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Week 9 in Morocco

Week 9 in Morocco

by Alan Gow |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africable of Contents


Just a short drive to Asilah and then up to Tangier Med for our departure, eventually.  The roads in this part are great but don’t offer the typically stunning scenery seen further south.

We are stranded and waiting for the gales to die out so we can cross back to Spain. We then endure the painful Moroccan exit procedures


After a short drive to Asilah, bad weather keeps us stuck in Morocco for a few extra days before returning to Spain via Tangier Med Port.  We use some of the time to explore the delightful Asilah medina.


Day 57; Asilah, Monday 25 March 2019

With our LPG gas tanks nearly empty, we drive north to be close to the Tangier Med Ferry Terminal.  From now on we will have to be hooked up to mains power or we will soon run out of gas.  If that happens we can’t cook, or have a shower and our fridge won’t work.

Our friends recommended the seaside town of Moulay Bousselham as a good spot to spend a few days before finally leaving Morocco.  After checking the reviews of various camping grounds we choose the one with the least bad reviews and head straight there.  On driving into Flamingo’s Camping, it just doesn’t feel nice.  Everything is overgrown and looks unloved.  There is nothing here that looks inviting.  We park, have a cup of tea then decide that if they want our valuable business, they need to up their game and at least make the place look half presentable. 


Asilah Medina

The quaint Atlantic seaside town of Asilah is only another 30 minutes up the road and 30 minutes closer to the ferry so we point Betsy in that direction and keep going.

Often being the first stop for motorhomers arriving in Morocco, Asilah is a great introduction to the culture and the people.  We missed this when we chose to drive first down the Mediterranean side because the weather forecast there was better.  Asilah however, would be a much nicer option (in my humble opinion).

Camping Echrigui  (GPS 35.47243, -6.02825) is close to the beach on the north side of Asilah and costs 80 dirhams a night including electricity.  Soon after we arrive, so do our friends Tommy and Zoe, who crossed from Spain to Morocco with us eight weeks ago.

The Asilah medina (old walled part of the town), is right on the port and some stone sculptures have recently been installed outside the walls.  The shiny, new modern sculptures look a little incongruous against the ancient stone walls but are nice pieces.

Asilah Medina Walls and Modern Stone Sculptures

Looking through the sculpture

Day 58; Asilah Medina, Tuesday 26 March 2019

We cycle into town to explore the Asilah medina and stop beside a set of vividly painted tiles fixed to the wall.  Each tile is a different representation of the Hand of Fatima, which is an ancient symbol believed to provide protection against the ‘evil eye’.  The concept of the evil eye is that it is a curse cast on you by someone giving you a malevolent look, usually when you are not aware of it.  I wonder how many malevolent looks we have picked up in the last nine weeks in Morocco.  It’s a little scary to think about it.

The ‘Hand of Fatima” is a common theme in Morocco – here on painted ceramic tiles

Caught Out by a False Guide

While we are examining the tiles, a man walks past and explains that these were made by a local artist in a nearby shop.  He motions for us to follow him.  As we have nothing better to do, we follow him around the Asilah medina while he explains about the different architecture and how to differentiate between the different types of buildings and doors.

After a little while we realise that we have managed to pick up a ‘false guide’.  These people are unregistered illegal guides.  They try to charge for providing tours after giving unsuspecting foreigners some historical information about their surroundings.  We had experienced this approach before however then we plainly told the person that we were not interested in a guide. 

This time, we had been caught out and it took a while before we twigged to what he had done.  As we neared the medina exit, the man asked for money saying that he had given us a ‘Asilah medina tour’.  We told him that we hadn’t asked for a medina tour and that he had just been walking with us and talking.  On this occasion, he went away empty-handed however we have heard of instances where tourists have been pressured into paying significant sums for something they didn’t know they were having.

TIP: If someone comes up to you and starts telling you about what you are looking at, they are likely to have an ulterior motive, usually involving getting money from you.  If you don’t want a guide, (or to be taken to their uncle’s carpet shop), then tell them this very clearly. Stop and wait for them to move on. 

However, if you do want this person to be a guide for you, then agree the price up front.  Do not wait until the end otherwise you leave yourself open to excessive charges and extortion.  If you are concerned then just say you will call the tourist police of whom illegal operators are very scared.

Having said that though, the Asilah medina is very interesting, containing some unique buildings and great street art.

Wall Mural in the Medina

‘Hands of Fatima’ Street Art

Traditionally painted Asilah Medina house

One of the many interesting alleys

Stranded in Asilah

Days 59 – 60, 27th – 28th March

The wind has been blowing a gale and we find out that nearly all the ferry sailing are cancelled and the ferry terminal is in chaos. It is overrun with hundreds of motorhomes (as well as cars, motorbikes and others) trying to leave Morocco.

We decide to wait out the storm and spend another two nights here until the ferries are sailing regularly again.  Asilah is a nice place to be and we really enjoy the last opportunities to experience the totally unique feelings, sights and tastes that are so different to what we know awaits us back in Spain.

Most businesses are closed on Fridays, so this makes Thursday an important shopping day for the locals.  We venture out on our bikes into narrow streets.  They are crammed with people selling everything imaginable plus a few things I could never have conceived of.  Making progress on the bikes is impossible.  We buy some pumpkin from an old lady and lock our bikes to the post beside her, reckoning that she will keep an eye on them.  Next it’s time to stock up on fresh chicken, spiced turkey mince, fruit and vegetables before reluctantly leaving.

Buying pumpkin, Asilah Street Vendor

The Coast is Clear to Leave

Day 61, 29th March

The ferries are running regularly and it’s time to leave.

I decide to save some money and see a little more scenery by taking the non-toll road for part of the way up the coast.  Bad move!  We don’t know whether it was a setup but as we are leaving Asilah on a straight road with an 80km/hr speed limit, an old car pulls out of a service station right in front of me and sits at 40 km/hr. 

Without thinking properly and with a clear road ahead, I pull out and pass him while failing to notice the two men at the side of the road a few hundred metres up the road.  Whoops, they are police and I have just crossed a solid white line. Twenty minutes and 400 dirhams later, we resume our journey.  Lesson learned.  My bad.  Nine weeks ticket free then on the last day I am pinged. 

TIP: There are a lot of speed traps in Morocco, particularly in the more touristy areas. Many motorhomers receive speeding tickets so beware.  They are also very hot on policing solid white no-passing lines.  Coincidentally, another person we met copped a ticket when he pulled out to pass a rickshaw in similar circumstances.  Maybe there is some sort of setup scenario where someone deliberately pulls out and travels slowly to entice vehicles to pass illegally? Or maybe I am just annoyed at getting a ticket myself?

We arrive at the Tangier Med ferry terminal about 11.00am hoping to catch the 1.00pm ferry however we were not prepared for the chaos that is the exit process.  Those readers who intend to visit Morocco in a motorhome may want to take note of this so they can prepare themselves emotionally for the trauma. There were still some ferries being cancelled or delayed and this may have contributed to what we experienced.


Exiting the Country – Morocco Style

Queue 1 – Boarding Passes

With a return ticket already in your possession the first thing needed is simply a boarding pass.  Upon arriving into the terminal, it is likely that someone will wave you over and ask for your ticket and passport.  They just want to get your boarding pass for you then try to charge you money.  Therefore, Don’t give your passport to anyone.  Just park, walk over to the booth displaying the name of your ferry company, and give them your documentation.  They will give you boarding passes for the passengers and your motorhome.  This is the first of many queues ahead.

Be aware when you are driving in the extensive terminal area that there are speed limits and usually police officers with radar guns.  So stick to the speed limits.

Queue 2 – Passport Control

Queue 2 is for passport control and once you make it to the booth, hand over your passports, which must still contain the slip of paper that was stapled inside when you entered.

Queue 3 – Vehicle Documents

On entering Morocco, you were given a temporary vehicle import document, which needs to be presented and verified when you exit the country. Processing this is the next step and we inch forward in Queue  3 until it is finally our turn.  The document is taken away, stamped and returned to us, and we are free to move onto the next step.  A lot of the local vans seemed to be searched here before passing this bottleneck.

Queue 4 – X – Ray

All vehicles leaving Morocco are X-Rayed (looking for stowaways, drugs and weapons we think) and Queue 4 for this step is long and slow moving.  Motorhomes are shuffled into the far-right lane and drip fed into place along with the cars.  About 20 vehicles at a time are lined up on a ramp beside the mobile unit.  We leave our motorhome and after about 10 minutes the X Ray truck trundles along scanning each vehicle.  Another 15 minutes later and we are allowed to hop back into Betsy and leave.  It’s no wonder that Queue four is so long when there appears to be absolutely no urgency in processing vehicles through.  I am sure they could have easily put through four batches in the same time if they had just tried a little harder.

Betsy waiting to be X-Rayed at Tangier Med Port 

Finally, the formalities seem to be concluded nearly two hours after we arrived at the port.  We find our way to the dockside parking area associated with our ferry company.  It’s a good idea at this time to make a cup of tea and some food.  Maybe even watch a movie because the printed time on our boarding pass is merely there because they wanted to use up some ink and there was a blank space on the paper.  It bears no resemblance to any actual departure time.  The Tangier Med website suggests that all our ferry line sailings are cancelled until 3.00am.  We settle in for a long wait, glad to be in a motorhome where we can eat, watch movies or even have sleep.

Lo and behold, a Balerius line ferry turns up about 5pm (remember we’ve been here since 11am) and starts offloading cars and trucks.  Maybe we will get lucky?  We should have bought a lottery ticket because it appears that we will be actually leaving on this ferry this afternoon.  The stars must be in alignment for us today!

Queue 5 – Final Check

Immediately prior to boarding the ferry, they take a final opportunity to get us to wait in Queue 5 by doing one more inspection of our passports.  In our case, the officer also looked briefly inside the motorhome before letting us board.

“Finally”, we say to ourselves.  We are on board and on our way.  Sorry, but no.  Once you are boarded you should expect to wait anywhere from one to three hours before you actually get underway.  In our case, the 1.00pm ferry actually left about 6.30pm!!!!


Spain at Last

On arriving in Spain, the customs and immigration process is so easy and fast that it almost feels wrong.  Although we loved Morocco, the delays leaving, then the painful and prolonged exit processes mean we feel a deep sense of relief when we finally reach Spain.

We head straight to the nearest LPG filling station and fill up our gas tanks because we are now so empty that the fridge won’t start.  Luckily there is one just a few km from the ferry terminal.

A great place to spend the night after the ferry from Morocco is the camper parking at GPS 6.17897, -5.43916 (where we also stayed before crossing to Morocco).  There is lots of room, all the main supermarkets are around and the low stress night is welcomed after a long day escaping from Morocco.

So here ends our time in Morocco for this trip.

How did we feel about Morocco?  Would we go there again? What are the best points and what wasn’t so good?  Is there anything we would do differently and what were the key lessons we learned?

We will put together a summary of our trip, including interesting fact, top tips, and places you must see.


Costs for Weeks 1 – 9

A low-cost week costing us €193.51  slightly below the running average of €202.55 over the entire nine-week trip.

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Fantastic Fes

Week 4

Week 7

Week 1

Week 5

Week 8

Week 2

Week 6

Week 9

Week 3

Argan Oil

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

Week 8 in Morocco

Week 8 in Morocco

by Ruth Murdoch |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents


Week 8 saw us driving over 400 kilometres from Ouzoud Falls, through Khenifra then on to Meknes before checking out Volubilis and starting out way back up north.  Click to enlarge map.

This week we enjoy the stunning scenery of Ouzoud Falls, a rare sight in Morocco, before enjoying the township of Meknes (a must see town) and then wander through the ancient Roman Ruins at Volubilis.

Day 50; Ouzoud, Monday 18 March 2019

After an uneventful trip from Marrakech, where we couldn’t wait to escape, we arrived into the peaceful tranquillity of Ouzoud that became home base for the next three days.

Before moving on, I would like to explain why we didn’t like Marrakech and why we wouldn’t return.

I was really looking forward to this city with its reputation for vibrancy, liveliness, and interesting culture.  I had even considered that we could hang out there for several days and soak up all Marrakech had to offer us until we felt good and ready to leave.  I really wanted this to be an awesome experience.

However, it wasn’t to be.

What we found instead was a dirty city, overrun with beggars, over-enthusiastic shop keepers who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and countless other touts who relentlessly hassled us, trying to squeeze money from us.

I was upset by the cruelty shown towards animals such as the monkeys and snakes being exploited to sell photo opportunities to the tourists.

I understand that people are simply just doing the best they can with what they have to make a living, and get a few dirhams selling whatever they have that someone might want to pay for.  But for this introverted traveller it was just too much and too overwhelming. 

For my pick of the cities in Morocco that we visited, I have my heart in Fantastic Fes.

This little fella was forever pulling on the chain around his neck

Souks – The Place for Fresh Fruit and Veggies

Day 51; Ouzoud, Tuesday 19 March 2019

Today we jump on our trusty electric bikes and headed towards the local souk.  This is the biggest and most authentic souk we have seen yet. 

Find out what delights we bought…

Dozens and dozens of donkeys, mules and some horses are parked up in the adjacent fields like we would park our cars outside a supermarket.  The souk itself is being hosted in a paddock underneath tents and tarpaulins with blue skies above and rolling mountains standing watch in the background.

Donkeys Waiting Patiently For Their Owners To Return

A wander through the makeshift paths has us mesmerised by the amazing variety on offer.  Almonds, walnuts, eggs, live chicks barely a day or two old, clothes, spices galore (some unidentifiable), herbs, bright coloured material, vegetables of all colours, shapes, textures and of varying quality, clay tagines, pots and pans, couscous cookers, crockery, broken electronics, plasticware, sweets, dried legumes, dates, meat (both dead, such as goats and sheep, and soon to be dead chickens) and grains for the animals are just some of the treasures and essentials on sale today.

The souk is not only an opportunity to buy food for the next week, but it is also the time to catch up with friends from neighbouring villages or chew the fat with fellow stall vendors.

Just walking around the souk is fascinating and a full shopping list enhances our visit.

Although we find that we are normally charged a fair price, it’s not a bad idea to do some price checking between vendors because it is not uncommon to be charged ‘tourist’ rather than ‘local’ prices.

Today our pleasure is heightened when I spy some fennel seeds, which are freshly ground for me.  Walnuts are also on my list and one seller has the best I’ve come across so far – unbroken, large and fresh.

Souks are easily the best place to buy vegetables, especially the ones in season.  Once you know what is going to be available, you then find tasty meals to hero those fresh ingredients. 

How To Buy Veggies In The Souk

The process of buying vegetables in a souk is totally different from what we are used to.  First, take one of the low sided plastic bowls lying around (the least cracked and broken one you can find) and then put everything you want together into the bowl. Nothing is priced so it’s not possible to know the cost until the end.   Next hand the bowl over to the vendor, who will remove any higher priced products before placing it on some old-fashioned scales.  Weights are stacked on the other side of the scales until the weights over-balance the bowl.  The vendor then adds a few more items of his choosing to your bowl until they more or less balance.  Sometimes he may seek approval for his additions, but oftentimes not.

The process is then repeated for the higher priced items before the goodies are poured into a bag, money exchanged and you’re all set.  Just be aware that some of the more exotic products (e.g. pineapples) could be quite expensive so it is best to ask before loading them into your bowl.

In our experience of souks, the vendors are usually generous and give you more than you pay for, and the prices are very reasonable.  So, don’t worry if you don’t quite understand how it works, they do, and that’s all that matters.

Here’s the process of purchasing veggies and fruit in a souk

TIP: When making a purchase at a souk, be sure you know the prices before engaging.  That way you won’t feel like you’re being ripped off or you can bargain the price down to what you’re willing to pay.  So how do you know the prices?  Ask someone unrelated to the seller who, hopefully, speaks good English, what they would pay for the item you are interested in purchasing.

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The Souks Are Set Up In A Paddock

Buying Chickens

In my many years on earth, I’ve never seen a chook being plucked, until now.

Alert, you may want to skip the next few paragraphs to the title ‘dates’ if you have a squeamish composition, are vegetarian, or just don’t fancy knowing the cold hard facts of where meat (in this case chicken) comes from.

The chickens arrive at the souks alive and are stuffed into cramped cages.  The customers either ask for a certain weight of chook or just choose one from the cage.  The live chook is placed on the scales and weighed.  This sets the price you pay at the end of the process.

If you are having a chook butchered for you then expect to pay between 13 to 18 dirhams (€1.20-1.66 or NZ$1.97-$2.73) per kilo for the live weight.  If you want to buy one that has already been prepared then you pay more per kilogram because they are missing a few vital bits (legs, head, insides, etc).

We experienced a lot of variation in the asking prices and felt that some vendors were charging tourist prices.  We went from stall to stall until we found a price we thought was reasonable.

The chicken’s throat is then quickly, silently and without fuss, slit and the still kicking chook placed head first down into a makeshift funnel (an upside down re-used plastic bottle) so it can bleed out.  Then it is transferred into a drum of near boiling water (or outside of the souks they are placed into a plucking machine) for a few minutes.  This loosens the feathers, making plucking a quick task.  The butcher runs both hands down the carcass of the bird and the wet feathers literally fall out and onto the ground.

Once plucked, the butcher removes the wingtips, feet, head and organs and places the still warm chook into a plastic bag for the customer.

We couldn’t bring ourselves to condemn a chook that we had chosen, so opted instead to purchase one of the recently departed chickens already available.  There are no such luxuries here as fridges or ice, and with the temperatures in the low twenties, getting this meat back into our fridge became a priority.


Wherever you go in Morocco, where food is being sold, there will be someone selling dates.  Sometimes they will have just one type on offer, in other places, there may be a dozen or more.  The price depends on the quality, the size and where you are.

I’d recently purchased some dates in Marrakech after being offered samples to try.  Alas, when we arrived back at our motorhome we found that we had been slipped small, dry dates instead of the soft ones we had paid for at 60 dirhams (€5.53 or NZ$9.23).  Another example of why we didn’t like Marrakech.

Imagine my delight when the date seller at the Ozoud souk was selling the most succulent, soft and tasty dates for just 25 dirhams per kilo (€2.31 or NZ$3.80).  We loaded up on 2kg of these juicy treats and Alan sorted through the bags later to remove the live bees that had stowed away.

A Large Variety Of Dates To Choose From


Coming back to our motorhome, Betsy, laden with two kilos of fresh dates and some yummy walnuts, it was time to put my thinking cap on and come up with some worthy recipes.

The first was a Walnut and Date Tealoaf that has been a favourite of ours for years.  Next was a quick and easy batch of Walnut and Date Balls (made with argan oil if you have it, but any oil will do).  This recipe has no added sugar, which means it’s healthy, right?  And thirdly I made the delicious delicacy called Amlou (also known as Swassa), a very popular dish originating from the Berbers of the southern region of Morocco.  This dish showcases their (and now my) favourite way to eat the superfood, argan oil.

If you want to know why argan oil is good for eating check out this blog.

Walnut & Date Tealoaf

Walnut & Date Balls


Ouzoud Falls

Day 52; Ouzoud Falls, Wednesday 20 March 2019

The falls are not far from our camping spot, Zebra Camping Ouzoud (GPS coordinates 32.00531, -6.71998).  Later in the afternoon, once the hordes of tourists had departed, we jumped on our bikes and rode out to see the falls. 

TIP:  When a local says you can’t ride your bike to the falls and that you must park up in their parking area (and pay), just ignore them!  We rode right up to the falls and only had about five or six stairs to easily navigate.

Click on the right side of the picture below to see the gallery of photos


Days 54 & 55, Friday 22 March & Saturday 23 March 2019 

We stayed at the guarded parking right outside the Medina.  While it wasn’t quiet (the road works started up at 11pm directly behind us), it was perfect for easy access to the Medina by foot. (GPS coordinates 33.89093, -5.56408)

The term ‘street art’ has been growing on me and has become somewhat of a filter.  A bit like when you buy a red Mazda, then you suddenly see red Mazda’s everywhere.  Street art is having that same effect on me and the more I travel the more I seem to notice this.

Meknes was no exception.  You can look at these works of art and wonder who drew them, what the inspiration was, and start to imagine the story behind both the artist and the painting.  I will let you make up your own stories to go along with these masterpieces.

Click on the right side of the picture below to see the gallery

New Foods To Try In Morocco

It surprises me that after fifty-something days travelling around Morocco we are still finding new and exciting foods to sample.  One such food, that might look relatively simple, is something we would call a giant crumpet.  In Morocco they are called Baghrir.  Super tasty smothered with fresh Moroccan butter and honey, you will want to try these for yourself. 

The next new taste on our ‘to eat’ list was Maakouda which is a delicious deep-fried combination of mashed potato, garlic, and spices.  Otherwise known as Moroccon potato doughnuts.
And the third food we had for the first time in Meknes was a sweet thin-layered pancake cum bread treat with chocolate and dates in between the layers.  I don’t know the name of this but it was tasty enough for a street food snack.

Dessert Street Food

Nougat and toffee with nuts are also popular sweet treats, not just for the locals and tourists alike but the bees can’t seem to get enough of them.

The sweet pastries here are very sweet, often coated in sugar syrup and stuffed with nuts.  Here’s one that looks like the borek (Turkish pastry), but called M’Hanncha in Morocco.  It’s stuffed full with almonds, walnuts, peanuts and dates all crushed together and then wrapped in a thin pastry (like filo) and rolled into a snail shape.  Next, they are coated with liquid sugar just because there aren’t already enough calories.

Leaving Meknes with fond memories and a determination to return for a longer stay, we head to the nearby township of Moulay Idriss and stayed at the guarded parking (GPS 34.05769, -5.5172).    

Volubilis – Ancient Roman Ruins

Day 56, Sunday, 24 March 2019

Who would expect to see Roman ruins in Morocco?  Not me, but here they are.  In fact, I was rather surprised to see this map showing the extent of the Roman occupation throughout Europe and Africa.

The Red Colour Shows Where The Romans Invaded, Which Was Far and Wide

Situated just 32kms north on Meknes, Volubilis was originally the Berber city considered to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mauretania.  The city overlooks fertile rolling hills that don’t have a Moroccan feel at all, in fact, they strongly remind me of the French countryside.  The Romans took over in the first century AD building many significant structures and developing it in the typical Roman style of the day.

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 badly damaged many of these buildings, after which significant amounts of marble and stone were removed to build Meknes.  This is another of Morocco’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, listed for being “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a large Roman colonial town.”

The site is well known for the many mosaics decorating the floors of what would have been the houses of the well-to-do Romans.  The colour of some are still surprisingly vibrant and I learnt this is due to the minerals in the stones which are said to not fade under the harsh elements of the African sun, wind, or rain.

The entrance fee is 70 dirhams and had we arrived earlier in the day, I would have considered hiring a local guide to glean more historical information.

That said, however, the well-appointed museum at the beginning of the site provided a reasonable explanation of the ruins.  It’s well worth a visit if you are in the region.

Roman Ruins of Volubilis

Costs for Weeks 1 – 8

A low cost week as we were on our own and had previously stocked up in the souk with fresh fruit and veggies.

Our running average cost of living for a week in Morocco dropped to just over €200 (NZ$333 or £172).  Compare this to living in Norway where our average spend was €405 and Morocco is a cheap destination to while away the winter months. Oh and the weather is great.

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Tune in next week for our final week in Morocco (at least for this trip).  

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Fantastic Fes

Week 4

Week 7

Week 1

Week 5

Week 8

Week 2

Week 6

Week 9

Week 3

Argan Oil

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

Week 7 in Morocco

Week 7 in Morocco

by Alan Gow |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents


In Week 7 we crossed the High Atlas Mountains between Taroudant and Marrakech via the infamous R203 road over the Tizi N’Test pass.  The scenery was simply outstanding and the scary moments with other traffic were frequent.  Google Maps suggests this might take nearly five hours.  In reality, allow twice that.  Click to enlarge map.

As we climb the high passes of the High-Atlas mountains we experience new peaks of astonishment at the scenery around, then plunge to the deepest depths of despair and darkness at events half a world away in our home country of New Zealand.

We experience a roller coaster of emotions that have us loving Morocco and her people even more, but feeling that we should leave as soon as possible for our own safety.

While the events at home cannot be changed and forever scar our memories, we gladly report that any concerns for our safety are unfounded and we continue to feel safe, appreciated and very welcome here in Morocco.

The week’s post is different from previous chapters in that (apart from this opening), it is light on words and heavy on photos.


Taroudant to Tizi N’Test Pass – Climbing Goats and High Alpine Passes

The R203 road is known for being a little difficult.  Narrow and worn out, it winds sinuously up to 2,100 metres and guarantees the driver (and passenger) some interesting and hair-raising moments, especially when meeting on-coming traffic.  We are travelling together with our German friends, Roger and Andy, just in case either one of us runs into trouble.

Don’t just take my word on the R203 being a little suspect.  Here is a report from someone who is an expert on dangerous roads.

Soon after leaving Taroudant, we are privileged to see that ‘only in Morocco’ sight of a flock of goats grazing on foliage and nuts high up in the argan trees.  We saw this briefly once before, but this time we are able to get up close and take some great photos. If you want to read about argan trees, why they are so important and what is so special about argan oil then click here.

Haven’t you seen a goat before?

Getting close and personal with the goats

We ascend an unexpectedly good road with spectacular views back towards Taroudant.

The views as we begin our ascent

We spoke too soon about the good road and like the flick of a switch it deteriorates to a single lane of rough asphalt with some nasty drop offs.

The R203 deteriorates into a narrow strip of worn out asphalt

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Climbing higher, the views are even better but the air in the distance grows hazy, which often seems to be the case in Morocco due to dust whipped up by the wind.

High on the R203, the views are spectacular

There are a couple of places along the road where you can fill up with crystal clear mountain water. It’s worth taking this road with empty water tanks just so you can fill at this mountain waterfall.  The local man sitting by the side of the road was selling herbs for tea.

Some more great photos can be snapped especially where the rocks overhang the road.

Our motorhomes by the waterfall

Betsy under the overhanging rocks

The R203 – How long will that rock stay up there?

At 2,100 metres we reach the top of the Tizi N’Test pass and find our sleeping place for the night at Mustapha’s Auberge (GPS 30.86839, -8.37922), for 80 dirhams.  Mustapha apparently makes one of the best Berber omelettes in the business and after dinner, there are no arguments from us.

 Motorhome parking on Tizi N’Test Pass

Berber omelettes for all

In the early morning, the air clears to allow some photographs down both sides of the Tizi N’Test Pass.

Pink skies looking south from Tizi N’Test

Golden light as the sun hits the peaks

Looking north to the road ahead

Tizi N’Test Pass to Asni

Our journey continues from the Tizi’N Test Pass on the R203 which is still very narrow at times and with some nasty broken shoulders on both sides.  The traffic however is a lot heavier which means some careful passing is required.

As we continue, the evidence of long-ago geological events appear,  We suddenly have a rainbow of colours showing in the rocks and strata of the mountains around us.  It reminds me of the pink, white and chocolate ‘Neapolitan’ ice cream we used to buy in two litre tubs as kids back in New Zealand.

Neopolitan ice cream mountains

We wind down following a wide river valley, passing ruining buildings and seeing slashes of green terraced hillsides wherever the life-giving water has emerged for humans to exploit.

Abandoned restaurant – someone’s lost dream?

Terraced hillsides wherever water shows

Looking down the R203 and the green river valley

Bottoming out in a wide flood plain we look back up at the mountain range we just drove through.

View back up the High Atlas Mountains towards Tizi n’Test

The Tinmel Mosque, a short diversion off the R203, is a historically important structure.  With roots dating back to the 11th century, it is lovingly restored and well worth a visit.  (GPS 30.984639, -8.228157).  A small donation to the guardian for the mosque is expected.

Tinmel Mosque – now restored

The arches provide interest for photographers

As we follow the river Oued N’Fis downstream it gradually swells from a mere trickle to something substantial, finally terminating in a large hydroelectric lake.

The Oued N’Fis River becomes a hydroelectric area called Lake Ouirgane

We haven’t wild camped (read our general guide to wild camping here) much in Morocco, but tonight looks like a good time to give it a try.  We set our sights on a nice looking picnic spot from the App Park4Night.  Parking up, we gaze into one of the most awe-inspiring valley views we have seen. (GPS 31.185601,-8.064748 ).  However, sleeping here was not to be…..

Ouirgane – one of the most awesome views so far

Within 30 minutes, the local chief of police rolls up with an interpreter to explain that they cannot guarantee our safety and we can’t stay.  This spot is only about 16km from the area where two Scandinavian girls were murdered a few months back and the local police are now very cautious.

They fortunately offer to give us a police escort to a local auberge or hotel, ‘Chez Momo II’ which allows us to spend the night in their car park.  We were a little aggrieved at not being able to stay in our chosen location but on the other hand, we feel ‘looked after’ by the police and locals.

Chez Momo II is a lovely private auberge with stunning views and decorated with original Berber artefacts.  We find out the next day that ‘Chez Momo I’ was submerged nearly fifteen years ago, along with three villages under the nearby hydroelectric lake.

Betsy’s scenic parking spot

The view from Chez Momo II over Lake Ouirgane

Tragedy Strikes at Home

Today we are in mourning for New Zealand, Australia and Muslims around the world.

An Australian living in New Zealand murders 50 Muslim men, women and children in two mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Totally senseless and horrific, this event is touched with irony for us.  Yesterday we were being treated with the utmost respect by the local Muslims who were concerned about our safety.  Today, in New Zealand, Muslims were being slaughtered.  Disgusting.  We are absolutely devastated to hear this news and spend the day in a state of shock.

Our reaction is one of shame, and also concern that there may be some in Morocco with extremist leanings feeling that a revenge killing of New Zealanders would be appropriate.  We take measures to hide our identity by covering over the ‘New Zealand’ decals we have been so proudly displaying on Betsy. Maybe this is an over-reaction, but it is how we feel at the time.  We remove the camouflage a few days later.

Sadly de-identifying ourselves as ‘Kiwis’

We ask the manager whether it is okay for us to stay another night as we are too upset to drive.  Once again, the gentle Moroccan hospitality shines through as he commiserates with us and allows us to stay.

(Not so) Magnificent Marrakech

The R203 continues onto Marrakech but without the stunning mountain and gorge scenery we have been used to.  The river bed at Al Haouz with the view back to the snow capped peaks was worth stopping and admiring.

Al Haouz, with vendor stalls, horses and snowy mountains

We are looking forward to seeing the fabled city of Marrakech but having heard mixed reviews from other travellers, we are determined to make up our own minds.  We find some guarded parking (we wouldn’t recommend) not far from the Medina and take our cycles in for a look at the markets and souks.  We have to try a sugar cane and lemon juice drink – it’s just one of those things you need to do once in Morocco.  How cool is it when they run the sugar cane through the rollers and the juice comes out?  As we drink, we know that the sugar content is off the charts but the lemon juice keeps the sweetness down.

Clothes Market

Mouthwatering display of olives and lemons

A dentist’s dream – sugar cane drink

Some of the backstreets are very picturesque and it’s worth waiting for everyone to clear off so you can take an unobstructed photo.

Marrakech backstreet gem

Once we hit the UNESCO World Heritage site of the main Jemaa-el-Fna Square, everything is rather chaotic.  The square abounds with snake charmers, monkey handlers, fortune tellers, fruit juice sellers, people wandering around in their national costume and crowds of tourists.  However, it doesn’t take long to realise that most of the people have just one thing in mind – to separate you from your money.

Over the two days we wandered the streets and markets of Marrakech, at times we really enjoy the atmosphere and sights.  More often however, we are weary of the attention from beggars, the continual efforts to rip us off and the busyness, hustle and bustle.  It is in Marrakech that for the first time we had to put our bikes into guarded parking, as well as lock them up.  We couldn’t go to an ATM because there were very aggressive beggars hassling anyone taking out money (four of them)!  We eventually retire to the top floor of the L’Adresse Café where a bird’s eye view gives us ample opportunity to watch the action from a safe, unharassed distance.

Marrakech – Jemaa-el-Fna Square

We visit the El Badi Palace which is worth a look for the incredible painted woodwork, intricate masonry and extensive mosaics.  Try to get there early and avoid the crowds if you want to takes some ‘people-free’ photos.

El Badi Palace courtyard

Amazing intricate painted wood ceiling panels

The local car park tried to overcharge us for parking our bikes.  Then an elderly fruit seller first overcharged us, then didn’t want to hand over our change (we got our money back and bought elsewhere).  After two days of this type of thing, the level of annoyance with the negative experiences outweighed any positive feelings we had.  That was enough of Marrakech for us!

Sorry that this hasn’t turned into a ’12 Best Things to Day in Marrakech” blog but you can find lots of those on the internet.

Weekly Costs

Food, both groceries and eating out, expenses were higher than usual due to hanging out with friends.  We managed to taste all sorts of things that we wouldn’t have otherwise, which was fabulous.

Our running average cost of living for a week in Morocco is about €220 (NZ$365 or £188).

We love to see comments on our blog as it keeps us motivated to keep writing.  Please say hi or leave a quick one line comment below, thanks.

Tune in next week as we leave Marrakech and visit the impressive waterfalls and monkeys at Ouzoud, the lovely town and medina at Meknes, and the unexpected extensive Roman ruins at Volubilis.

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Week 6 in Morocco

Week 6 in Morocco

by Ruth Murdoch |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents


Week 6 had us driving 297kms from Mirleft beach, through Tiznit (we didn’t stop here this time) to Tafroute then on to Taraoudant, an area called the Anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco.  Click to enlarge map.

This week we tour through the Anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco, we visit our first souk accompanied by a local and learn how to exchange the Moroccan way.

Spectacular Souk

Day 36: Mirleft; Monday 4th March

We’re in for a special treat today. Our friendly Moroccan kidnapper, Mo, whisks us away to the Mirleft souk (weekly market) where we come across the unexpected…

For a small town Mirleft packs a punch when it comes to their souk, selling outstandingly fresh fruit and vegetables. You would have thought that after 36 days of travelling through this wonderful country we would have properly experienced a souk before, but we have either missed them by one day or turned up too late in the afternoon when most of the sellers had left. This was one of those occasions where the early bird catches the worm, or at least the freshest vegetables, fruit and herbs.

We are told that if the sellers arrive and set up, and the expected crowds don’t appear, they simply pack up and go back home. Luckily today, the buyers are out in force so the stall holders stayed put.

Set up in a dry dusty paddock, that is empty six out of seven days a week, is today’s home for this market. Only a fortunate few have makeshift tables to display their wares, the others just spread out a tarpaulin for their merchandise on top of the dirt.

Goodies Piled On Top Of Cloths For Sale In The Souk

It’s mainly men who are the sellers here and the souk appears to be an opportunity to catch up with friends.  The men greet each other; they chat, laugh, drink tea, and eat while watching out for their next sale.  The Moroccan people are always smiling and seem genuinely happy which makes hanging out here a real pleasure.

Men Hanging Around Mirleft Souk Sharing Secrets

Date Seller Asks To Have His Picture Taken

The quality of fruit and vegetables was the best we have seen in Morocco, bar none.  The cauliflowers must have just been picked this morning, as they still looked vibrant and alive.  But the real treat today was finding some much-longed for green spinach, again freshly picked this morning.  What a treat!  Now I can, once again, have green smoothies for breakfast.

It’s not just seasonal local groceries that can be bought here, another special treat was finding pineapples (imported from the Canary Islands) and fresh ginger.  I paid three dirhams (€.30 or NZ$0.46) for the ginger and handed over a five dirham coin.  Instead of money I asked for the change to be given in fresh soft delicious dates.  The vendor laughed at me saying ‘that’s the Moroccan way’ and Mo commented that we’ve been in Morocco long enough now to think like a Moroccan and that we should be applying for our residency status.

The souks don’t just sell fruit and vegetables.  There is also fresh honey from cactus, clothing, tea pots, tools, car parts, jewellery, belts, leather items, household items like plastic buckets, couscous pots, electronics (used and old), fabrics, melhafa (the traditional daywear of the ladies), sweet roasted nuts, dried legumes and more.  We saw an old xbox and a Dell computer that must have been twenty or thirty years old. Goodness knows how long the vendor has been carrying this stuff around and who he expects will buy it (apart from a museum curator).

TIP:  If you’re in the market, buy a Berber necklace early in your travels and wear it.  That way you will not only have a great souvenir, but you will please the locals, have a conversation starter and a valid excuse to politely decline to buy another.  Everywhere you go, you will find people selling ‘genuine’ Berber jewellery and artefacts and they are clever and relentless in their efforts to sell to you.

TIP:  Be careful eating the honey from cactus on its own, as it’s very strong and burns in your throat.  The bees know you’ve eaten it and they follow you around which isn’t good when allergic to bee stings!

In 2018, just two days before the clocks were due to be turned back one hour at the end of daylight savings, the Morocco Government decreed that they were going to stay permanently on daylight savings time (GMT plus 1 hour).  This caused mass confusion because the announcement was ‘totally out of the blue’ and even mobile phones automatically reverted to the old standard time as they were programmed to do.  Appointments and flights were missed – chaos!

Mo told us that many of the people have not accepted this new time zone and still use the old system, which is currently one hour behind the official time used by the Government and Government departments, schools, hospitals, airports and the like.

Ah, that explains why our iPhones and computers showed one time and our GPS a different time.

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Carpenter Day

Day 37:  Mirleft; Tuesday 5th March

There’s excitement in the air today as we patiently waited for our local carpenter to turn up with the two new shelves we’d ordered.  These were installed under our bed where our Truma gas heater system is installed.  The vulnerable pipes, valves and hoses are now protected.

The carpenter made an excellent job and if you are wanting any work on your motorhome while travelling in Morocco you can expect craftsmanship quality.

Our Ikea wooden chopping board has been modified to securely sit over the sink, thus increasing our usable bench space.  There’s never enough bench space in a motorhome when one likes to cook and bake.

From the land of cheap labour, all this work costs us just 250 dirhams (€23 or NZ$38) including a 20 dirham tip.

Food, Wine & Great Company

We had new neighbours park beside us today.  Roger and his wife Andy are a friendly retired couple from Germany.  Roger was an interpreter for a submarine manufacturer and speaks fluent English, Spanish and Norwegian as well as his native tongue.  They had so many stories to tell from their interesting life, which included 12 years full-time on a yacht in the Caribbean.

Tonight as a special treat I made my “Australian Chicken and Date Tagine” with Couscous as a treat and thank you to Mo.  This dish is one of my all-time favourites and I was proud to be trying it out on a real Moroccan to check how it stacks up against the local dishes.  

You know how sometimes it’s those unexpected, impromptu events that turn out to be a real treat?   The dinner was washed down with Roger’s Sardinian wine (water for Mo) and the food receiving a standing ovation.  Indeed a night to remember.

Goats Eating Their Favourite Food – Argan Nuts

Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco  and Goats in Argan Trees

Day 38:  Tafraoute; Wednesday 6th March

We went from being kidnapped by a friendly Moroccan/Canadian for six days last week to being shown the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco and favourite haunts of our German friends, Roger and Andy for the next ten days. 

One of the touristy ‘must sees’ in Morocco is none other than the goats in argan trees.  We are lucky enough to see this sight in the anti-atlas mountains of Morocco.  The nutritious argan nuts and freshest leaves are out of their reach from ground level but the clever little beasts have learned how to climb the trees for a tasty snack.  Normally these are seen around Essaouira where enterprising locals have trained their goats to scale the branches and pose for photos in return for tourist’s coins.

Driving to Tafraoute we came across some self-taught goats in paddocks strewn with argan trees.  Unfortunately, by the time we found somewhere to park and walked back across the field, the shepherd called the goats away so our photos were a little average.  However, be sure to check in next week to see argan trees seemingly growing goats on their branches as they munch their way through the delicious argan nuts.

Stunning Scenery Photos in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco

Stunning Scenery Photos

Stunning Scenery Photos

The camper parking at Tafraoute (GPS coordinates 29.72197, -8.98352) is as picturesque as anything we’ve seen in our travels.  High mountains are all around us, lighting up red when the late setting sun kisses the rocks.   There must have been 200 motorhomes here, many of which are set up to stay for what looks like most of the winter. 

This camper parking area is quite unusual for Morocco, where proper campgrounds are the norm.  There can be up to 500 motorhomes here at the busy times, and this seems to support a lot of the local economy.  The cost to park is just 15 dirhams (€1.30 or NZ$2.28).  For such a handsome sum you can park anywhere you fancy, dump your rubbish and dispose of black water. 

If parking here for a while take note at the direction those who are well set up are facing and do likewise.  The wind can come in at night and you will want shelter from the sun’s daytime heat. 

Fresh bread and pastries are delivered fresh every morning around 7.30am by a man yelling ‘baguettes, pan(bread), patisseries’ at the top of his voice.  If you don’t want to get up, you can leave your money in a bag tied to your door handle.  The colour of the bag tied to the door handle indicates the order from the previous evening.  In our case yellow was for one loaf of bread.  Unfortunately, the loaf was half the size we were used to for our 2 dirhams. 

A water truck comes here daily and for 2.5 dirhams he will fill your water tank and every empty water containers you can find.  Or if you miss him, there are young boys collecting and returning 5-litre bottles of water.

Local women come around offering laundry services.

Local men offer to paint murals on your motorhome or make side covers for your awning.

A significant, low cost, motorhome repair and refitting industry has established itself in Tafraoute and a lot of motorhomers take advantage of this.

Tafraoute Camper Parking Area

Sunrise at Tafraoute Camper Parking Area

About Argan Oil 

Mo arrived later in the day to deliver us a very special bottle of argan oil.  He had ordered this for us a few days earlier, putting the local ladies to work on our order and then collected it from a friend living in a small village inland from Tiznit.  This precious ‘hand-pressed to order’ liquid, in a re-used one litre plastic bottle, had travelled many kilometres just to reach us and for 220 dirham (€20.25 or NZ$33.50) was a very reasonable price.  As a comparison this oil for consumption sells on Amazon for US$119.96 per litre!  

TIP:  Not all argan oil is equal and we are told that some dodgy people sell a blend of argan oil mixed with ‘other’ oil, instead of pure argan.  Buying from someone knocking on your motorhome door is considered particularly risky.  If you want the real stuff then ask a local for a recommendation and expect to wait for a day or two, or even three, for it to be specially made.

What does argan oil taste like?

As best I can describe it, this oil has a toasty, roasted nutty scent and flavour, much like sesame seed oil but not as strong and without the bitter after taste.  From experimenting it’s best added to dishes, both savoury and sweet.

How do you eat it?

Hmmm, we had to look it up.

One way is to blend it with ground almonds, honey and salt to make something called ‘Amlou’ which is like a dip or paste that you then spread on fresh Moroccan bread (khobuz).

You can also dip bread straight into the oil itself, although I found that a bit strong in flavour.

Apparently, it is awesome when added to tagines or other savory dishes but we haven’t tried that yet.

I have made date and walnut balls using argan oil and it was particularly delicious.

Why eat argan oil?

It is believed to have anti-aging properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated and smooth.  The celebrities in American are said to be keeping the prices high with their demand for such products.

Cosmetic Uses

I’ve also seen it being used as a conditioner in hair and have tried this twice without success.  My hair looks and feels greasy, so it doesn’t last long before I use regular conditioner for cleaner feeling hair.  I do however use it on my skin (face and hands) more successfully.

Click here to read more about Argan Oil.

Tandilt – A Town Built Under Suspended Rocks

Day 39:  Tafraoute; Thursday 7th March

Despite the offer of a water tanker, Roger had other plans for us.  Having been here before and stayed in the neighbouring camping ground, he made friends with the manager and used that very good relationship to gain free water for us all (with permission of course).  So, loaded up with every water container we could find, we jumped on our bikes and headed next door to fill up.

Some of the French motorhomers camped in the campground seemed to think that we were stealing water and looked concerned or upset.  One lady even approached me wagging her finger.  She spoke no English but understood the word ‘permission’ and sulked back into her home muttering (insert French accent here) permission.  The French seem particularly interested in other people’s business and are never slow to show their displeasure at something they are unhappy with.

We cycled into the neighbouring town of Tandilt today to see the famous imposing rock, called Napoleon’s Hat, a bunch of huge red rocks precariously perched overlooking the homes and buildings of this town.   One small earthquake, shock wave, or decent storm and it appears that this baby would come crashing down pretty quickly.

Can You Imagine Building A Town Under These Rocks?

On our way out to Tandilt we first stopped off to have a bite to eat from a local cafe called Espace Harbaz.  I ordered a beef taco which was regrettable as the meat was mainly gristle and later that night it came back up again.  We are told green tea or sage tea is good for ‘Moroccan belly’. 

When we arrived at the Cafe, Espace Harbaz, the lovely Anita, Gavin, Judy and Henry from the UK were there just finishing their meal.  We’d connected with Anita through the Motorhome Adventures Facebook page and realised we were all going to be in the same spot, so it was a good opportunity to meet up in person.   We also met Tim Rust and his wife Ali.  It’s so nice to put faces to names that are seen on Facebook, it makes the connection extra special.  

TIP: Social media is a great tool for meeting other people when you are travelling.  If you want that sort of contact then join some relevant Facebook groups or forums and start reading and posting.  You will often find people at the same spot as you and are happy to have a chat over a wine or three.

The footpaths here make me laugh, who decided it was a good idea to plant trees right in the middle?  Take a look at the photo below and tell me how would you walk on this footpath, let alone push a pram or wheelchair?  It’s no wonder that pedestrians mainly walk on the roads over here!

Tafraoute has some very cute shops and is apparently ‘the place’ to purchase babouche shoes.  ‘Babouche’ are brightly coloured traditional Berber handmade goat or sheep-leather shoes which are traditionally worn during certain ceremonies such as holy days or at weddings.  The yellow colour is worn by men and the red colour reserved for women. 

Babouche (Shoes) Anyone?

TIP:  Fillet steak in Morocco is far cheaper than in most other countries but you won’t often find it in the butcher’s display.  The price ranges around 120 – 150 dirhams per kilo (€11-13.75, NZD$18.20-22.80) so it is too valuable for most butchers to stock. However, many butchers will order it in for you to pick up the next day – provided you buy the whole fillet.

Roger and Andy keep their freezer filled with fillet steak to take back home as at €50 per kilo they feel it is virtually unaffordable in Germany.

Fresh Beef Eye Fillet

What to See and Do In Tafraoute

Day 40:  Tafraoute; Friday 8th March

I was laid low today recovering from my dose of Morocco belly, so I spent some time researching about the local area.

Tafraoute is a town in Tiznit Province, Souss-Massa region, Morocco, in the central part of the Anti-Atlas mountains. It had a population of 4,931 at the 2004 census, some fifteen years ago, and judging by what we saw the population has grown significantly.

For more information about this area, here is a great summary blog I found in my research which includes where to eat, which day the souk is on, and things to see and do in the region.  This is so well written that there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel.

Is BYO Wine Okay In Morocco?

Day 41:  Taroudant; Saturday 9th March

Sadly it was time to leave Tafroute and keep heading inland towards the town of Taroudant that we’ve heard so much about.  The trip took 5¾ hours due to the distance, the windy roads, and a number of photo stops.  Ah, travelling with a keen amateur photographer can be slow going but oh the rewards are so worth it.  Check these out…

The Road Between Tafroute and Taroudant

The Scenery Between Tafroute and Taroudant

The reward for Betsy at the end of our day was a wash at the local Total Service Station carwash where for just 30 dirhams (€2.76 or NZ$4.57) plus ten dirham tip each, two men hand washed Betsy (and our bikes) from tip to tail and she was sparkling white again.

There is a brand-new camping ground, Grand Camping de Taroudant – 80 dirhams per night (€7.35 or NZ$12.15) plus 30 more for electricity built beside the Total Service Station (GPS coordinates 30.49734, -8.81879).  It was here that we stopped for the night.  The showers and toilets were shiny and new with hot water, ah bliss.

There is a restaurant adjoining the Station, which was welcome after such a long drive today.  We took our bottle of wine and ordered two pizzas.  I usually have very low expectations of restaurant purchased food but I have to say the pizzas here were great with lots of topping and large enough for two.  They were so good in fact that they had been scoffed before I thought about taking a photo!  Before the pizza arrived, we tucked into a Moroccan salad comprised of red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, green peppers and parsley.  Yummy.

TIP:  Ask permission before taking your own alcohol into a restaurant; some welcome you with your wine, some tolerate it and as we found out tonight some forbid it.  Or is this a case of asking for forgiveness rather than permission?  If you’re like this couple and fancy a wee drop with your dinner take it along and see if anyone says anything?

Roger, Yachty & Andy

Terrific Taroudant

Day 42: Taroudant; Sunday 10th March

We had just a short journey today into Taroudant where we parked literally just outside one of the gates of the old town. The camping ground was almost full, primarily with French vans that were once again set up for a long stay. And why wouldn’t you? This town has everything you need, including heat. It’s reportedly the warmest place in Morocco in the winter and I can tell you that it is bliss waking up on a winter’s morning to warm weather and sun.

The souk is vibrant, with people everywhere. The traffic is chaotic, the footpaths non-existent for the most part, and street vendors have set up anywhere they can. “But it’s only Sunday.” Roger tells us. “Just wait until you come in here tomorrow when the real traffic arrives.”

Roger and Andy have stayed in Taroudant many times and have established a routine for their visits. First, they make a beeline for the fresh juice man who sends a big wave and smile from about fifty metres away as he recognised his foreign friends. By the time we are seated on the bench behind him, he is already well on the way to freshly squeezing their grapefruit juice. We had orange juice and the following day tried a half and half mixture, which I can recommend. At 3 dirhams (€0.28, NZ$0.46) for a large glass of the freshest juice this has to be the best value drink around.

Then it was off to the tourist medina, followed by the Berber medina.

As soon as we stepped inside the medina we were greeted by a very well spoken Moroccan man who welcomed us to his country and enquired as to where we were all from. Roger has this down pat, “we are from Germany and have been here for nearly six months and this couple are from New Zealand, they’ve been travelling for 21 months and have visited 25 countries”, he says enthusiastically. He is always well received and a dialogue often ensues. Roger is very good at conversing with others, most understand him, others just nod and go on their way.

The town is very interesting; the mechanics workshops are small and dark, jammed packed to the ceiling with all manner of spare parts that may be needed one day. How they find anything is anyone’s guess.

Bab Lakhmiss Gate Into Taroudant

                                      Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice in Taroudant

Crowded And Cluttered Shops In The Medina

European Looking Butcher Shop in Tarodaunt

Our tourist guide, Roger, takes us to a European looking butcher, complete with red and white coloured tiles on the floor and a glass cabinet where the meat is chilled and beautifully displayed.  Inside this shop I’ve been teleported anywhere in the world, except Morocco!  Everything looks so inviting and I couldn’t resist purchasing some pre-spiced turkey mincemeat that was so scrummy I went back the following day for more.

The fruit and vegetables here are superb, very fresh and they even sold pawpaw, brussel sprouts, raspberries, pineapples, tiny lady finger type bananas (that are small and sweet) and other more exotic fruit.  The locally grown produce is very cheap but the imported products are still well priced. 

Roger and Andy have a small poodle-maltese mix dog called “Yatchty” who they call their ambassador.  People are constantly stopping and hoping to pat her which makes for slow walking through the town but we don’t mind because it gives us time to look at everything. 

There are terracotta sellers, musical instrument shops, second hand (or maybe third or fourth hand) furniture dealers, leather goods, and shoe salesmen.  Apart from the tourist souk, most of these shops are there for the locals not the tourists so walking around Taroudant doesn’t feel like a tourist destination.  The odd tourist sticks out like a sore thumb, as I am sure we do.

You’ve no doubt heard the term ‘it’s an assault on your senses’? Well Taroudant is that place!  Everywhere we look there’s so much for our eyes to see and brain to process. 

Our nose is filled with delicious smells coming from the herbs and spices, the roadside street food, and the incense sellers. 

Our ears take in the sounds of the horses clip-clopping along the cobblestone streets, the tooting of vehicles horns, the ringing of bicycle bells, the happy chatter from the children being released from school at lunchtime and the yelling from street vendors advertising their wares and low prices.  It’s all rather exciting and a little overwhelming at the same time. 

I feel like a kid in a candy shop, not sure where to look first and wanting to drink in every last bit, while dodging the traffic that could and does appear from any direction at anytime.


TIP:  If you’re going in to this old town, be sure to take a photo of the gate you enter because like most souks you can easily get lost.  You can then show this to  someone to get directions to direct a taxi.  Another idea is to save a pin in Google maps so you can find your back way out again, if Google maps plays the game.

The next part of the today’s routine is to find somewhere in the shade, out of the sun, and have a cup of Moroccan (typically mint) tea.  There is a square with cafes facing inwards where groups of men (where are the women?) are sitting around listening to storytellers.  The Berber language is largely unwritten and it’s at these events that I imagine the old men pass down the traditional stories of their ancestors.  

There are buskers who entertain for a few dirhams thrown their way and the busker of the day had to be the owner of a trained white dove sitting atop his turban while playing an instrument resembling a guitar.  Check out the look on the Berber’s face, it is priceless.

Busker With His Well-Trained Pet Dove

By now it was getting late in the day and our weary legs needed a rest so Roger thumbed the nearest horse and carriage which, for a negotiated twenty dirhams (€1.83 or NZ$3) took us on a fifteen minute ride to the camping ground.

We returned back to Betsy buzzing from all the sensory stimulation the old town of Taroudant provided us with and we know that we will be back here on future visits to Morocco.

Tired And Weary But Back In One Piece

Costs for Weeks 1 – 6

A low cost week, apart from groceries as we were cooking for three while hanging out with Mo most days.  We also indulged Roger’s love of eye fillet steak and splashed out on some for ourselves.  

Our running average cost of living for a week in Morocco is €220.50 (NZ$365 or £188).

We love to see comments on our blog as it keeps us motivated to keep writing.  Please say hi or leave a quick one line comment below, thanks.

Tune in next week for a pictorial blog as we drive through the High Atlas Mountains, stopping every few kilometres to take some of the best scenic photos of our trip so far!

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Fantastic Fes

Week 4

Week 7

Week 1

Week 5

Week 8

Week 2

Week 6

Week 9

Week 3

Argan Oil

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

Week 5 in Morocco

Week 5 in Morocco

by Alan Gow  |  March 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents


Week 5 had us driving from Guelmim, through to Sidi Ifni then on to Mirleft Beach. Click to enlarge map.

This week, we are kidnapped by a friendly local and not allowed to leave until we had seen all the unforgettable sights around Mirleft.

Day 29: Sidi Ifni;  Monday 25 Feb 

We left the traditional town of Guelmim today after spending three nights parked up on vacant wasteland outside the Marjane supermarket  (GPS 28.96757, -10.03258).  The fuel station on site has reasonable prices and accepts credits cards so we replenished Betsy’s depleted diesel tank before heading west.

TIP: A lot of petrol stations do not take cards so if you are expecting to pay for diesel or petrol with a credit card then ask the attendant if they will accept that for payment.  If you are not sure that they understand you or are not sure they are answering you correctly then keep asking until you are sure.  Maybe ask to see the actual payment terminal before allowing them to fill you up.

Unofficial Petrol Stations

Something interesting that we noted in Guelmim was a number of what you could call unofficial petrol stations because they appeared to be normal shops until you looked more closely.  We parked outside one by mistake one afternoon while checking our directions and witnessed a succession of cars and motor scooters pulling up and being served using funnels and five litre plastic water bottles which had been filled with fuel from the large grey jerry cans.  We found out later that this fuel comes from the Western Sahara region which has little or no VAT so it sells for about 10% – 20% less than the usual price.  The downside is that it tends to be lower quality and can be dirty so it isn’t an option for Betsy’s delicate modern engine.

A Roadside Petrol Station in Guelmim Selling Cheap Untaxed Fuel

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Check Your Maps

After four weeks in the Moroccan interior, the siren call of the sea was beckoning to us and we had to heed that call.  So, our next destination was Sidi Ifni, a seaside town not far from Guelmim.

We usually cross-check our Garmin 760 LDT camper GPS (Emily) directions with Google Maps especially here in Morocco where both forms of electronic maps have had their issues with accuracy and being up to date.  Emily suggested taking the N12 with a drive of about an hour while Google Maps told us to drive about 88km for two hours via the minor P1305 road.  From experience, we knew the “P” roads might be barely one lane wide and the fact that Google said it would take two hours for a relatively short stretch wasn’t encouraging.  We chose to take Emily’s recommendation, which was the right one today.  There were a lot of road works, with some horribly rough short diversions, however long stretches of the road had been rebuilt and resealed and I reckon within 6 months or so this road should be excellent.  There was a short stretch where the N12 was blocked off, with a diversion via a small local road.  I believe that Google knew about the road closure, but not the diversion, which was why it wanted to take us on the torturous minor roads.  Emily, on the other hand was blithely unaware of any roadworks and just took us by the most direct route. It could have gone wrong for us but in this case, we won and found the diversion around the road closure.

Roadworks on the N12 – From our Dashcam

Having a good tyre pressure monitor is great for your safety and peace of mind when driving on these roads.  We have met many motorhomers who have experienced tyres blowing out, which are often the end result of small punctures not being noticed in time.  Our TPMS from TyrePal wasn’t the cheapest on the market but is one of the only ones rated for the high pressures that motorhome tyres run at, and constantly displays the actual pressure and temperature for each tyre.  An alert about possible leaks means that you can reinflate or repair the tyre, or change the wheel before the tyre becomes damaged or blows out on a tight steep Moroccan hairpin bend.

Our Tyre Pressure Monitor shows the real-time tyre pressures and temperatures

Sidi Ifni

Once again the Moroccan terrain changed.  The countryside flattened out with somewhat smaller mountain ranges to what we have become accustomed to and the new obvious visual features are the frequent argan nut trees and the proliferation of prickly pear cactus bushes.  These appeared to have been deliberately planted, probably to harvest the fruit although prickly pear oil production (for cosmetics), is a growing industry which could be driving the mass planting.

As we pulled into Sid Ifni, there was a heavy but dry mist in the air, no doubt originating from the angry Atlantic Ocean breakers pounding the sandy beach beside the Sidi Ifni Camping  (GPS 29.38466, -10.17324).29.384

Jumping out of Betsy, we tasted and smelt the sea in the air and immediately felt relaxed and at home.

Sidi Ifni is one of the last parts of Morocco to be given independence from Spain and remained a colony until 1969 – thirteen years behind the rest of the country. Many of the buildings show a strong Spanish influence and the pace of life is slow here with an economy built around fishing and tourism.  Visitors flock here to enjoy the mild climate, the paragliding and the surfing.  We missed the Sunday souk unfortunately which is apparently well worth planning your visit around.

Sidi Ifni Camping is one of several camp grounds in the town and 80 dirhams per night includes power, hot showers and a reasonably good WiFi signal (we were parked close to the office though).  The showers were nice and hot in the early evening but not so good late at night. Looking around, it appeared that most of our fellow campers are settled in here for weeks, if not months.  Most are from France who are down here for the whole winter – and who would blame them when you compare the weather here to anywhere in France!

Although you are given a three month entry permit when arriving in Morocco, it is apparently relatively easy to get this extended to six months, which is what most people seem to do, or alternatively you can get a new entry permit by taking the ferry back to Spain, then returning straight back to Morocco again.  There seems to be some conflicting information about how to get the original permit extended however for people from visa exempt countries, which includes EU, NZ, Australia, USA and Canada, this should be relatively easy and visiting a local police station would be the starting point.

In the afternoon we cycled up the steep hill to the shops to buy that wonderful round fluffy Moroccan white bread called khobuz for 2 dirham (€0.18 or NZ$0.31.  “Deux pain s’il vous plait” normally gets the desired result but for those non-French speakers just say “der pan seal voo play” and you should be right.  That evening we cooked our first goat tagine using some fresh goat meat bought from a roadside stall.  We are really getting the hang of these tagine things and the wonderful Ras el Hanout we found in Erg Chebbi gives a totally authentic flavour.  We don’t have a tagine pot to cook in but a large saucepan does the trick well enough.

Use Moroccan Tailors

Days 30: Sidi Ifni;  Tuesday 26 Feb & Day 31: Sidi Ifni; Wednesday 27 Feb

Morocco is a great place to save up those little jobs that can be expensive in mainland Europe.  We had some pillowcases that needed cutting and hemming and my trusty High Sierra backpack, which has served me well for over twenty years needed some stitching reinforced.  We were directed to a ‘taileur’ who for the paltry sum of 30 dirham (€2.77, NZ$4.60) did everything we needed on his old but sturdy sewing machine. 

Sidi Ifni Tailer

Back in New Zealand, a great easy meal is a roast chicken scoffed down with fresh bread and a salad. Along the strips of shops and restaurants in most towns here we can usually find at least one café selling freshly spit-roasted chickens.  The going price in Morocco seems to be around 85 dirhams (€7.90, NZ$13) for a whole chicken or 45dh for ‘un demi poulet’ (a half chicken).  The succulent fragrant roast chook, fresh tomato, lettuce, homemade beetroot and mayonnaise, encased in still warm Moroccan bread, khobuz, makes an awesome lunch.

Camel For Dinner

As we wandered the shops we spotted a butcher specialising in dromedaries, or camel meat.  Huge haunches of camel hung from hooks.  A camel hump split down the middle, which is almost entirely fat, looked very unappetising but the meat being cut up by the butcher was lean and looked very fresh.  Camel meat is reportedly cholesterol free with no fat running through it.

Camel is mainly eaten in the southern Saharan regions of Morocco and in keeping with our plans to sample local foods, we had planned on trying this at a café or restaurant while we were in the area.  However, the meat looked so good that we bought some to cook up for a camel tagine.  It was funny to us that the butcher would not sell us just the meat – if it was going in a tagine then we had to have a separate chunk of camel fat also.

Camel Meat in the Butcher Stall


Day 32: Mirleft;  Thursday 28 Feb 

As we headed north up the R109 and passed through the small town of Mirleft, little did we know that this was to become our home for the next week due to being kidnapped and kept in Mirleft by our local friend.  As we passed Mirleft Beach, we spotted a group of motorhomes parked near the sea and turned off to investigate.  The great thing about being in a motorhome is being able to take advantage of a nice-looking parking area so we decided to stay the night and found a small possie facing the beach.

TIP: The Atlantic ocean along here may look inviting on a warm winter day but it is actually damn cold and pretty rough.  As I found out.  Enter at your own risk!

When we heard some voices speaking English outside our motorhome I popped out to investigate because down here, you just don’t get to talk with many people who speak English well.  So you look for opportunities whenever they arise.  Mostafa (Mo), a Moroccan born Canadian, who has a house in Mirleft, was kindly offering to take a German/Chinese couple, Toby and Alice (travelling on bicycles, into town) to do some shopping.   A few minutes later and we were both invited to join them.

Tasting Tafranot

“Have you ever seen bread cooked on stones?  It’s called Tafranot”, asked Mo.  Well we have now.  Mo directed us into an old bakery to peer into an ancient bread oven containing embers on the left and a base of small pebbles.  The soft flat, round bread dough was pushed onto the bed of stones with some fresh twigs, and less than 10 minutes later we were scoffing warm bread.  The bread was still quite thin, almost burnt in places and with several stones still stuck on one side.  The baker picked off the stones, wrapped it in paper and handed it to us in return for 3.5 dirhams (€0.32 or NZ$0.53) – well worth the money just to watch the process.  The bread was delicious, very crusty and with the taste of the wood smoke.  ‘Best eaten warm with olive oil, or honey’ said Mostafa.

Tafranot Bread in the Oven

Tafranot Bread, Complete with Stones

Along in the market square, the fish were on display for sale.  “The fishermen have been coming in with their catch. They fish all day then sell their harvest at the market in the evening”, explains Mo. 

It all looked very fresh and for a few dirhams you can have it cleaned and cooked by one of the restaurants around the square.

Mo showed us Mirleft’s other two beaches and his house which he has been renovating so he and his Canadian wife can live six months in Morocco and six months in Canada.  Right now, it is about minus 14C where Mo lives in Canada so we can understand why he would rather be in Morocco.

Mo was very interested in how we were able to buy a French registered motorhome in Europe without being EU residents and we explained how this was possible using the organisation that we used.  There were a lot of advantages in buying a French registered vehicle and we explain everything in this article.

We invited Mo to join us for some supper while he gave us an impromptu Moroccan history lesson. 

Morocco was a French/Spanish protectorate (colony) from 1912 – 1956 and the border between the two zones ran through Mirleft.  The French border fort is still visible above the hills and we agreed to visit this with him another day.  It was already looking as if our stay in Mirleft was going to be longer than we anticipated but we have learned to go with the flow and having a local willing to show us around his home turf was an opportunity not to be missed. 

Mo was a font of knowledge including the origin of the name Gibraltar, which comes from Jabal Ṭāriq (literally ‘Mount Tarik’) named after the Berber general Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād, who captured the peninsular in 711, heralding the start of an astonishing 700 year occupation of much of Spain by the Moors.  Ṭāriq didn’t get to enjoy his successes for long though as he was recalled in 714 allegedly for misappropriation of funds and died in obscurity in 720.  We also learned how Moroccans were introduced to chocolate by American soldiers who landed near here close to Agadir during the second world war before helping to push the Rommel’s German army out of the Middle East.

Our Kind Kidnapper

Day 33: Mirleft;  Friday 1 Mar

Our one night stop is turning into another night, and then another as our friendly captor, Mo had more he wanted to show us.  Luckily we aren’t in any hurry.

After bringing us fresh Moroccan pancakes for breakfast, then taking us for the best cous cous in town, we were in for another treat..Astonished that we’d missed it, Mo drove us to Legzira Beach, 30km back towards Sidi Ifni.  It’s great to meet a local who is so passionate about his surroundings and we went with the flow.

Legzira Beach is famous for the arches eroded into the spurs of rock reaching into the sea.  Unfortunately, the most picturesque of these collapsed a couple of years ago and the sea is rapidly reclaiming the fallen material.  There is a theory that the collapse was initiated by the heavy equipment and loud sounds associated with an airline commercial being made here, as it fell just ten days later.  The remaining arch is still spectacular though and reminded us of Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel region of NZ.  The high cliffs and strong thermal updrafts make this a popular destination for paragliders and a constant progression of aerialists landed on the beach around us.

The Famous Legzira Arch

The  Remaining Arch Photographed from the Collapsed Arch

After a great wander up the beach and under the arch, we returned to the inevitable collection of cafes and tourist traps for some genuine Moroccan tea at Mo’s friend’s cafe.  Mo demonstrated the rather complex, almost ceremonial process of tea making.  Nothing in Morocco is rushed, and tea making is no exception.  The green tea leaves are first steeped in a small amount of water, which is then poured out (and may be discarded as this draws out the bitterness).  More water is then added with a few sprigs of fresh mint and the tea is then poured back and forth from the tea pot held high, to the glass and back again until a froth develops on the surface. Some sugar may or may not be added according to taste and some of the bitter first tea may also be returned to the mix.

Mo Makes us Tea

Legzira Aerialists

One of the attractions here is a tame juvenile hawk that was electrocuted and after being nursed back to health he couldn’t fly.  He happily sits on it’s perch, eating only chicken, watches the tourists go by and will step onto an arm (protected by clothing) pressed up to his legs.  

Friendly Local Hawk

Day 34: Mirleft;  Saturday 2 Mar

The road leading down to Mirleft Beach passes alongside a dry riverbed with cultivated fields spread out alongside the narrow flood plain.  Prickly pear bushes form a picturesque foreground to the spire of the mosque minaret. The fields are mostly used for cultivating animal feed and several groups of locals were either turning over the earth or harvesting the crop using a sharp sickle to slice the plants off very close to the ground.

The farmers were happy to stop for a break while I attempted to converse with them in my pidgin French and we had a good laugh trying to make ourselves understood.

Berber Farmer Posing with his Donkey

View up to the Mosque

French Upper Fort, Mirleft

Today we are still held captive by the lovely Mo who as promised drove us to visit the old French Upper Fort overlooking Mirleft.

The atrociously bumpy dirt and clay road up to the site is not signposted and certainly not suitable for a motorhome.  Completed by the French military in 1935, the fort is now decaying but with the aid of a local guide Youssef, another friend of Mo’s, we are able to get a great insight into how the fort was laid out and how military life must have been like in this far outpost of French influence.  The fort originally had a guard/watch tower at each corner and was divided into areas for the horses, the common soldiers, the officers and the commander.  The size and quality of the rooms increasing with each level of rank. Up to two hundred men once manned the fort which now supports just a population of inquisitive desert squirrels.

French “Upper Fort” at Mirleft

Panoramic View Through the Ruined Walls of the Fort

After our time at the Upper Fort, we indulged in a couples massage at the local Hammam (bathes) and Spa.  ‘Le Jardin d’Orient’ is modern, clean and very reasonably priced.  We enjoyed a 60 minute massage for just 200 dirhams (€20) each.  This was a very rare treat for us.

Day 35: Mirleft;  Sunday 3 Mar

After seeing the main sights of Mirleft, it was time for a quiet day with the highlight being a visit from a local carpenter (another of Mo’s friends), who agreed that for 230 dirhams (€21.30, NZ$35) he would build two lightweight shelves under our bed and modify our chopping board so it could sit over the sink.   Another good job to get ticked off in this low-cost country.

It would have been so easy to drive right past this area without being aware of its unique history and charm.  We will always be grateful to Mo, who kindly held us captive, while sharing his home, his knowledge, and his passion for Mirleft and its surrounding areas.

Costs for Weeks 1 – 5

 We had a bit of a blow out in costs this week (by Morocco standards) as we needed some parts for Betsy and indulged in a massage.  Without these extras, our costs for a fantastic week would have been just  €155.   

We love to see comments on our blog as it keeps us motivated to keep writing.  Please say hi or leave a quick one line comment below, thanks.

Next week we visit a local souk and stay in what has to be one of the most spectacular motorhome stopping places you can imagine. 

Please feel free to Pin and read later

Fantastic Fes

Week 4

Week 7

Week 1

Week 5

Week 8

Week 2

Week 6

Week 9

Week 3

Argan Oil

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Visit Morocco

Week 4 in Morocco

Week 4 in Morocco

by Ruth Murdoch  |  February 2019  |  Morocco, Africa

Table of Contents


Week 4 had us driving from Foum Zguid, through Tata, to Icht and finally arriving in Guelmim, a distance of 424 kms.  Click to enlarge map.

This week, discover the roads less travelled through some of Morocco’s back country and check out the unforgettable scenery as it changes regularly throughout our journey.


The Road Less Travelled

Day 22: Foum Zguid; Monday 18th Feb

We ventured out today along a ‘local’ Moroccan road with some trepidation.  A recently purchased English map book of Morocco gives us some clues about what the roads ahead might be like.  The options are yellow roads (motorways), red roads (national highways), green roads (regional highways), light yellow (local) roads or white tracks and paths.  Having already experienced tracks in Erg Chebbi I think we’ll give those a miss wherever we can.  Unfortunately, the map doesn’t go into enough detail to tell you whether the minor roads are sealed or a piste  (unsealed) road so you really just have to make the best guess you can.

The stretch of local road between Tazenakht and Foum Zquid was the first long section of local road that we have set out upon.

TIP: Make sure you purchase a recent map as a backup to electronic options such as your GPS or  The recommended map is the Michelin Morocco National Map 742 and you can find the most recent version on Amazon using this link.

We didn’t buy one before we arrived then had trouble finding anything worth having that was current.  We eventually found a 2015 edition of a Road Guide to Morocco that was a lot more expensive and not as good as the Michelin Map.   We also bought the latest electronic maps for our Garmin 760 LDT.  These weren’t cheap at nearly 75 pounds however we much prefer ease and convenience of navigating with the Garmin compared with or Google Maps and when the cost was spread out over all of the days you may spend in Morocco, it really is insignificant.  A micro SD card you can plug into your Garmin can be found on Amazon here (

The almost complete lack of any other cars is somewhat of a give away that we are no longer on the usual tourist route.  We almost hold our breath as we turn off from the red R108 to the yellow R111.  The road surpassed our expectations and while still being disconcertingly narrow in places and exhibiting a number of potholes and crumbling verges, it was surprisingly kind to us and the traffic non-existent.  We passed through uneventfully and unscathed, phew!

Foum Zguid

We rolled into the Foum Zguid ‘Camping La Palmeraie” camping ground (GPS coordinates 30.0870 -6.8828) at about 3pm, eager to experience the family hospitality that reviewers on the “Park 4 Night” App raved about.  We weren’t disappointed and before long Rashid, the owner, arrived greeting Alan with a handshake and me with a double hug (both sides).  Rashid wanted to make us his special chicken tagine for dinner but we already had dinner sorted, and suggested that we will try one tomorrow perhaps.  He has a garden, where the vegetables that go into his cooking are grown and offered for us to help ourselves.  I just didn’t feel it was right to do so, as the locals have very little.  Vegetables are so inexpensive here that we can buy what we need from virtually any local town we pass through.

A word of caution, taste before drinking the water from the camping ground as with a lot of the tap water around here, it may be ‘potable’, which means safe to drink, but it certainly didn’t taste good.

Alan had a rare treat of being allowed into Rashid’s kitchen to watch him prepare chicken tagines for the other campers this evening.  The hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired but at least we know everything will be cooking for quite a while so any bugs will be well done along with the meat.

Cooking Facilities In Camping Ground

Day 23: Foum Zguid; Tuesday 19th Feb

Today was spring cleaning day for Betsy; after being in Morocco for a few weeks, and especially out in the desert, there’s dust and sand in every nook and cranny and a fine layer on every surface.  After several hours of hard slog, the inside looks shiny and new again, and while it will need to be cleaned again this might help to keep my asthma at bay.

Rashid was very friendly and brought all of the campers two small loaves of hot Moroccan bread every morning which is a lovely treat.

Have we mentioned before that virtually every other motorhome you see in Morocco is French and that very few French speak English?  Well, this certainly is the case so we were happy to see a German motorhome pull up with a young couple, Anna and Miko.  We were grateful for the opportunity to converse with other people willing and able to speak English.

Tonight we tucked into Rashid’s special goat tagine at 150 dirhams (€15 or $NZD23) and I was rather impressed with the taste of goat.  We will definitely have that again but next time, we will be cooking it ourselves.

Yummy Goat Tagine

When in Morocco be prepared to be asked for all manner of things.  So far we’ve been asked for aspirin, tissues, t-shirts, shoes, pants, bonbons (sweets), money and wine.  I wonder what will be next?  (Spoiler for next week, beer!)

Tip: Consider bringing along some low-cost wine that you don’t mind giving away.  Although you can always say ‘no’ you do sometimes form a sort of relationship with the locals when you spend time with them and having a ‘gift’ bottle or two on board can help preserve your limited stocks of your favourite tipple and make you out to be the good guys.  

Stunning Scenery Enroute to Tata

Day 24: Tata; Wednesday 20th Feb

The N2 National Highway to Tata was very quiet.  We had just one car pass us on the whole 140km stretch.  It’s strange that while the landscape, on one hand, appears bleak and barren, it is also beautiful and constantly changing as we travel through it.  Alan just had to pull over a few times and take some more photos of rocks, sand, and mountains.

Stunning Desert Landscapes

A Berber Home In The Middle of Nowhere

Camping Hyatt, Tata (GPS coordinates 29.73861, -7.97786) has a picturesque location beside a river, and is an easy bike ride or walk into the town.  Alternatively, there is a municipal camping ground right in town which looked adequate but we preferred the extra space, tranquillity, and water views of Camping Hyatt.

Shopping Moroccan Style

Although Tata is a reasonably sized town, if you expected to find a decent sized supermarket, you would be sorely disappointed.  Instead, there are lots of small shops which seems to have their own niche items. We went to four different shops to buy typical grocery items that we’d expect to pick up from just one supermarket.  Not in Tata, but all part of the experience and the fun with plenty of time on our hands.

Alan Completing His Supermarket Shopping

Purchasing fresh vegetables in Morocco is an education in itself.  You collect a bucket, walk around and place the goodies in your bucket, then take it to the greengrocer for him to price.  He takes out anything that has its own higher pricing, in our case strawberries and avocado, then weighs everything else which shares the one price.

A great find was a small specialist spice shop.  Our ground coriander stocks were down to zero and we hadn’t been able to find it anywhere, except now, here in Tata.  We were also out of ground nutmeg (I know, a complete disaster for any motorhomer) and we were disappointed to see that he only had whole nutmegs. Our disappointment turned in amazement as he whizzed up the nutmegs in his industrial looking grinder in no time at all.  We ended up with rather more spices than we expected to buy but happy to have had another new Moroccan experience.

Morocco is the original home of spices.  Leave yours behind when you visit here as there is everything you’ll need, and more.  Make sure you purchase some Ras El Hanout, which is a blend of anywhere between 5 and 45 different spices!  Everyone has their own recipe and you won’t be disappointed as they are all delicious.  My favourite is a 44 spice mix we purchased in Erg Chebbi.

Bulk Bins House Dried Fruit, Grains, & Spices

Day 25: Tata; Thursday 21 Feb

Today was a lazy day, chatting with Peter and Carmel, our English camping neighbours and fellow intrepid Morocco adventurers.  Swapping stories and experiences is always entertaining and this took most of the day.  They had come from the west coast where we are headed, and they were going to where we had been so we could exchange information about what to see, and where to go and stay.

We were soon blessed with lovely German neighbours on the other side of us and Helga speaks good English.  We shared stories and discovered we are likely to be visiting Poland at the same time later this year so make plans to stay in touch.

To the right of the camping ground was an old, almost abandoned looking settlement built on top of a hill which looked interesting.   We took off on bikes to explore however after cycling up a rough track and through the walls, we soon realised that there were people living here and it wasn’t really appropriate for tourists to be wandering around wielding their cameras.  As is typical of many old towns, the vacant buildings are left to decay into ruins while newer ones sprout up on any spare land.  It is often hard to tell what is abandoned and what is occupied!  The people still greeted us with warm smiles and a polite bonjour but we didn’t want to intrude further and left soon after.

Tasting Sfenj

We always like to taste the local food and had to try what looked, and tasted like doughnuts being deep fried by a street vendor in a huge wok of smoking oil.  In fact, I’d call them doughnuts for lack of another name, except they’re called Sfenj.  I came across a recipe (below) if you’d like to try to make them for yourself.  Sfenj is an unsweetened, airy and fluffy doughnut.  It is chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  It has an interesting yeasty and delicate taste and is unsweetened so can be eaten with savoury or sweets. There is usually a big bowl of sugar beside the frying wok so those with a sweet tooth can dip them in for extra sugar hit.

Try These For An Occasional Treat Or Come To Morocco And Buy One From This Chap


Day 26: Icht;  Friday 22 Feb

Driving from Tata to Icht the roads were empty of any traffic to speak of and the landscape stony, harsh, dry, and brown.  Grass just doesn’t exist in such barren countryside and nothing on legs seems able to survive except the odd donkey picking away at withered up weeds and thorns.  The few towns or villages we came across had only a handful of people wandering around.  As usual, some school children gave us big smiles and energetic waves and got excited when we gave them a big two-handed wave back.

The mountains here have changed appearance from those nearer the Sahara. They are devoid of any vegetation or trees.  The only thing we see is rocks and more rocks in different shades of browns with a spattering of hardy straggly trees and bushes.  Occasionally we spot an oasis where the groundwater has ventured close enough to the surface to be exploited by a patch of green palm trees, possibly date palms but it’s hard to tell because apparently, we’re out of season for dates (try October).

The camping ground that welcomed us this evening was Camping Borj Biramane, Icht (GPS Coordinates 29.05974, -8.85385).  It’s one of the better camping grounds we have been at, due to actually having toilet paper, soap and even a hand towel to dry hands!  This is the FIRST time in Morocco to come across all three in the one location, ah bliss.  Plus their showers are hot with a hanging shower rose, double bliss!

Alan cycled into the small township of Icht with his camera to capture some of the local images then rose early the next morning to catch the desert scene at first light.  Once again, Morocco delights with it own particular brand of simple beauty.

TIP: Bring with you a good quality lip moisturiser and a skin moisturiser because the dry air can play havoc with your skin.

TOP TIP: Make sure you wear footwear at all times as picking up a thorn in your foot can hurt for days, as I can testify to!

We were told (and I’ve since verified it as being true) that you can get rabies from cats, (albeit this is very uncommon) and given I like to feed and pat them, I am devastated to learn this. It was reported to us that an English lady died of rabies caught from a cat and this could result from a scratch, bite or even a lick! Cats are now sadly off limits to us. :-(
. It is recommended to have a rabies vaccination before coming to Morocco but even with that in your system, you still need to have at least two additional injections if you think you have been exposed to the disease.

Not To Be Trusted (sadly)

A friendly local guide knocked on our door to offer a two and a half hour walking tour, for 30 dirhams (€3 or NZ$4.60), to visit the local village, the mosque and museum and see the caves where the villages would hide out in times of war.  We declined this time but have pencilled it in for when we return to Morocco.

Wild Camping In Guelmim

Day 27: Guelmim;  Saturday 23 Feb & Day 28: Sunday 24 Feb

The first part of the N12 road from Icht to Guelmim hardly qualifies as a National Highway and is a narrow one-lane tar sealed road with no shoulder to speak of. The tarseal is oftentimes broken away at the side, with some nasty looking drop-offs.  The traffic here was heavier and really required both passing cars to plonk one tyre off the road and into the loose stones.  The local drivers appeared to play chicken with foreign vehicles expecting they will be the first to cave in and move over to protect their vehicle.  And they’re right. Betsy is our home and sustaining any damage would be a significant blow to our travels.  We’re just grateful that Betsy has new tyres that can cope okay with the rough sides and our tyre pressure warning gauge gives us some reassurances.

We had been advised to keep our wing mirror folded in on narrow, windy roads to protect it from being damaged by on-coming traffic.  This was the first time we heeded that advice as we didn’t want to lose our wing mirror as happened to some friends of ours the week before (thanks to a truck not keeping to his side of the road).

This road would have to be one of the least impressive that we’ve travelled on, however, it’s still passable and can be navigated at a reasonable pace, so don’t avoid it.  I don’t think there are many alternatives anyway, lol.

To be fair to Morocco the majority of roads we’ve encountered have been better than expected.  Roadworks are everywhere and it’s easy to see they are trying their best to improve the state of the roads Morocco wide.

Our free stopping point tonight in Guelmim was outside the Marjane Supermarket (GPS coordinates 28.96757, -10.03258). The actual parking area is nothing more than gravel and wasteland but has the benefit of being near a fairly new shopping centre which mainly houses a large supermarket jammed packed with everything one has been dreaming about but couldn’t previously find, e.g. ice creams.

The majority of motorhomes around us tonight are French.  Did we tell you that they travel in groups or packs of four or five vans?  Safety in numbers I guess but at no time have we feel unsafe.  That being said we are employing the usual safety precautions, the main one being to stay at camping grounds.  When there is an opportunity for wild camping we play it safe and follow our rules.

We sat here for a couple of days catching up on administrative paperwork and emails, so I won’t bore you with the details.

TIP: Make sure you don’t park on the sealed carpark here overnight or you may be asked to move. 

Be warned that children come around looking for food or money from the motorhomers but they didn’t show any concerning behaviour.

Visiting The Town of Guelmim

One of the highlights of the week was the opportunity to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the very traditional feeling Guelmim town centre.  Modern cars jostled for space on the narrow roads with donkeys and carts piled high carrying all types of fruit and veges, or second, third or even fourth hand bits and pieces of every imaginable household items.  Those not fortunate enough to have a donkey had to push their carts around by hand and those without carts just sat on the footpath to sell whatever they had to offer.

The moving flashes of bright colour were the local women wearing the traditional melhafa outfits which are prevalent in the southern Moroccan and Western Sahara regions.  The gorgeous colours are a refreshing change from the drabber outfits of the eastern and northern areas and it seemed as if every woman was wearing different colours or patterns.

Costs for Weeks 1 – 4

The costs for week four represent the quiet week we’ve had, but don’t worry as we make up for it in week 5!

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Join us next week when we meet a local Moroccan Man who takes us under his wing and shows us another side of Morocco.

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