To get away from the wet and windy English weather I decided a break to somewhere slightly warmer was needed. Scanning the cheap airlines I saw flights to Morocco which were very reasonable. In fact only 40GBP one way to Essaouria, the Moroccon fishing port on the west coast. So a bit of overland Morocco it was !!
The walled city has become very popular in recent years and TV producers have used the location for the Game of Thrones, Hanna and Skins productions. There is a large medina inside the walls with an abundance of shops, cafes, stalls and markets. The cafes seem to be the most happening place to hang out and watch the world go by, they might as well serve mint tea on tap.
The beaches were huge although the wind quite often pick up, great for the wind surfers who love coming here every year. Always a nice long walk to be had away from the medina –
The tourist camels wait for the next paying guest, ready to spit,snarl and couch at them – delightful creatures.
The daily catch is brought in and the fish gutted on the quayside. The local sea birds always waiting and gathering for the feast ahead.
The next day the wind picked up and the waves soon start crashing in – way too much for the wind surfers !
Next stop was the popular trading post of Marrakesh only 3 hours away by road. I used one of the local bus companies to get there, you either use Supratours or CTM. They are both very similar in price and the buses are almost the same.
Marrakesh has now become very modern. Outside of the old city walls there is of course McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, etc, etc, you name it it is here. The roads are wide and lined with modern apartments and office blocks, people certainly seem to be investing here.
Certainly changed a lot since I was last here 27 years ago !!
It now attracts far more than the traders who use to come here to buy and sell their goods.
The old central market square hasn’t changed much, maybe just a few newer restaurants around the outside targeted at the tourists. The central square comes alive at night with live music, people in costume, story tellers, games to play and gamble, and young men eager to show off their boxing skills. The problem with the central square is that if you get your camera out at any time theres normally somebody there ready to pounce and ask you for money. My camera phone stayed firmly in my pocket – don’t need the hassle !
I moved on from Marrakesh to the desert town of Ouarzazate. Another bus trip this one taking approximately 6 hours, the road took us over the High Atlas mountains so soon there was many corners and steep drops. In fact a lot of the passengers started to feel a bit queezy.
Quick pit stop so the driver could take a break –
Ouarzazate is another place made famous by the film and TV studios. In years gone by Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, The Living Daylights, The Hills Have Eyes, have all been shot here. In fact both CLA and Atlas production companys have full time studios at the beginning of town. Theres even a museum here but apparantly a lot of the contents on display have never been looked after so are falling into disrepair.
This is the old Kasbah at the end of town. You can pay 20 Dirhams to get in and wander around but you will be followed by some locals who will pretend not to be your guide. Until the moment you go to exit and then they say they were your guide and demand money from you !
A couple of economic booms have occurred in Ouarzazate over the years. Both times masses of properties were built and part way through the boom building stopped when the money ran out. This has left the town with hundreds of empty incomplete properties. Its a strange feeling when the town has expanded and so much of it looks new, but it feels empty. Sadly its only worth a stop for a day or two at most.
I wanted to do some travelling of my own to my own timetable so I hired a car for a few days. Heading east out into the desert the snow capped High Atlas mountains were always nearby.
The road to nowhere/somewhere ?
My road was leading me to the town of Tinghir. On the way there there is the Gorges Dades which is worth driving to. A great mountain road climbing high up and over the gorge.
Hotel and restaurant close to the top –
After a stop in Tinghir for the night I got up early for the drive to Merzouga. Mergouza is a town right at the edge of the Sahara desert. On the way though is another drive through one of the many canyons in the area, this time Todra Gorge. Just like Dades Gorge, rivers have carved their way through the mountains over millions of years.
Driving through the bottom of the gorge –
Arriving in Mergouza you realise you really are at the edge of the Sahara desert. With a few miles to go you start to see the orange landscape ahead. Gone are the ice capped mountains of the High Atlas replaced with rolling sand dunes as far as you can see.
Unfortunately my camera played up that day so I lost all my photos of this marvellous place, so I had to borrow one from the internet.
Sadly I had to move on from Mergouza. I shouldn’t have spent as much time in Essaouria or Marrakesh but come straight here. Heading back west I stopped at the town of Zagora for the night. A busy place which seemed to have a lot of people transitting through there. Didn’t really like the place as there didn’t seem much to see but the local Moroccans were as friendly as ever.
I headed back to Ouarzazate to drop the car back, not before another great drive through part of the High Atlas mountains.
After dropping off the hire car I had another night in Ouarzazate wandering when there were going to finish it.
Another Supratour bus ride saw me getting into Agadir – my last stop on my 3 week Moroccon adventure. The wind was again blowing and the waves rolling in but a bit more sedately this time.
Agadir is probably the most touristy place in Morocco, along with Marrakech. Many hotels line the sea front along with many restaurants and clubs. The weather was nice and warm but still very chilly at night.
Time to say goodbye to Morocco and have one of the few beers I could find and watch the sun set.
I think to really get to know Morocco you have to spend time in the Atlas mountains and experience life in or at least near to the Sahara desert. To do this I really do think you need your own vehicle to get around in. Spend time getting off the beaten track and meeting the local people. Thats why next time I think if I go back I would definitely take some kind of truck/camper with me.