 1926) while others will stand in deep contrast to today’s reality (the traditional dress, for example, has changed significantly over time). The Maison de la Photographie can thus be both an incredible experience for those who have visited different parts of Morocco as well as an enriching visit for those who have not had a chance to explore the county as deeply.
And if all this isn’t enough reason for you to drop by at the Maison de la Photographie, consider this: the panoramic terrace at the top of the museum is one of the best places to enjoy some tasty coffee or even one of Marrakesh’s best lunch deals – a delicious chicken tajine for just DH 35.
The Red City Awaits!
On a guided visit of Marrakesh, you can visit the Maison de la Phographie with our local expert guide. Some of our most popular routes, include our best of Morocco itinerary, Ultimate Morocco, and even our trip into the Erg Chigaga region of the desert. Start by contacting our team to plan well ahead (as Morocco is becoming a very popular destination!). Don’t forget your camera so that you can capture memories for years to come.