The Sahara desert is not always hot, dry yes, but throughout the winter and spring it can be cool and sometimes comfortable. We are in a raging furnace from 11am until the sunsets because, unfortunately, we are here in the beginning of summer and are the proverbial “mad dogs” out of our minds to venture here now. But it was not an option to come as far as Morocco and not wander into the Sahara, at least for a day or two.
Shannon contemplates the view across the Straight of Gibraltar. With a feeling of deep satisfaction we are now on African soil, Morocco to be exact. After a painless ferry ride from Spain we are now well on our way to the next adventure.
Inside the walled “old city” of Tangier it is easy to get lost. We mucked about for an hour or so pretending we knew where we were going and eventually we popped out of the medina onto a street we knew. Fake it until you make it.
Our first nights in Morocco and we were taken in by complete strangers who we now call friends. Sawanih and Tarik fed us, sheltered us, and gave us the royal tour of greater Tangier to boot. The meals we ate with them are still the best we have had in Morocco. Moroccan hospitality puts us to shame and Shannon and I will have to up our game when we settle down again someday.
Where the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans meet. The fishing here is some of the best in the world and the beach was lined with anglers as the sun set.
With the recent loss of my father still weighing heavy on my heart, it feels good to be moving through this amazing country under our own power and no schedule to keep. Time is helping to heal and the adventure of riding in North Africa is a good tonic as well.
In the dusty and out of the way village of Foum Zguid we struck a deal to set our tent in an empty campground. The initial price from the teenage kid that was wondering around was US$30 we settled on US$4. Needless to say we were the only people here. As the sun set we debated sleeping under the stars on our tarp; the tent traps heat like a sweat lodge. As we sat in our camp chairs and stared at the tent debating where we were going to sleep a scorpion as big as a deck of cards scuttled past our feet and disappeared under the tent in front of us. Decision made, there is no way in hell we were sleeping on a tarp with the scorpion king crabbing around in the dark.
Morocco packs a lot of diverse terrain into an area the size of California. While we were out of our minds in the heat in the Sahara it was only temporary and self-induced. The Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Coast are still cool and comfortable this time of year. So after the obligatory camel ride and a quick moto ride on single track in the desert we simply road to better climates.
Behind the fishing boats out for repair is the old Portuguese enclave at the port of El Jadida, Morocco.
Inside the walled Portuguese fortress at El Jadida is a city unto itself.
El Jadida, Morocco.
Moroccan whiskey, AKA mint tea, is a staple drink in this country and no rest stop is complete without it. Just outside Casablanca we found a lovely little seaside cafe to take in the cool breeze.
Riotous sunset over Marrakech.
Another challenge we currently face is Ramadan. For a month every year Moroccan Muslims forgo food, drink, cigarettes, and other vices from sunrise to sunset. Cafes and restaurants are closed during the day but markets are still open. As non-Muslims we are not expected to adhere to a strict Ramadan fast but it is expected that we be discreet when we eat or drink during the day. Therefore, we have taken to having lunch in the countryside under the shade of a tree and away from people. If you think of it as the daily picnic in the country it doesn’t seem weird at all. Of course it is also acceptable to eat and drink in the confines of ones campsite. Ramadan is an interesting time to be here and it is a unique glimpse into the heart of a Muslim country. The biggest downside is being denied some of the tastiest food in the world, at least during the day. Moroccan cuisine tastes fantastic, is wide-ranging, and always made with fresh ingredients. So far on the trip only Peru and Mexico are in competition with Morocco for the best eats.
The old medina in Marrakech is a sight to behold. Kilometers of twisted and tortured alleys and narrow streets lined with shops selling everything imaginable.
We are at the center of the carpet universe in Marrakech. Good thing there is no room on the bikes or we might be tempted to part with some travel funds.
What South America is for homeless street dogs Morocco is for cats. They are everywhere we go in Morocco. Marrakech, Morocco.
The Jemma El-Finaa market in Marrakech as the sun goes down. This is a wild and colorful place but you better have some thick skin, the pressure on tourists to buy something or otherwise part with their Dirhams can be a royal pain in the ass.
Mike and Luis (of Lost World Expedition) eating fresh cooked seafood and all the trimmings in the market. Food in Morocco is cheap and very tasty. Marrakech, Morocco.
Many times already people have seen our licnese plates and deduced we are from the United States. This is usually followed by a hearty “welcome to Morocco” and a sincere reminder that we are all God’s children, and other words, we Americans will be safe and respected in Muslim Morocco. We feel this welcoming and kind attitude everywhere we go and Morocco is one of the safest and most tolerant countries we have seen to date. I kid you not, we have been stopped at a traffic light and had a note passed to us from a nearby car welcoming us to Morocco.
Heading out of the Atlas Mountains into the Sahara Desert region. Every hour or so while riding the landscape seemed to change into something different.
Yup, no comment.
Our Tuareg camel guide keeping comfortable in the Sahara sun.
It wasn’t much but we went for a little single track riding into the desert just to say we did it. The bulk of the non-paved roads we have ridden in Morocco are stone and gravel, not sandy at all. We have not seen as much sand riding as we thought we would and that is just fine with us.
Riding camels is fun but not very comfortable. There are no stirrips and having your legs just dangling in the breeze takes a toll. After a two hour sunset ride I am good for another 48 years before riding a camel again. It was really a special trip as it was just the two of us and our guide. We are very glad we did it.
Free range camels on the frontier with Algeria. Foum Zguid, Morocco.
We have recently hit our southern most point in Africa for this trip. At the coastal city of Sidi Ifni we turned north and will take a slow, meandering route north through the Atlas Mountains and eventually make our way to the Mediterranean Coast. So far Morocco has been the exotic jewel we expected and we are glad we came.
Heading out of the Sahara and back into the Atlas Mountains, Shannon gets well out in front of me.
During Ramadan Moroccan Muslims do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset, this goes on for an entire month. As non-Muslims it is perfectly acceptable for us to eat and drink whenever we want but it is disrespectful and insensitive to do it in front of someone who is fasting. So, we have taken to having our lunch on lonely stretches of road where there is little chance of being seen by anyone, a picnic everyday!
After our trip into the Sahara the cool temperatures at the Atlantic Coast were a welcome treat. Sidi Ifni, Morocco.