Morocco is full of adventures. The culture is so different to Europe.

The country is huge and as such there are a variety of areas to play in - beach, mountains, desert.

Erg Chebbi was amazing, particularly when you ride up it on a camel.

The Marrakech market was a highlight too.

Entry 16th April 1999
Tripometer 2,942 kms
Currency Dirham (17 = £1)
Language Arabic/Berber/French
Time GMT
Us on camels at Merzouga

Previous "Gibraltar"

One mile into Ceuta  you reach the Morocco border and it is like steeping into another world. You hear about it, you read about it and you think you are prepared!

There are four windows: 1 – car importation, 2 – passport control, 3 – car insurance, 4 – money change. It goes like this: you first go to 2 to complete a form and get your passport stamped and that gives you number "a" which you need for 1. At 1 you get a second form which requires number "a" and a green card. We didn’t have a green card as it was more expensive to get our insurance company to cover us in Morocco than to buy local insurance. To get your insurance you go to 3 with £50 worth of Dirhams exchanged earlier at 4. With the insurance and number "b" from 3 you go back to 1 to have the form completed. Take this form with car to customs to get your window sticker.

Of course this is all in French but thankfully only took about two hours. We were assisted by limpit Mustapha (must-hava-anything you have got) who led us into Tetouan for the obligatory mint tea. Tetouan is a rough introduction to Morocco but the souks (markets) were quite fascinating. We didn’t spend long in them because Mustapha was leading us through the medina at 100 mph to get us into his mates carpet shop. He then disappeared and left us to endure a one hour carpet sales experience and the most disgusting mint tea. After managing to offend the salesman we left and Mustapha led us to a china/leather/any old tat shop for a repeat performance. Sufficiently miffed because he had earned no commission Mustapha took us back to the car where he would let us out of the car park for a fee! Done – we were but it was a good laugh.

Kipped at a most dreadful campsite. A little Berber man dressed in an anorak (it was raining) and carrying a torch (it was dark) tried to communicate with us. All means of communication failed. With that torch he kept appearing out of nowhere like the magician in Mr Benn. Given the loos were locked I was just about to piddle by the side of the car when there the magician reappeared. He led me to the most disgusting loos ever seen. UUUggggghhh, get the bleach out! The next day we discovered that those loos are used by sneaky locals for a "dump & go" and are not for site residents.

It had been reported that the Rif Mountains were a "must" for a couple of days so we headed off in the cloud and rain for a jolly up the mountains. It was just like Scotland but had a lot of litter around. Apparently the locals think that Allah will take care of the litter. The 100 kms of road we followed were lined with people trying to sell kif, oranges, donkey dung and air! There were donkeys laden with more stuff than our Punda. Cows, donkeys, sheep and goats were everywhere closely followed by their owners. The donkeys were either tied to trees or had their front legs tied together to stop them from running away. There were locals asleep by the roadside, asleep in the field or asleep in a tree. They don’t appear to actually do anything. If you stop the car for a look at a view you get bombarded by a million children who appear out of nowhere asking for bon-bons, stylos (pens) or un Dirham (6p). They get none from us. One boy even had the cheek to ask for my nodding dog.

Then disaster struck twice in one day. First the nod fell off the dog then we ran out of champagne. We found a beautiful campsite with spectacular views so the last bottle of fizz came out and glorious it was too. You generally have to pay for a hot shower in Morocco. You pay your 5 dirhams and get the gas bottle connected to the cold water supply.

The town of Meknes was very interesting and reasonably hassle free. The souks are amazing. They have the most incredible olive stalls (for Andrew) and sweeetie stalls (for me). One chap showed us around the medina (old town) where we saw a chap (his uncle but looked like someone of a different race) make those pointed shoes typical of Morocco. Another man (another uncle) made trumpets out of metal trays. Another relative made drums out of fish and goat skins. The flea markets are really cheap and the fruit & veg (although looking a bit scabby) is really good.

We met Elaine & Steve on the site that night. At last a British couple – easy communication. They gave us some useful tips and informed us of Sally & Noel who are a few days ahead of us going in the same direction. Campsites are not good places to be for a good nights kip. In Europe they are sandwiched between motorways and railways. In Morocco you get the mosques. At around 4am they have the first of five calls to prayer which involves a chanting ritual heard by the whole town. The local dogs join in too. In Rabat the same thing happened. Two nights of chanting with canine accompaniment from the local woofers choral society. The tourist dogs joined in too but obviously confused things by woofing in a different language. Then there was the cockerel! Sadly we had to stay two nights because there was only one site in Rabat and we needed to sort out our Mauritanian visas.

What a rip off! As the Morocco-Mauritania land border is officially closed one has to have a return air ticket to get a visa. The visas themselves only cost about £6 each but the commission on the air ticket refund amounts to about £100. We knew about it but it doesn’t make it any less unpleasant. "Reel em in" comes to mind but sadly that is the current situation. There is a high military presence in all of Morocco so it feels quite safe everywhere and we happily leave Punda parked up next to a mosque when we go off exploring. We met Claus and Sabine from Germany and Andrew hasn’t been the same since. He is green with envy as they have "THE" car for travelling – a LandCruiser with every modification you could dream of. No doubt you will all get to hear about it in great detail from Andrew. He is currently designing Punda II! Their car cost dearly though and they have been seriously stung by apparent port duties based on the value of the car.

After leaving Rabat we visited "the best waterfall in Morocco" (according to the book) – the Cascades D’Ouzoud. It was a spectacular sight and we have found that if you have tea with a local family they are happy to act as car-sitter too.

Cascades D’Ouzoud

We have met some lovely people as well as those already mentioned. Edoardo and Rosaria from Italy (thankyou for the spaghetti) and Martin and Christina from Germany. Finding fellow travellers provides a welcome respite from the locals who can get to be quite tiring. Even T.C. could get some selling hints from the locals! Source Bleu de Meski near Er Rachidia promised to offer us a tranquil campsite. It is positioned in an oasis so there is lots of shade and spring water. Instead it gave us hassle from locals, the sneezy bird constantly "achooing" throughout the night and three bus loads of school children singing the arabic version of ging gang gooly gooly. There were five shops on the site (never go to a campsite with a souvenir shop). From the moment you open your car door the vendors are all inviting you to their shops for tea. They are also sussing out what kit, food, beers and t-shirts you have "to swap" or comment on your wealth. I found that going to their shops pacified them but I took no money and pretended Andrew was asleep as the locals prefer to deal with men. "This very nice tagine for 30 dirhams …..ok …..20 …..10 …..you can have it for 5 if you like". It goes on and on. The site did offer an outstanding freshwater swimming pool complete with fish. After a swim we buzzed off as fast as the locals appear.

The route to Erg Chebbi (Morocco’s only Sahara type dune with a 60 km circumference) provided us with our first opportunity of driving on corrugations. They certainly test out the rivets of the car and neck. I was glad of the Discovery despite always stating a preference for a 110. We had hoped to avoid the campsites and find a nice dune to kip behind. It wasn’t long before we were stuck in the dune – literally. We hadn’t even unbolted the sandladders when in true Moroccan style a number of locals appeared from nowhere. A fun half hour later we were off and the local Muslims were a can of beer each richer! Who said Muslims don’t drink? We ended up at a campsite and thought we would make the most of a couple of days in the desert. Moroccan specialities of Tagine and Kalif were superb as was the sight of Erg Chebbi at sunset and later the view of the stars from the tent. The night was peaceful with the exception of excursion Land Rovers pretending they were doing the Paris-Dakar run at 2am ferrying tourists up the Erg for sunrise.

The following day a half circuit of the dune was followed by the tourist bit – henna on the feet and a camel ride. The ride almost to the top of the Erg took about 1.5 hours. That was enough – legs at 180 degrees around Jimi Hendrix’s girth was quite sufficient, thank you very much. Andrew’s camel offered the same degree of comfort. We walked up the steepest part of the dune to the top, dressed in Jellobah (dresses) and turbans and Ray Ban’s! Spot the tourist. We passed the next hour watching the sunset and dune-surfing on a battered old snowboard. I achieved a glorious board-head-sand everywhere manoeuvre whilst Andrew glided down the dune in his usual spectacular snowboarding style. That night a Berber pizza (bread with the bits inside it) was followed by an offer from the locals to perform on their drums – for beers of course. They were quite outstanding and we gave them sherry!

Todra Gorge was fabulous. We found a kiwi couple and spent the evening with them. Consequently we camped in the gorge and subjected ourselves to the battering from the wind funnelling its way down the gorge at rapid speeds. The pisted route between Todra Gorge and the Dades Valley was apparently interesting so we prepared ourselves for about a two hour jolly amongst some great scenery… Five hours later we arrived at Dades Valley absolutely shattered. The book said 4WD only and it wasn’t kidding. Single track pistes with most of it missing and sideways inclines made it quite a white knuckle ride for me. Andrew of course thought it was easy and spent his time laughing at me. Found a campsite afterwards and hit the hay at 5pm. Five hours of very precise (bit of a drop on one side) off-road stuff was much harder than a Jimi Hendrix ride but did wonders for the bottom – "seat pinching manoeuvre" as Eddie at Frogs Island 4x4 would say!

We are now getting very bored of the local children demanding gifts as we drive past. We don’t give them anything but we do slow down a bit when there is a group of them as we don’t fancy running over one of them. However this does offer the opportunity for them to jump on the back and hold onto the ladder for a ride. We have learned some words in Berber though which soon shifts them (see Survival). Some children are so polite and love waving, others only wave with the hope of getting a pressie. If we don’t stop some children can be quite malicious (their expressions are incredible) and lob stones at us and others hope that we have the window down whilst they throw a bucket of water at us. Nice children! The night in the gorge was a particularly windy one followed by a chilly willy morning. We had to put our coats on as the temperature dropped to 12° C. The remaining 25 km through the gorge offered some beautiful scenery and was followed by about 100 km of oasis, barren land, oasis, barren land etc. on the way to Ouarzazate where we spent a couple of days catching up on some chores. Here the wind didn't howl but the dogs did. We decided at 7.15pm one night to have a meal at the site. The menu offered three starters, seven main courses and three puddings. The reality was one of each so of course we ordered soup, tagine and cakes x2. The woman said it would be an hour so we returned to the car for a French lesson. After almost an hour she came over and asked us what the second order was! Honestly with one thing on the menu I thought she would have known. At 8.45pm they were not ready to serve and turned the lights off in the restaurant. At 9.15pm a delicious meal arrived and later that night a stomach ache arrived too! Andrew spent some time doing some jobs on the car and fixed Noddy the dog (named with you in mind James). Hurray he nods again.

The 187 km road to Marrakech was fabulous - gorges, mountains, hairpin bends, mad coach drivers, overturned coaches, amethyst sellers, kazbahs. The road was so good that Andrew got the video out. You are warned! The campsite was about 12 km outside of town and we ensconced ourselves there for about four days to get this website sorted out. It absolutely poured with rain on one of the days but we were happy in Punda and the tent didn't leak. Spared from the usual 4am wailing we had the 3am, 4am, 5am cock-a-doodle doo instead from the resident birds that risked their lives each time they opened their beaks. Needless to say, the earplugs that we had taken along came in very useful. On the third day we emerged from Punda and ventured into town. On the journey into town we were treated with one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. In the foreground there were palm trees, above them clouds and above them the snow covered Haut Atlas Mountains. The contrast of colour and climate (snow above desert) of the different "layers" was almost surreal - quite weird but beautiful. We tried to upload information from our computer onto the website but it wasn't having it. A problem with a connection to Italy coupled with an inability to get onto Freeserve left us achieving nothing so we went off exploring instead.

The medina of Marrakech is similar in principle to any other medina but has the bonus of the Djemma el-Fna which is a huge square that bustles in the late afternoon and evening with shows and eateries. There are plays, musical shows, snake charmers (apparently), games and stalls. One man was selling dentures and individual teeth - second hand of course. Given the amount of sweet mint tea the locals drink it is not surprising their teeth fall out. There were many lotions and potions stalls too. One man had an anatomy book out and was giving a lecture (in Arabic) on the female reproductive system. I moved on pretty smartish in case he was promoting some wonder fertility aromatherapy type thing. We toured the back alley souks to buy some veggies then returned to the square when it was dark and the excitement almost tangible. There were loads of food stalls but not much that was appetising to eat. The options of sheep brain or goats head did not appeal. Neither did the "olives a la fly". In fact, such disgusting sights added to the fascination of it all. We eventually found some veggie soup (12p each) and lamb sandwiches which were comfortable on the eyes and stomach.

On the way back to the campsite part of one of the headlight protectors fell off. We reckon that someone either tried to smash it or pinch it as it would have great difficulty breaking itself behind the bullbar. We were back at the cybercafe in the morning where the line had improved but we still couldn't get onto Freeserve. We sent the files to James and Simon "Teabag" Evans (always knew Evans was a good name) to upload for us. We received some fabulous emails from people. It is such a delight to hear news and daft goings-on from home. With that sorted we pointed the car towards the beach and almost 200 km later we were dodging the seagull plops at the port town of Essaouira. It is a pleasant relaxed town and we thought that fresh fish was in order. We had read that it was possible to buy fresh fish at the quayside. The sight of the poor things with their mouths gaping open put me right off. Some of the fish were incredibly ugly too so that didn't help. All in all it was quite a traumatic experience. Having played with octopus when scuba diving it was even more difficult when I saw them lying lifeless on a slab in front of me. Andrew was laughing at me and saying "this is reality". He's right but my reality at Tesco's fish counter is somewhat different. Anyway, I braced myself and chose a fish - but would only buy it if the man chopped its head off and removed its bits! It ended up being quite big and filled the wok. It took some eating too - contending with the bones and scales.

Found the best camping area yet at Sidi Kaouki. On the beach but next to the campsite - hence free! We parked so we overlooked the sea. The area is a windsurfing spot and is popular with hippie types. We were treated to a bit of piped music and free spirit. One chap had a rastafarian hairdoo. I would quite like one of those. We kept the door of the tent open to watch the sea and the stars. What a wonderful place. In the morning the swimsuit made an appearance. I hope it wont be long before my bottom fits inside it comfortably. The beach was calling! One of the hippie dogs joined in our game of frisbee then ran off with the frisbee. The dog, being German, didn't understand the usual doggie commands of "leave" so I had to chase it up the beach to retrieve the frisbee. Had a bit of a swim and a sunbathe. It was lovely to walk on hot sand. The beach was reminiscent of Black Rock in Wales - miles of wide beach. As we shared this beach with only a camel Andrew went nudie. Did I laugh when the tide came in quickly and took the danglies by surprise! In his naked state he got up, grabbed the stuff and ran up the beach. En route to Agadir we were privileged to see "flying goats in Argane trees". These has been reported in the viking and chief webpage but I didn't know what they were on about. True enough, there were goats up trees. The lowest branches are so low that the goats can climb up them.

Agadir is very modern (compared to the rest of Morocco) and should be avoided at all costs. The only good thing about it is that it has a cybercafe. I received an email from my mum and dad reporting that they are thoroughly enjoying riding around on Andrews fireblade. Cracking parents Gromit, and they think I'm mad! It appears that Teabag has all the required files to update our webpage now so its fingers crossed. Otherwise it is a months wait as the next cybercafe is in Senegal. Splashed out on a restaurant meal as it was the 6th and we had a month of travelling to celebrate. Continuing on our way south we headed towards a campsite called Fort Bou Jerif (FBJ). It had been widely recommended. It is easy to find once you are on the right road but involves taking a total of a 58 km detour from the main road. FBJ is isolated and there is no chance of being hassled by the locals. However it was really windy, more expensive than anywhere else and fellow travellers were up at 6am having a conversation under our tent. The bugs were enormous too. Amused - we were not! Can't say the detour was worth it but we did meet a very nice German couple, Ralph and Eve. We would have liked to have spent more time with them but we had to get on south to Western Sahara. Decided to splash out on a newspaper – the Telegraph of course, Katharine – to supplement the BBC World Service. (It has since become very handy as a fly swatter). Our French lessons have been going very well. In fact, we learned a new phrase "Bon Courage" which we found rather amusing. It translates to "I hope you stay cheerful in the face of the coming ordeal". A Moroccan policeman used that phrase – perhaps he knows something we don’t! Our journey continued south towards Western Sahara.

Next "Western Sahara"

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We made it into Africa Zak - 'Sale' dude Visa ? or Amex - The nice man at the Mauritanian Embassy Nadia - we went for tea Cascades d'Ouzoud
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Jac at the Cascades The bottom of the Cascades Inside the Moulay Ismail mosque It's amazing what you can make out of a couple of old trays Any colour you like as long as it's yellow
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Punda of Arabia The locals lend us a hand to get out of the sand Have board will travel When in Rome On top of the world or Erg Chebbi at least
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How to water a camel Nose rings are all the rage Washing our feet in Todra Gorge Punda at Todra Oasis & desert on the way to Ouazarzate
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The view of the market from the Cafe de France, Marrakech Look out it's a petit taxi - look both ways before you cross Babe on the beach at Sidi Kouki No need to get your towels down early Perhaps two lorries next time sir
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When you can't find sheep here's the next best thing - TC. Klaus & Sabine & their excellent Land Cruiser Jorn Raeck  & wife with their top Disco Edwardo, Rosaria Zito + Landy Martina & Giani with their Italian job
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Steve & Elaine with their wonder tranny The Swiss family (Robinson ?) Enough space for a party Torsen, Simone & Loti - getting the washing done Ralph & Eve take it easy before going to the beach

It has been said that Moroccan food can be placed high in the list of the worlds best cuisine. How right that is too! However, mint tea can be placed near the bottom.

Moroccan cooking is based primarily around the tagine - an earthenware cookpot with a funnel type lid. The raw ingredients are placed in the bottom, the lid put on and the whole lot put on the gas (or preferably charcoal) for a couple of hours. So far we have tried three types - meat & veg, kalif (superb) and chicken with almonds (gave us gut rot). They all tasted fabulous.

We have also tried Berber pizza with egg, onions & tomato on the inside of the bread - a bit like a sandwich really.

Dessert is usually oranges or Moroccan cakes that tend to be biscuity type things tasting of almonds. Bread is either the French baguette type or local flat rounds that taste like sh**. Each loaf costs about 12p and is the basis of our diet - with jam for breakfast, cheese for lunch and with slops for dinner!

There is not a huge range of food here like in Tesco's and I am constantly surprised at the delights prepared by the locals with apparently few ingredients. We buy as much as we can from the souks - basic fruit & veg.

Haven't managed to find any meat yet with less than three dozen flies over it. I think that quality control only exists in the olive and spice souks. The sight of these stalls alone is enough of a reason to visit Morocco.

Couscous looks like a dune on your plate - a mound of mush and tasting like sand.

from Spain
Border crossing at Ceuta    


Souks, carpet sales, not the prettiest place on earth!

Campsite north of town

Meknes via Chefchaouen

Rif mountains, Berber villages, imperial city (no hassle)

Lovely camp in town


Modern city, only stayed to get visas for Mauritania

City camp

Azilal via Rommani & Cascades D'Ouzoud

Cascades were great


Er Rachidia via El Ksiba & Midelt

Pisted routes take forever but the scenery around Bin el Oudine makes it worthwhile

Source bleu de Meski Campsite


Erg Chebbi for some serious playing

Dunes Campsite

Todra & Dades Gorges

Link road (pisted) is 4WD land only! Gorges are beautiful.

Camped in the gorge


Only saw the campsite.



Fabulous route through the mountains.



To the beach of course.

Camped on the beach
Layounne The final main town of "Morocco" according to Michelin.  


to Western Sahara


As soon as you walk into a shop but don’t want to buy make it clear that you are only looking. Never start talking about money.

Pretend your "husband" is asleep and that he has the money. Take no money with you if you are just looking at articles.

Avoid campsites with souvenir shops.

Hide everything away in your car because "what local sees – local wants".

Take loads of old clothes, beers, wine to swap as these are more valuable than money.

Learn some phrases (spelling may be incorrect):

Ella ella achba achba – get away from the car (we don't know what it means but the locals use it and it works)

Ismee Jacqui – my name is Jacqui (Smeetee is moroccan version)

Ismee tak – what is your name (Smee tak)

Sallam - hello and god be with you (to one person)

Sallam alacum – hello and god be with you (one greeting to a number of people)

Wa as salamma - goodbye (god be with you)

Hook, mook, baba - brother, mother and father

Bickher - often used by other person after Sallam

Avoid the tea!

The oasis or wasis, as the locals call it, is divided into equal amounts and is sold to families for them to grow tomatoes, onions, apricots etc. Each family has a watering session every ten days from the irrigation channels supplied by the springs.

Houses are built of a mud/sand mixture held together with straw.

Camels eat anything and live up to 30 years. They are at their prime between 16 and 20 years when they are worth 15,000 dirham (£969). Single humped camels can go for three days without water whereas dromedaries with two humps are more useful as they manage six days (obvious really).

Berber men can marry up to four women who live with their families in separate houses. A man can divorce a woman only if there are no children.

Women have temporary tattoos on their nose and forehead signifying a status of engaged then married with no children. When a child is born a permanent tattoo is marked on the chin as the woman will remain married.

Berber men along with their mothers can choose suitable wives. It is not a case of arranged marriages now.

On average there are 10 children per family. The oldest son is always called Mohammed, after the prophet. Unknown males are also greeted by this name as a symbol of respect. This is why we think all Moroccans are called Mohammed. The first daughter is always named Fatima and this name is also used as a respectful greeting to an unfamiliar female.