Morocco - Part 2 & Personal Summary

From the Todrah Gorge we continue towards the southeast. On the way we pass an old underground irrigation system which dried up about 40 years ago. The canals were dug at that time by slaves and little salty water was led from the edge of the Atlas into the oases. Today you can still see the wells and you can also walk a little into the canals. 

On the way we stop in the middle of nowhere for lunch. We stand there for less than two minutes, the first children come, nobody knows where from, and after another 5 minutes there are probably 10 children aged 6-12 years in front of our car and want something, preferably candy or crayons. We have neither the one nor the other and as often as at every corner the hand is held up believe the Moroccan children probably every European has at home a stationery shop, or a candy shop.

On the campsite near Erfoud, at the edge of the desert of Erg Chebbi, we have arranged to meet Christa & Peter who we last met in Colombia in 2015. Elisabeth & Kurt are also with us and we spend some nice days together. Meanwhile Kurt and I make firewood for the upcoming events. 

 

Then we leave with Elisabeth & Kurt for the desert tour. We want to play a few days in the sand at the east side of Erg Chebbi and see what our cars can do. At the edge of the desert we have to let off some air. With Kurt, this is done automatically and comfortably at the push of a button from the driver's cab, while Karin and I are busy with it for a good half an hour. But then it starts and it's really fun. First on gravel and then partly in deep sand, no problem. For the night we look for a nice place in the dunes. We stay there for two days and enjoy the wonderful surroundings and the peace and quiet with great sunsets and sunrises.

 

In between we take a longer walk up to the highest dune and have a great panoramic view from there. Every now and then a tourist caravan passes by and in the evening we sit at the campfire under the starry sky, process the wood and wine we have brought with us and eat delicious homemade pizza as an alternative to the tajine. 

Before we continue we want to drive a little in the sand. Kurt and I stake out a parkour and off we go. Kurt gets through without any problems, but I sink MOMO purposefully into the sand, after all we haven't dug out our car for a long time. A local guide comes by and lets us know that the sand is no good here. Great, we know now. But nicely he also helps us and with a little shoveling and dune grass as a base we get out quickly. A few kilometres further Kurt gets it. At a narrow point in the deep sand I barely get through, but Kurt pulls it with the left front wheel really deep into a covered mud hole. Thank God a few locals are there to help us get Kurt's vehicle back on the road. Here there is also a small video clip in addition: Sand games Then we have enough from adventures and leave the desert. 

 

On the campsite in Merzouga we meet Christa & Peter again, who were waiting for us there. The place lies super directly at the dunes and every evening several tourist caravans pass by on dromedaries at sunset. Here we experience our first sandstorm. When the sky on the horizon turns yellow it is already high time to put away the camping chairs and close all windows, because the storm is there in no time. But just as fast it is gone again. Just getting the sand out of all the cracks takes a little longer. After a few nice days together we have to say goodbye. Was super nice with you. We are curious in which part of the world we will meet next time. 

While Elisabeth & Kurt and Christa & Peter drive further north, we drive west to Erg Chegagga. This part of the desert is not as heavily frequented as Erg Chebbi, because you have to drive a good two hours a rather bad distance before you get to the dunes at all. It is a full moon and we spend a nice night at a campfire in the middle of the dunes. To the next place it is 90 kilometres. The first twenty are still largely in the sand, but then begins a killer distance over stick and stone as we have not yet experienced it. With max. 10km/h we work our way forward for hours and suffer together with MOMO. After 10 hours we finally have asphalt under our tires again in Foum Zquid and recover two days on a camping site. There we also celebrate our six-year travel anniversary and toast to the coming years with an Aperol Spritz. No, we are not tired of travelling yet.  

As we drive on, nevertheless, actually at the local exit a boy throws a stone at our car. After a serious conversation with me I assume that he does not do this for longer in the couple of weeks/months. Our destination is Tafraoute and on the way there we stop in a small village and visit the weekly market. We park directly in front of the school. The kids have a break right now and like to pose for a nice photo.

At the market everything is still very authentic. Instead of in the dreary uniform black the women here have beautiful colorful robes on and come from the surrounding villages on foot here to stock up with the weekly needs. Then they return home heavily packed. Here in the area also the Arganoil is manufactured. The fruits of the Argan Tree, which look like olives, result in a high-quality edible oil and cosmetic products which are won from the seed of the cores with very much expenditure. A woman works one and a half days for the production of one litre of oil. In Europe it is just becoming fashionable edible oil and for a litre of pure oil one has to invest more than for a litre of good Scottish whisky, namely a good 80 euros. 

The road leads through a grandiose and varied landscape. Shortly before Tafraoute, a Belgian artist painted the really beautiful rocks with colourful paint. Why he did this and what should be art is unfortunately beyond our imagination. Apart from that it looks like the Joshua Tree National Park in the USA, only the cacti are missing. We stay there for one night, in the dark you can't see the color, and then we drive on over a very narrow stretch of road to Tafraoute where MOMO just passed through on the last meters. 

At the edge of the village, there is a huge area under palm trees for motorhomes where one can stand for free, well, not quite, as in the evening, a friendly man comes by and collects 1,50 Euro. But the garbage is disposed and the place is kept clean. Also the supply is excellent. Fresh bread is delivered according to need, or also the complete dinner. For those who stand longer, a water wagon even comes by to fill the tank. There's no question that we really like it there, especially since Markus and Sigrid from Austria are standing next to us and we spend some very nice evenings with them.

In the village itself it is very relaxed and the locals don't let the many tourists disturb them and go about their business, as probably since time immemorial. Especially the Wednesday market is a very special experience. 

Nearby is an authentic 600 year old Berber house that can be visited. The friendly son of the family explains the way of life and the usefulness of the different rooms. The whole thing is then rounded off by a tea ceremony that lasts about 30 minutes. We learn that it is the men who are responsible for the ceremony. They pour the green tea with fresh mint from a height of 50cm into a small glass three times in a row. Only then is it served.

After four beautiful days we continue to Taroudant. The town is almost completely surrounded by an eight metre high clay wall with five 16th century town gates. The medina and the souks can be seen in peace and you don't have to drink tea and buy a Berber carpet every five minutes. A highlight for us was the Sunday market on a huge area outside the city wall. Between mountains of fruit and vegetables, everything that can be sold is traded. In this size and variety we have not yet seen this. 

We continue past Agadir and for the first time since long we see the Atlantic again. We drive up the coast, make several stops in small fishing villages and spend the night on the cliffs with a magnificent view of the sea. After a few days we reach Essaouira and park directly at the city wall. The former small fishing village has meanwhile grown to a tourist place with more than 100.000 inhabitants. Here, modernity meets tradition. Many women still wear the traditional shark, a white cape with a dark face veil and in between, European tourists stroll with a carrier top and hot pants. Surprisingly, the place has retained its charm and a stroll through the medina (old town) is absolutely worthwhile and since 2001 also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The next days unfortunately rain is announced and thus we spend the time on a campground in the proximity of Marrakesch before we drive into the city. We find a nice parking lot behind the big mosque and from there all sights can be reached comfortably on foot. The minaret of the Kutubija Mosque, which is also the landmark of the city, overlooks the roofs of the medina and is a good point of orientation if you get lost. In the well-kept park at the southwest side of the mosque, one can take a deep breath and also has nice photo perspectives, before one throws oneself into the turmoil of the old town.

Central point of contact and centre of all events is "Djemma el Fna", the place of the beheaded. Here already in the morning the drummers and snake charmers are active and want money for the photo. The motive par excellence are of course the water sellers who constantly get in your way. They charge 10 Euro for a photo according to the motto, I can try it. But it really starts in the late afternoon. Then the delivery vans roll up and within a good hour at least 30 stands with cookshops are built up which all offer the same, meat with skewer and skewer with meat and of course the obligatory Tajine. A walk through the stalls is like running a gauntlet. Everyone praises his goods and tries to place one more or less aggressively at his table.

The souks, the biggest in the country, start around the square, and walking through them is really a very special pleasure, because in the dense crowd of narrow alleys, mopeds, tuktuks and bicycles race back and forth and from time to time a donkey cart passes by. We'd rather have a look at the Saadier graves. The Alaouiten sultan Mouley Ismail once bricked up this work of art of his predecessor dynasty and only in 1917 it was rediscovered by the French. The highlight of the sightseeing is the hall of the twelve columns for which one has to queue for a good hour before one can have a look inside. The next day we visit the Palais de La Bahia. In this huge palace, a labyrinth of interconnected rooms, halls and inner courtyards, a grand vizier with four women and 80 concubines resided in the century before last. The today empty rooms in the moorish style are equipped with painted cedar wood ceilings and marble and let us guess in which splendour the oriental princely houses lived. Actually we still wanted to visit the Koran school, but unfortunately it is closed for a longer time because of renovation. After a good 2 days of city hustle and bustle it is enough for us and we drive on. 

We take the highway and make a few kilometers of road to Casablanca. There we make a stop at the third largest mosque of the world, the only one in Morocco which may be entered by unbelievers. An incredible building, which was finished by 2500 workers and 10.000 craftsmen after a construction time of only seven years in 1993. The minaret is with 210 m, the highest world-wide. In the prayer hall there is room for 25,000 people, 20,000 men downstairs and 2500 women each on the two balconies on each side. The square in front of the mosque holds another 80,000 people. The whole thing is a high-tech work of the very highest quality. The huge doors are made of titanium and the roof can be opened automatically in three minutes to create fresh air when the mosque is full. A green laser beam points the way to Mecca at night. A visit and a guided tour through the mosque is highly recommended. 

Slowly our travel circle closes and we pass Meknes again. Unfortunately the mausoleum is still closed because of renovation and so we make only a short lunch stop and buy fresh strawberries on the market, the kilo for 1 euro. With this the strawberry jam for breakfast is secured for the next months. After Meknes and Marrakech, Fes, the third of the four royal sites, is now on the programme. We park a little outside at a hotel and arrange an all-day city tour from there.

Punctually at 10 o'clock our guide and a driver pick us up. First we go to the royal palace. At the moment the king is in town, but he didn't want to see us. In front of the entrance gate the guards are standing in colourful uniforms. Whether as photo motive for the tourists or as protection for the king we could not find out. Then a stroll through the Jewish quarter and a short drive to a magnificent view point above the city follows. From there, one has a great view to the city. Fes has a good one million inhabitants and is the oldest of the four royal cities with more than 800 mosques. Afterwards we visit a ceramics factory and can have a look at the different working processes up to the final product. 

Then it goes into the old town which is surrounded by a city wall and where the alleys are sometimes so narrow that only one person can pass through. Running around here is really fun, as in contrast to Marrakech, no mopeds are allowed here. The absolute highlight of a city stroll in Fes is the tannery and dye works. Here, as in old times, the skins of sheep and camels are tanned and then dyed in large vats with natural colours. People stand with their bare feet in the vats and knock out the skins. A bone job that is well paid for Moroccan conditions. After lunch we visit a Koran school and a caravanserai, but unfortunately it is not in its original condition anymore. In former times the travellers came through here with their caravans and could sleep there safely with their animals. At the end we go to a cloth shop and I get equipped with a Djellaba for the photo shooting and on special request of my sister before we are brought back to our car in the late afternoon. 

On the way we pass through the olive grove and stock up with freshly pressed oil. We won't get that good and cheap in the near future. We spend the last two days in Chefchouen and Martil. MOMO gets another care unit which he has earned really hard. The purse is also happy, because where else can you wash and lubricate for 10 euros. And then our time in Morocco is already over. We take the ferry to Algeciras and after an hour and a half of seafaring we enter European soil again. 

Now we will explore a few more regions of Spain and Portugal. But what experience there you can find in the next blog. Until then have fun reading and looking at pictures. 

Our personal summary

Morocco surprised us positively. It's a pleasant trip, the roads are mostly in quite good condition, you can find nice offroad tracks and of course there is the desert with its sandy tracks. The people are very friendly and the different landscapes inspired us. Morocco has something of everything, no matter if beach vacation, desert or mountains, there is something for everyone. In addition, there are the very low costs of living. It is fun to shop at the markets, where you have to make an effort to spend more than 2-3 € for 2 bags full of vegetables. Thus, in March, we also had the lowest monthly costs since we travelled.

We also found it very pleasant that we never had an insecure feeling or had to constantly look over our shoulder, no matter if we were travelling in nowhere or in cities. Of course, the Arab mentality is a bit getting used to and is sometimes very annoying in some cities with a lot of tourism. But the further one gets to the south, and also drives off the main routes, this gets lost and often becomes true friendliness without ulterior motives. Morocco, anytime again!

And finally a few nice snapshots

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