04-05/07/2019: Rabat
Km travelled today/sum: 110km /7958km
Sun shine, 24 degrees, highway

We talked to the person at reception and he suggested that the coastal road to Rabat wouldn’t go along the coast. So we decided to take the highway. We had found a nice place and pre-booked near Rabat. We arrived at our accommodation within no time at all. Our host let us in and we had a look around the property.

The view down the valley was really nice and our room as well.

Our host gave us a long list of things to do, so we decided to have a look at some of them the next day. First we visited ‘Chella’, which is a medieval fortified Muslim necropolis. This place has been a trading emporium from the Phoenicians before the Romans came and established a colony here and so on.
So we parked our bike in front of the city wall and entered through the main gate. At the lower site of the rampart were the ruins.

 

Below is the view from the ruins of a temple. On the right, there is the ruins of the temple and at the lower part are the leftover of the shops, which were below the temple. These are from the roman times.

 

From here we hopped onto the bike and went to the ‘Mausoleum of Hassan V’.

On each door stands a guard, and they don’t mind to have their picture taken with them – if my arabic serves me right J

Opposite the mausoleum is the ‘Hassan Tower’. This was an attempt in 1195 to build in tallest minaret and mosque in the world. But when the Caliph who instigated this died, nobody was completing the started work and so it remained unfinished. The minaret is only half the high it should have and only the pillar of the mosque are there. Well close to the minaret there is a fountain which was finished as well.

This is part of a small wall that was finished at the front side of the mosque. I was often wondering about the holes in the tall wall around Morocco.It turned out they are holes for rigging. Not sure if they would have stayed open.

After all that running around, we decided to have a look at the Kashbah (old Fortres), which is supposed to be quite relaxing. So we parked the bike in front of the old city wall, not without the semi official parking inspector approaching us and making sure that we know that he is looking after our bike when we are away J

We strolled through the Kashbah down to the river, where we found a nice restaurant. Here we had a Mint Tea (of course with sugar) and watched the people around passing by.

On our way out of the Kashbah, we found a grave yard. For me, it looked extremly crowed.

On our way back, we noticed that Rabat has a new tram system and it was still beeing built in the direction of our accomodation. Talking to our host, he mentioned that there is a technology hub close by and the tram would be extended up to there. Apparently, in three years, there will be about 60000 people working there. During our trip we noticed that there were houses build everywhere, the infrastructure enhanced or developed and the water supply secured. We had to buy bottled water only once or twice, the rest of the time the tap water was drinkable

Back in our accomodation we had a beautiful sunset.

So, that nearly concludes the Morocco section of our trip. Tomorrow we travel to Tanger Med, book the ferry, might have an additional day off and then we are back in Europe.

03/07/2019: Casablanca
Km travelled today/sum: 103km / 7848km
Sun shine, 24 degrees, highway

Today was a short day. We arrived in Casablanca around lunch time. And here we got to experience our first traffic jam in Morocco. The time you have to wait at a traffic light felt extremely long. It got worse when we came closer to the central place. So we decided opt for a different route, and that worked well. When we arrived at the hotel, we were directed into a two story underground car park with an extra guy directing the guests to their car/motorcycle parking spot. I wasn’t sure if we really booked into this posh hotel. I quickly got out the reservation and confirmed that we were at the right spot. We were, so I was happy J

We were too early to get into out room, so we sat in the lounge, had a mint tea and made some skype calls using the hotel wifi. Not long after we got our room. The view was fantastic. We looked straight onto the Minaret, the Mosque and some administration buildings.

Unfortunately, the next allotted visiting time was at 15:00, so we had to have a rest before we could head to the Hassan II Mosque. It is the largest mosque in Africa with the highest Minaret. And for us even more important: we could look at it from the inside while participating in a guided tour. So we did. On the left picture you see the mosque and on the right the plaza in front with the museum behind. We booked the tickets and off we went with our guided tour.

First the entrance looked stunning. We learned that around 25,000 worshippers can pray inside, and 80,000 outside, that’s over 100,000 people who can pray at the same time. Not sure how it is with the logistics to get the people to and from the Mosque. Our guide said that during ramadan there are actually that many worshippers praying here.
Anyway, we noticed that the temperature inside was nice and cool compared to the outside temperature.

Here you can see the center of the mosque. Have a closer look at the roof.

This roof is nicely decorated, consists of two parts and is retractable. I guess, this is nessary if 25000 people are inside the mosque.

On the floor was a window to the ablution block below.

Here is a view of the other side of the mosque.

From here we went downstairs to the ablution block where the worshippers wash their hands, forarms, face and feets before praying. This is the entrance to the ablution area.

Here is the ablution area. The ablution area as the mosque itself is devided into two parts, one for women and one for men.

This was the end of the guided tour. For us, it was intersting to see a mosque from the inside. The intricate ornaments were impressive. At the outside there were plenty of fountains, all of them had these beautiful blue mosaic. And particular at a hot day, the water gave a nice feeling.

This is one of the entrance doors. Check out the wood work and the plaster around it, just amazing!

Included in the ticket for our visit to the mosque was a ticket to the museum. Here they explained the craftsmanship and we had a closer look at the carvings, paintings and wood work. During the construction phase, there were apparently around 10,000 artists involved in the decoration of the mosque.

After the museum, we walked to the sea to have a look at the mosque from the front. There was stony beach in front of the dyke wall, where the locals went swimming and surfing. We watched them for a while before we walked to our next destination.

Well.. we are in Casablanca and ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ should give it away…

Right, we were on our way to Rick’s café! By the way, not one scene of the movie was done in Casablanca. The café with the same name did put a piano in a corner after to create a similar feeling as it was in the movie, but technically they have nothing to do which each other. Anyway, we had to go there to have a look. So we did. Here is the outside of the cafe

And here is the inside of the café with the piano on one side. We opted to have a glass of wine in Rick’s café before walking back through the medina to our hotel.

We were tempted to extend our stay, but unfortunately the hotel was booked out. Tomorrow we will continue to Rabat which would be our last visit to a city before leaving Morocco.

01-02/07/2019: El Jadida
Km travelled today/sum: 264km / 7745km
Sun shine, 23 degrees, country road

We decided to follow the ocean again and it was a good choice. The road was fantastic, with some long curves, following the ocean.

 

At some point it reminded us of the Great Ocean road. There were sand beaches all over the place, sometimes just a small strip at the bottom of a cliff, sometimes nice wide beaches in the middle of nowhere.

The last couple of km we got caught out by the GPS and ended up on a highway… Oh, well can’t win them all. The nights accommodation would be in the Medina, apparently we could park the bikes there. Below is the entrance to the medina and yes, we fit through that gap!

The streets were not too bad, narrow and cobble stones in places but not too bad. We parked the bikes near by, in a place our host said he parked his vehicle a couple of years and never had any trouble. So we unpacked and covered the bikes.

This picture is the view from our rooftop garden. 

 

The main reason why we were here was the Portuguese Cistern. This was build when the Portuguese were ruling this town, to hold water in case of a siege. I liked the reflection in the water, so we decided to have a look ourselves

Next morning when we had breakfast and met David and Andrew from the Czech republic. They were on a short trip to hike up Mt.Jbel Toubkal. Since they had a couple of days left until their hike, they were traveling through Morocco to wherever the train would get them. After a good conversation we took a picture before they departed.

We had a walk at the Ramparts of El Jadida, it was just around the corner. It is hard to imagine how much work they put into these tall thick walls.

It was nice to look down and just listen to the sound of the ocean and watch the fisherman going in and out of the harbour.

Tomorrow we’ll ride over to Casablanca, particular at the ‘Hassan II Mosque’, which is the third largest mosque in the world and it’s open to Non-Muslims.

28-30/06/2019: Essaouira
Km travelled today/sum: 179km / 7418km
Sun shine, 22 degrees, country road

We decided to travel the back roads close to the coast, near a road following the coast more remotely. From some vantage points we could clearly see what a difference a river makes. Around the river, everything is lush and green, not far away from the river, it’s bare.

 

 

We stopped a couple of times just to take in the view.

On our way, we planned a stop to buy some Argan Oil from a womens cooperative. We thought we give the money to the people which are doing the real work. Argan oil is traditionally produced by Berber and is used for food and cosmetics. Since we bought some oil in Tetouan and it smelled beautifully nutty, we thought we replace the nearly empty oil bottle here. We saw the trees with the yellow fruit before, but all of the sudden there was one tree full of goats!

Apparently the goats are eating the fruit, but can’t digest the nut. The nuts come out again and get collected by the Berber women, before beeing further processing to Argan oil. Well, since the demand for the oil is high, I guess there are probably more moderns methods to get the fruit from the trees nowadays…

We thought there would only be one cooperative, but along the way there were several advertisements and when we arrived in Tamanar, there were two shops side by side. Both were trying to get us in…. Eventually we just picked one and went in.

 

 

Here we got shown how Argan oil is produced, step by step. Since it was a Friday, the women who produced the oil had a day off, only the sales staff were there. But it was good enough for us, since we really could take our time to see the production. We bought some oil, went to the shop on the other side, and bought some more 😁.

 

Not long after we arrived at our accommodation. The secure parking was a bit tricky. The bikes should be as close as possible to the fence. So we brought both bikes in, but my bike is lowered and stands more upright than Sigrid’s. This was no problem for our host. He got a piece of wood and jammed it under the bash plate. The bike wouldn’t go anywhere.


According to the Lonely Planet, Essaouira is called the ‘Wind City of Africa’. Well, the wind was blowing hard over the sand. You got a free leg peeling during a walk on the beach. The wind also created the desert shape of the beach. I haven’t seen a beach like this before. There were, of course, camels to ride and hustler to hustle, but when we explained that we have been a camel riding in Merzouga, they left us in peace.


The next day, the wind had died down. Hardly any wind at all, I was happy. So we had a great walk on the beach and enjoyed a visit in the fortress.


Essaouira also has a fishing fleet, which when moored, gives a nice picture.

At night we had a nice dinner with a beautiful sunset in our riad.

The pavement in front of our hotel was great. The tiles were completely flat, but it looked like there were waves.

Breakfast in the riad at the pool.

On our last day, we noticed that we haven’t seen the rampart, so we walked to the fortress, through the narrow alleys and to the rampart access point. The view from here was great.



On our way back, we discovered some shops, just behind the ramp to the rampart, I though it looked great.

We noticed on our beach walks in all different parts of Marocoo that there is garbage all over the place. This time, we thought, we just get a small plastic bag and collect the garbage flying around. When we arrived at our hotel, the bag was full, and we didn’t try very hard to fill it up.

In our opinion, this is a real pity, that the beaches are polluted with so much garbage. My suggestion, every visitor gets a bag and if the bag is returned full of garbage, they don’t have to pay the city tax 😁

We had a really great time in Essaouria, but tomorrow the wind will be back, so we’ll move on. Our next stop is ‘El Jadida’, a port city fortified by the Portuguese.

24-27/06/2019: Agadir
Km traveled today/sum: 87 km / 7302 km
Sun shine, 26 degrees, highway

We packed the bikes, said good bye to Mark and Ann and drove off. On our way was the town of Taroudant. We had a brief look and took some pictures of the Town gate.

From here we drove through Agadir. The traffic reminded me a bit of India, everything goes and keep doing what you are you doing, don’t stop. We arrived at our accommodation unscathed, this time we’d booked an apartment where we could cook for ourselves and the bikes were securely parked.


After settling into the room, Sigrid …… jumped into the pool.

We didn’t have any particular aims, except to plan the last leg of our Morocco trip. But first, we had a look at the beach. Our accommodation was not too far from the beach, but the way to the beach was not very nice. There were some unused properties where the footpath ended and the lots were used as rubbish dump.

Anyway, the beach itself was quite nice. I think it might be a major vacation place for Moroccan families. There was also the opportunity to have a camel ride… since we already did that in the Sahara, we gave it a miss here.


During our walk, we found this nicely decorated mobile tower, it looks like a palm tree!

During our time in Agadir, we went shopping in a super market. To our surprise, you could buy rice and noodles in bulk and the same with the spices.


Here is Sigrid with our dinner, notice the bottle wine on the table. We stumbled across a bottle shop here in Agadier, how nice!

Our next town to visit is Essaouira, apparently the wind capital of Morocco. Apparently they have very nice seafront ramparts, some sort of fortress.

23/06/2019: Quled Aarfa
Km travelled today/sum: 218 km / 7215km
Sun shine, 22 degrees, Mountain road, highway

The Tiz N Test pass is a semi (in-)famous one lane road with mostly tar on it.

As we started though, the first part of the trip was on a road with a lane for each direction and great tarmac.

We passed a water reservoir and could see the start of the High Atlas.


Just after the reservour, the one lane road started. Again, I like these mountain ranges particular looking back at the road we just came from.


We noticed that the drivers were considerate and, if possible, they made space for us so we could stay on the tarmac. We really appreciated that, since the side didn’t have any guard rails and the gravel on the side was partially pretty rough. Eventually we made it to the pass without any problems.

The view was great, in the backgound (right side) you can see the Anti Atlas. After the pass, the road got worse, there were parts without any tarmec at all and riddled with potholes. Just as we were getting used to it a bit, we came around a corner and all of the sudden there was a newly laid road, one lane each direction!


The remaining ride to our accommodation was a breezer, except when we turned onto the last laneway. It was heavily corrugated and had corse pebbles. I guess this bit only lasted 1km, but we were happy when it stopped. When we arrived at the accommodation, I first parked my bike, then I tried to park Sigrid’s bike. Pressing the starter button resulted in a short clunck noise and then nothing. No display, no light and no starter motor. We pushed the bike into the accommodation, fearing the worst.

Off we go, I got the tool out and had a look. Turned out that the battery screw loosened through the bumpy road today. I was happy that it was such an easy fix. And the tools I got from Klaus were put to good use!


Here is a view into the court yard. During the conversation with Mark, our host, we realized that it was his birthday.

Some of Marks friends arrived in the evening, and after dinner we got invited to join the birthday round, with cake made by his wife Ann. Both were from Belgium and moved to Morocco three years ago, to fulfill their dream and run a hostel.

During the time we were celebrating, Diddle made another friend.

Tomorrow is an easy day. We have only 80km to Agadir, the road is a highway and the temperature will be below 30 degrees 😊

21-22 /06/2019: Marrakech
Km travelled today/sum: 198km / 6997km
Sun shine, 28 degrees, country road/mountain pass

We got up quite early to avoid the heat. Today we had 200km with a mountain pass, so we were not really sure how long it would take us.

The road was really good and there was hardly any traffic about that early. Here are some pictures from when we started to climb the High Atlas Mountains.

 

We arrived before it got too hot. We parked the bikes in the court yard and settled into the room. At night we had home cooked Tajine for dinner, yummy.

The next day we visited the ‘Jardin Majorelle’, a garden created by Jacques Majorelle, taking over 40 years to complete. To our surprise, there was a long queue, but there was shade, so it wasn’t too bad.

When we entered the garden, it felt like a different world. There were still plenty of people, but the surroundings had something calming, different from the hustle and bustle outside. Here are some pictures from the garden.

 

 

 

 

It took us a while to meander through the garden. From here we visited the Berber museum, unfortunately taking pictures was prohibited so you’ll have to visit it yourselves 😉. I think the explanations were quite interesting, however everything was in French, so there was a lot of guessing involved.
After the Berber museum we visited the ‘Koutoubia Mosque’. Why did we check it out? Legend has it that it is the mosque that had not been built correctly facing mecca. Hence it was flattened and rebuilt… Since we couldn’t enter the mosque as non-muslim, we walked around and took some pictures.

Our next point of interest was the ‘Sadiam Tombs, build in the late 1500’. The tombs hold the graves of the Sultans family and in the garden are the graves of servants. We were using google maps which showed us where the tomb was, but not the entry. Running around the tomb, we found two dutch girls, who had had the same problem, but asked a guy where the entry was. So we followed them past the many coffee shops surrounding us…

… and there it was! Finally! The Entry.

The walk way to the tomb itself was pretty narrow, but when you turned the corner, a lush shady green garden appeared.


There are three chambers all up and they are all impressive. This is the largest chamber, called the room with 12 columns. Here we are in front of the room.

The craftmanship for the wood, tiles and stucco work was amazing. Below some pictures trying to capture this amazing work.

 

After the tombs, we went home and got ready for an early departure tomorrow morning. We will go over the Tiz N Test pass, which will be the end of early starts, since the temperature on the other side of the high Atlas is said to be below 30 degrees.

20/06/2019: Quazazate
Km travelled today/sum: 172 km / 6799km
Sun shine, 28 degrees, country road

The temperature in Quazazate, our next destination, should be below 30 degrees, so we could leave a bit later. Here is Sigrid in front of our accommodation.

It was an easy ride and we arrived just after lunch time. Ait Benhaddou, a famous fortified village, was another 15 minutes from Quazazate, so we opted to get there in the afternoon. This village was the backdrop for a lot of famous movies, for example: Laurance of Arabia, Indiana Jones, Gladiator and Games of Thrones. Here are some pictures of Ait Benhaddou and its surroundings.

 

 

To our surprise, there are still some families living here. This is one of the occupied houses, with a beautiful door and stained glass window. The dry river bed is used by the locals as a road.

 

On our way back we decided to stop at the ‘Atlas Studios’, one of the three film studios here.We learned that Quarzazate is called the ‘Little African Hollywood’. We tried to get a tour but we were too late, so we took some pictures from the outside.

After a long day, we sat down and had dinner the restaurant in our hotel. It was opposite the bus terminal, so we had plenty of enterainment.

Tomorrow we will ride over the ‘Tiz n Tichka’ pass to Marrakkech, which would be the last place where we have to worry about the bike and high temperatures. The temperature at the coast beyond this should remain below 30 degrees.

19/06/2019: Tinghir
Km travelled today/sum: 201km / 6627km
Sun shine, 38 degrees, country road

We got up really early to avoid the high temperature during the day, especially after my bike had the issues with heat some days earlier. So we packed before sunrise and started to ride during dusk. 200 km is not too much but, on the roads and with the traffic here, it can take up to 4 to 5 hours without any breaks. When we took off, the temperature was 26 degrees.

The roads lead us through the town gates, which look quite impressive, particular in the morning. They were also in good condition and easy to ride especially given the stunning views.

When we came over a mountain range, the landscape started to look like the Australian outback. At some stage we thought we were in Coober Pedy. Small earth mounds left and right of the road. It turned out that the people here were digging for fossils not opal, but it’s still quite similar!  J

We noticed that the temperatures were varying drastically, depending on if we were in a valley close to a body of water (19degrees) or on a desert plain (30 degrees). Around the 30 degree mark I got a bit nervous, but the bike didn’t miss a beat. We arrived at our accommodation close to the Toudgha Gorge again very early. So we parked the bikes here, hopped onto Sigrid’s bike and went two-up to the Gorge.

We walked a bit along the gorge, took some pictures. As usual, it is hard to try to capture the real size and beauty of it. Behind Bjoern is a house build into the gorge, on the left picture you can hardly see it and zoomed in you get an idea of the sheer size of the cliff.

 

We had some lunch at a restaurant nearby and went back to our accommodation to settle into our room. The common area looked really nice and so did the pool and the rest of the outside area. Sigrid had to try the pool J

Our host gave us a small map of the surroundings to explore. So we had to cross the ‘river’ and walk through a nice green mountain trail. We evensaw some chipmunks, aren’t they cute?

And then we arrived at the Kashbah, an old uninhabited fortress. The French tried to build a road on this side causing the hill to collapse, so they decided to build the road on the other side of the mountain, which worked. It is the road we were arriving on. The people in the Kashbah felt it was a long way to the road which guaranteed supplies, so left this place and moved to the other side of the road. The new houses can be seen just behind the ruins. On our way back to the hotel was saw a donkey strolling through the bushes!

 

 

We also found a nice tiny lake with some fishes and a restaurant. If you didn’t know where to look for the pond, we would have missed it.

After our excursion, it was time for dinner. This time it was part of our accommodation deal

We got more confident that my bike is reliable if the temperatures are below 30 degrees. So tomorrow we will have a look at ‘Ait Benhaddou’, an ancient village used as background for multiple Hollywood movies.

17-18/06/2019: Merzouga
Km travelled today/sum: 96km / 6330km
Sun shine, 32 degrees, country road

We both didn’t sleep too well this night. Both of us were up really early, in anticipation of what would happen today. Here is the view from the roof top terrace at sunrise.

Some people on the way to work, on vehicles that work well in the heat..

 

My theory worked! Lower temperatures and the bike started. We arrived in Merzouga really early and relived, not getting stranded in the desert was fantastic. The bike worked without any problems. Our hosts were extremly nice and didn’t say a word about the fact that we were there that early (around 9AM), they just gave us the room. When we were sitting by the pool, Mohamed approached Sigrid. Via the intenet we had enquired about the desert camp with camel ride but mentioned that we had problems with the bike and didn’t know if we would make it. So when 2 bikes arived very early Mohamed assumed rightly that this must be us. We agreed on the price and paid for the camp. I took a picture of Mohamed and Sigrid. Looked like everything was working like a charm today!

The temperature during the day did go up to 41 degrees, so we were apprehensive about sleeping in the desert. Oh well, already booked now!

We were picked up around 6PM, when the temperature had cooled down a bit. Surprisingly as soon we were in the desert, there was a slight breeze, which made the whole experience quite nice. Some pictures from the camel ride in the desert.

 

Here our guide took a picture of us at sun set.

We were blown away when we arrive at our camp. Luxury pure! We had a double bed and our own bathroom with a toilet and shower. This was a better accommodation then we had in some cities!

We met a nice couple from Argentina, Yasminka & Rod. They were on a short holiday in Morocco before visiting their son in Switzerland. During the evening we talked a lot about their and our travel experiences. And after dinner there was a bonfire with Berber music, which included us dancing! We really enjoyed the day.

Next morning we had a look at the sunrise, which was not as pretty as our sunset, but the dunes with their shades still looked impressive.

After a great breakfast, we hopped into a 4WD and our driver showed us how driving in the desert is REALLY done J. Back at the accommodation, we were lingering around the pool the whole day, oh so nice. After dinner we had a last dip in the pool.

Tomorrow we would start really early again. We figured that we had until lunch time before the temperature would be over 30 degrees and we would need to cover a bit of over 200 km.