Morocco – Land of Setting Sun – Part I

This time we are going a bit further from our homes, in a two-weeks road trip in North Africa. Morocco is very close to Europe and many commercial airlines fly there (or ferries from Spain), so if you want to experience something different, without too much hassle and money, it is a perfect destination.

In order to get the most out of our time, we took our flights with arrival in Marrakesh and departure from Fes, and rented a car half of the trip. Here’s a few words about the essential things you need to know about Morocco:

Foreign languages: you can get along with French mostly everywhere, English in the more touristic spots and Spanish in the North.
Transportation: Grands Taxis are old Mercedes-Benz W123 used for transportation between cities (or villages). To make it cheaper, you usually pair up with other people and share the ride’s cost (we did not experienced that, but sometimes they fit even 6 people in the car + driver); Petits Taxis are small cars used inside the city, usually with a fixed price that differs from city to city.
Food: Street food and tagine. You can find the tagine everywhere, and even though you think you’ll get bored of it, you won’t, since is different depending on the region you’re in.
Sleep: Riads in the cities, Berber tents or how we did it, car + own tent.
And most important of all: Negotiate everything! πŸ™‚

We’ll take you through our tour chronologically, together with tips and recommendations along the way. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

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Marrakesh

Probably the most iconic and visited place in Morocco.

The main attraction is the square market, Jemaa el-Fnaa, full of locals, tourists, street food and art shows. Try to find accommodation close by, but if not available don’t hesitate to take a Petit Taxi, rides are cheap and sometimes is better than wandering around during the night in quiet neighborhoods.

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Strolling around the streets in Medina, there’s no way to resist the Morrocan cuisine you’ll find at every corner.
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Finding alcohol is close to impossible in the traditional part of the city, but there are cues for buying Panache (Moroccan style smoothie). This guy especially was a hit among locals, and during our stay in Marrakesh we became regulars.
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Let’s see what we’re gonna visit πŸ™‚

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Narrow streets and narrow towers (Koutoubia Palace below)

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Fresh orange juice and fruits are available to buy at every step. Four dirhams, please! πŸ™‚
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Palm trees bark removal.
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We are down on earth but we’re already having our mind set on the next destination.
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Until Moroccan fashion catches our eye πŸ˜›
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And a wild tagine appears in front of us πŸ™‚
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Ceasing with a genuine “Morrocan whiskey”.
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High Atlas

A scenic mountainous region, away from the rush and heat of the cities.

We started “early morning” from Marrakesch and rented a Grand Taxi to Imlil village, the classic base to start the Toubkal summit. Here you can rent out equipment (crampons, ice axe etc),buy maps and ask for several indications, though the route to the Toubkal Refuge is quite straight-forward.

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Rain and melted snow are washing the red soils changing the river color.
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We arrive at Toubkal Refuge (3207 m) in the evening (8pm) and start our last part of the ascent next day in the morning.

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And here is what we came for: Jbel Toubkal (4,167 m) πŸ™‚
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We are now returning home, the same as everyone else. Taxi’s are waiting for tourists in Imlil until @5-6 pm, so take this into account if you don’t want to spend the night there.

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Ouzud Falls

A contrast with the desert landscape of Morocco.

Walking up and down around it, is relaxing and the amount of water flowing continuously next to you is impressive. As every touristic location in Morocco, the guides are all around you, so if you want the time for yourself, reject them firmly from the start.
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At the bottom of the falls you can walk under the shade of olive trees and if you’re coming in the right season you can also swim in some of the ponds. Sleeping in Berber tents at the bottom of the falls is also a thing to consider as the prices are quite reasonable.
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The path ain’t good everywhere so wear proper shoes.
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The original inhabitants of Morocco are Berbers, which refer to themselves as “free people”. When the Arabs invaded Maghreb, the Berber population in Morocco fled to the mountain regions, caves around Ouzud being as well a good hiding spot.
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Spot the Macaque!
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We’re now leaving High Atlas to the very dry part of the country. Driving around is really enjoyable, roads are small, but with a general good quality and rather empty most of the time. We’ve been pulled over by police two times, but both cases it was our fault. Police tends to be present close to the cities and fine you for exceeding the speed limit.
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AΓ―t Benhaddou

The iconic example of pre-Saharan earthen architecture and movie set for several films.

We are now literally in a sandcastle…one built in the 17th century and a UNESCO world heritage site πŸ™‚
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The buildings are made by a mixture of earth and straw and wood reinforcement. They are vulnerable due to lack of maintenance (the inhabitants abandoned it) but under protection and continuous rehabilitation.
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It is time for a lunch break, with lentils soup, Moroccan salad and the omnipresent tagine πŸ™‚
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AΓ―t Benhaddou is a very visited attraction point, therefore it transforms into a street bazar.
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Time to say goodbye πŸ™‚
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Oasis de Fint

The best place you want to find yourself in the desert πŸ™‚

Here’s where we blindly picked our sleeping spot in the middle of the night.
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And here is where we woke up πŸ™‚ . In the Southern part of Morocco everything is concentrated around big or small oasis, leaving kilometers of nothing in between.
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A local guide welcomed us as soon as we woke up, first through the oasis cultures of almonds, figs, palm trees etc and then in his home.

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Gorges du Dades

A curvy road through interesting red rock formations.

The Berbers built kasbahs (fortresses) in the vicinity of gorges, in defence purposes. In the same relief note, if you have the time, consider a bike trip in Gorges du Todra.
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Next part of the trip to be continued, after a freshly squeezed orange juice break at the end of the gorge road πŸ™‚
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>> continueΒ Morocco: Land of Setting Sun – Part II

Iulia

In search for balance and a long term way to enjoy the world around us without getting dragged in the society speed. You'll probably find me in my best element hiking mountains, reading a book in a hammock or exploring off the beaten path sides of the world. Of course, with a backpack.

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