Our 10 day 2019 went from Casablanca to Rabat - Fes - Atlas mountains - Sahara - Ouarzazate - Marrakech, covering the highlights of Morocco from the bustling bazaars of Fez and Marrakech to wine tasting in the high dessert and a Sahara tented camp with camel ride. Beautiful scenery and friendly, knowledgable guides. Incredible food - a delicious blending of French and traditional Moroccan cuisines. My only quibble would be to make this a 14 day trip to better enjoy the opportunities in this amazing country.

Our routes on several trips to Morocco in past few years

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CIA World Factbook for Morocco
Recommended books:
A Street in Marrakech Send a Fax From the Kasbah Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956

A short walk in the High Atlas (from our first trip in 2000)

Saturday 10/21/2000 Arrived in the trekking jump off town of Imlil in time for lunch, after visiting the weekly market at Asni.  Rain clouds have solidified and produce a steady drip, as we sit trying to decide what to do.  Eventually the mules, carrying all our gear, are sent on to Arund, so our decision is made for us, and we hike the short but muddy and wet trail.  Luckily, there's room in the agit (guesthouse) so we have a dry roof and comfortable beds.

Sunday 10/22 We left from Arund, walked by Tamatert, to cross Tizi N Tamatert (2265m), then down the other side in gathering clouds, on a high road to Tanquist, stopping for lunch at Amegdoult ("the terraces"). Afterwards a long downwards traverse to Ikkiss. Long night of Uno....

Monday 10/23 Gradual slog up to a Tizi N Aguesioual (2130m), then drop down below reddish rock cliffs to Amsequ, and down to the Imlil River at Ager for lunch, near the undercut house from recent floods. Hike across river, down road, then up 300-500m to the Tiffirt plateau. Abdul's favorite, spaghetti for dinner.

Tuesday 10/24 Tiny saffron crocuses over the plateau. They'll survive us and the mules. Cut across, up and over the Tizi N Ourite (2200m), then down past Tizian, red clay village, and up stream for another 3 hours for lunch beside the stream. 2 of the group have the courtesy to bathe in the stream, the others cultivate their personal flora. After lunch, steeply up and across to Azib Tamsoult, a goat herders shelter. Entertainment from the porters ragtime band on jerry can drum, silver tea tray, sauce pan with spoon and Mohammed playing the propane gas cylinder (perched precariously close to the campfire). Typically, the clients can barely muster two full verses of any folk song in response.

Wednesday 10/25 Left camp about 8:45. Up and over the Tizi N Mrit by 10:30, then slowly down to Imlil about 12:30 for lunch and return to Marrakech.

10/15/00 Sunday in Zagora -- After breakfast, we wandered over to the weekly market. Immediately was picked up by Kasim, a tall berber in a dark blue robe (actually, that's redundant), who offered to guide me to the 'best pictures'. It also happened that he had a friend who sold jewelry; as that coincided with my plans anyway, I followed him, and obtained a great vantage point by sitting & having tea while the rest of the world wandered by with their wares, camels, sheep, goats, furniture and weekly provisions.

One of the different items on display was the fibule or tizerzai-- these are elaborate chains and pendants, used as clasps for cloaks. Single women wear only 1 pendant, married women wear 2 the same, and divorced women wear 2 different pendants. The pieces hanging off the pendants indicate the number of children.

While taking tea, I learned the berber for 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' : "Leybueti bitu, lema lema biti, mabi ta" (literally, 'who you love, i love, who you dont love, i dont love')

The silver work was very interesting - well made (see photos), and quite different from the standard. Cinq Obligations is a piece representing the 5 pillars of Islam. Another, is the the pendant of a 'chef', for wearing at festivals. These were new pieces made in traditional manner. The fibules date from the 'time the French departed'. During the usual bargaining, all of it in French, much by writing on a scrap of paper, I learned an Arabic form of division, quite different from our method. Laden with my new purchases, I continued around the market, much of it devoted to dates -- last year's were there, along with new ones, in boxes for wholesale to other city, or for drying and use on desert treks. Other major items included animal fodder, vegetables in abundance, women's scarves, and tamarisk wood for home cookfires.

Sunrise on the Sahara

10/15/00   We left our hotel in Zagora at 5 am, to drive out to the dunes to witness a very average sunrise. The countryside was much more interesting than the sunrise itself, a rather subdued affair, the sun gradually pulling itself over a vague horizon. Of much more interest were the nearer by goings on -- after climbing a small dune, we looked out over several wondrous sights -- a faux-casbah hotel to the north, and several European tent camps complete with porta-potty conveniences. My favorite though was a gathering of about 20 Winnebagos in a circular defensive formation. Several nomads had their camps nearby too, and were engaged in morning activities, camel foraging and trying to sell camel rides and trinkets to sunrise viewers. Back in town we saw a sign indicating "Timbuktu, 52 jours", by camel of course....


13 oct - Marrakesh

Chez Ali is a purpose built fort in the middle of the desert just outside Marrakech, as a site for tourist versions of the Moroccan Fantasia. A giant cobra fountain greets us as we enter, ensuring that we don't take this place too seriously. We walk past Ali Baba's cave, to a large tent (seating hundreds) and dinner. After a reasonable soup, comes mechouie -- half a lamb, grilled until crispy and succulent. The meat falls off the bones. We're well mannered at first, but soon everyone is taking off small pieces of crispy skin, grilled fat and tender meat. Absolutely delicious (obviously vegans should wait outside the tent). Followed by a coos coos. Troupes of ethnic dancers and musicians wander through as we ate, then we move outside to get prime seats for the show (at the bottom end of the horseshoe shaped bleachers). The Fantasia itself consisted of a limpid belly dancer, but it was amusing to watch the platform roll out into the arena. Folk dancing followed, but the highlight is the trick riding, culminating in the charge -- 8 to 12 mounted Berbers charge directly at us, stopping about 10 feet away, pulling their horses up onto their hind legs, while the riders fire their jezails into the air. The taped music ranged from Star Wars entry of the storm troopers to Carmina Burana. The topper was the magic carpet -- a couple on a carpet are pulled across the gap between the fort and palace at the far end of the enclosure, 'seemingly' through the air, but the effect, if any is eliminated when firecrackers then play across the wires that held them up, and then the entire facade is lit by a fireworks display. All in all, a fun evening, not for everyone, and nothing to be taken too seriously.

Essaouria - "A long rectangle opened before us, linked with arched walls and hotels and palm trees... Beyond were the porticoed courtyards of the markets, lined with cells crammed with unpackaged goods in sacks, bowls and dishes.  There were trays of crabs in the fish market and aproned men wielding hoses... Beyond these were the silversmiths' shops, in alleys lined with blue tiles and awnings; next, a street of grimy everyday shops, selling plastic bowls and dirty cassettes and thick rolls and pastries; then a street of cedarwood boxes and tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl; dirt-paved lanes; passages with carved, ornate doorways; a buzzing alley of dark-slotted sewing machines; roofs with untidy storks and windows hung with bird cages and carpets." - Dorothy Dunnett Send a Fax From the Kasbah

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