Our party of three just returned from our 24 days road trip of Southern Morocco. We again had our fabulous driver/guide Mohamed (Moha) AitRhanimi of Rove Morocco Travels. Our first visit with Mohamed was the Grand Tour of Morocco. Link for previous trip report: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29373…
Mohamed and I, together developed the itinerary for our second visit, Sahara Anti Atlas Explorations, with our main focus on the outdoors and off-roading in the Sahara Desert. During the planning stage, Mohamed’s communications were prompt, very patient and flexible with my change requests.
Our route was the southern loop with arrival/departure from Marrakech. We went west to Agadir and Immouzer des Ida-Outanane/Paradise Valley. Inland to Taroudant, Ouarzazate, Agdz, Rissani and Merzouga/Erg Chebbi. Southwest to Ouzina. West to Mharech, Zagora/Erg Chigaga, Tata and Tiznit. North to Parc National de Sous Massa at the coast, Agadir and back to Marrakech. We went through vast savannahs and endless deserts, geographical mountain formations, dry river beds and lakes with breathtaking views; every few kilometers we stopped for photo ops.
Going off the beaten path gave us a closer glimpse of the Nomadic life with shepherds/goat herders living off the harsh and inhospitable land, remote Berber villages that are still built with mud, straw bricks and rammed earth walls, and Nomad settlements where male and female roles are defined in a hard and simple life.
Unfortunately, due to illness, we had to cancel our stay with a Berber family. However, we had an opportunity to have tea with them, which was an honor and a humbling experience to see where we would have spent the evening. Inshallah (God willing), that we may have this opportunity in the future.
Highlights of our visit:
- Less kilometers traveled off major roads gave us a leisurely pace to enjoy the sights and amenities at some of our fantastic lodgings.
- Waking up to birds singing in the mornings and crickets in the evenings was so pleasant, peaceful and relaxing. Many times we did not hear the call to prayer in the early mornings.
- Teas and lunches with local families, again gave us additional glimpses into their daily life, Moroccan hospitalities and sharing of cultures.
- Ait Ben Haddou Ksar (UNESCO Site) with its kasbah's and background for many well-known movies.
- Picnics under the acacia and palm trees - Nomad style with Moroccan tea was pleasant and enjoyable.
- Seeking and finding fossils in the hard blue-black stone common in the Sahara was awesome when located.
- Following a salt river to the mine with Stalagmites of salt was unique and a pleasant surprise.
- Scenic mountain drives with endless flat deserts flanked by stratified mountains, cuckoo birds in the distance calling each other, beautiful savannahs and ancient Berber dwellings were surreal and awe-inspiring.
- Sunrise hikes of our local surroundings and dunes was so tranquil and beautiful. The early light on the dunes was again a kaleidoscope-like variation of browns, taupes, oranges and peaches, which also emphasized the beautiful sand wave patterns. During the day, they were the colors of soft butternut squash to the rich hues of ripe apricots.
- Petroglyphs at Ait Quarik were remarkable. To be able to see these petroglyphs that illustrate the wetter richer ecology 7,000 years ago, with images of hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, giraffes, elephants, ostriches, etc. in what is now desert, was a treat and privilege.
- Star gazing at Erg Chigaga in the warm spring evening was astounding, peaceful and relaxing.
We again stayed in unique and charming lodgings from riads, hotel/lodge to restored kasbah's. Majority of the places we stayed at, we had to ourselves, which gave us the opportunity to explore our surroundings without crowds. Our favorites were Riad Ville Blanche in Agadir; Riad El Aissi in Taroudant; Riad Madu /Jaimas (camp) Madu in Merzouga/Erg Chebbi and Azalai Desert Lodge in Zagora. However, our lodging with the most amazing view overlooking the dry lake of Daya-el-Maider was Riad Nomad in Mharech. Again, all the meals we had were excellent, fresh and locally sourced.
We had another fantastic, authentic and non-commercial cultural visit, which would not have been possible without Mohamed’s personal touches. Mohammed is also an expert off-road driver, and we felt comfortable going places we would not have imagined going ourselves. His Berber GPS and landmark navigations through endless deserts and savannahs were phenomenal. The weather for the most part was perfect, a little hot in the desert.
As our previous trip, Mohamed was again very conscious of our needs, comfort, personal interests and timing. A million thanks Mohamed for sharing your fabulous country with us and allowing us to experience another aspect of Moroccan culture full of wonderful memories. Inshallah that we will have another cultural opportunity in the future.