Maison de La Photographie, Marrakech

Maison de la Photographie currently rates among the first five things to see in Marrakech on Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet. This very interesting small museum is dedicated to archiving Morocco’s past through photography.  It  displays archives and original prints to the general public covering the period from 1870s to 1950s. It is set within a Riad in a very picturesque district of Marrakech’s medina, the Mouqef. Although financially supporting some young Moroccan photographers to participate in residencies in Europe, its focus is not at all modern photography. Quite the opposite. A lot of the prints on exhibit here date from a period when French photography pioneers were crossing the strait of Gibraltar with a truckload of instruments and traveling all across Morocco, mostly by camel, horse or mule. Being the only museum of its kind in Marrakech and probably Morocco, in the words of its owner ‘it is the only place dedicated to the memory that Morocco and France (and Europe in general) have in common’. But what really makes a difference here is the warm welcome and individual attention given to each visitor by the most attentive staff.

Maison de la Photographie

La Maison opened its doors to public in 2009. It was a common project between Patrick Manac’h, a Breton and Hamid Mergani, a Marrakchi, that met in Paris. Patrick had been a fine art dealer for more than 25 years old and split his time between Paris and Nepal, where he was involved with supporting a local humanitarian project. He fell in love with Morocco and decided he wanted to settle here. Although quite fond of Fes, he admits that Marrakech was the natural choice for the museum, for it is the main tourist hub in Morocco. He choose the location for the museum because of its historical dimension in a district where the foundouks used to accommodate the caravans coming in through Bab Fes ( the gate of Fes), close to Medersa Ben Youssef, the 16th century koranic school. Having an archive of more than 3000 glass negatives, photos exposed change permanently throughout the small museum: the one currently exhibited is dedicated to Nicolas Muller. Previous ones included an exhibition dedicated to Tayeb El Mokri, the pasha of Casablanca, probably the first Moroccan photographer with the young sultan Moulay Abdelaziz, in the early 20th century, an exhibition on the work of Henri Terrasse and his researches and another one dedicated to Nicolas Muller.

Maison de la Photographie 2

At the moment, they are preparing the next exhibition called ‘Maroc Multiple’ which will also come with a printed catalog. Patrick is also behind two other projects, one inside the Medina and the other one in the Atlas Mountains. The Atlas Mountains- based Eco Musee Berbere was opened before Maison de la Photographie and it was the first museum dedicated to the Amazigh ( Berber people), an important part of the Moroccan culture. The Douiria of Mouassine is a hidden treasure of the Medina, a house of 17th century. Long and patient restoration was undertaken. Xavier Salmon, general curator of Louvre Museum wrote a book about it that is currently being translated into Arabic. Patrick stumbled upon the Douiria by chance while he was looking for a place to live for himself, a few years back. He was so impressed by the beauty of the place that he decided to restorate it and open it to the public in order to promote the importance of heritage in Morocco.

Maison de la Photographie

As years have gone by, the prints have become popular with luxury hotels and riads also, not only private visitors to La Maison.  Especially in Marrakech, where every other month sees the opening of a new luxury property, decorators of hotels and riads requested some photos of their collection. The list of famous hotels is quite long to be quoted here:  Royal Mansour, Naourra Barriere, Riad Farnatchi are but a few.

Maison de la Photographie 4

As Patrick is never the man to rest on his laurels, many future projects are being unveiled. Such as the restoration of a large house close to the Douiria in the Mouassine district, to allow for future exhibitions. Opening of another annex in another city in Morocco is also in the plan. And the task of constantly increasing the ever expanding collection of the ancient negatives in the archives is no easy feat.

And if all this is not reason enough to visit, you should know that La Maison has one of the best roof terraces in Marrakech, where the 360 degrees view takes in the roofs and minarets of the whole medina, while sipping a mint tea or enjoying a juicy tagine.

Cristian Martinus is Managing Director at Sun Trails.

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Comments (1)

  1. How lovely! I love old photographs of bygone eras, even more so of fascinating places like Morocco. I’ll be there in March – I will definitely check this out.

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