Morocco

Morocco is a country rich in geological splendour and colour, indulging the eye with a variety of landscapes from deserts to snow-topped mountains, lush green redwood forests to sparse black volcanic plains.

 

There are mountains and gorges in a myriad of shades and textures; deep burnished carmine, dusty olive greens and warm caramelised ochres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a country of extremes, both in climate and scenery. From the crammed bustling alleyways of the ancient Medina in Fes to the distant dunes of the Sahara – there are endless valleys and passages across the fluid terrain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eye is expanded here to take in the abundance of space and stillness, time seems to slow down here, freedom thrives and movement seems effortless.

The infinite panoramas change each day to provide every morning with a new adventure, roads may seem to lead to nowhere, but always they are filled with delights for the traveller.

 

 

 

 

The people that live here reflect the warmth and spirit of their environment. They are friendly and open, generous and curious. Instilled with a genuine belief in the power of the word: “Inshallah” (“If God wills it” or “God-willing”).
Moroccans have a genuine carefree spirit and a wonderful sense of humour. You will often hear this phrase in conversation, as well as the ubiquitous: “Shway, Shway” (slowly, slowly!). There are no bumps in the road if one can have a grasp of these two sayings!

 

 

In many towns and villages, especially those in the remote southern valleys, centuries have come and gone with little change affecting the daily routine of people that live here. Donkeys are still a somewhat reluctant form of transport, carrying goods or people; women gather firewood, wash garments down at the river and work in the fields. Goat herders move, slow as clouds along the gorges and mountainsides; their goats perched precariously on the steep slopes.

 

 

Sheep, cows, chickens and cats wander freely; dogs take themselves for walks along the roadside. Every so often we meet a truck overladen with either hay or people, and it passes us by curiously.

 

 

 

 

 

One can never really feel alone here – just as you think you have travelled into the wilderness, entered a desert or isolated valley; somebody will cheerfully pop out of nowhere, invariably to try and sell you a fossil.  It makes me smile to think of the night we parked the truck in the remote dunes of Chicaga; there was not a soul in sight, not even an animal and we truly believed we were experiencing the isolated spirit of the desert, far from anything or anyone.

 

 

In the morning, we found a local man had set up his rug just outside the front wheels of the truck. He patiently and quietly persisted to remain there for some time, arranging jewellery, fossils and scarves along the ground. After we had breakfast, we noticed a local goatherder had come to chat with him – probably there were old friends.
We realised again that we are always seen and heard in the truck – no matter where we are!

 

 

 

There is an ancient ruined city in this stretch of land, west of Merzouga. It must have been over a thousand years old and stands on a hilltop where four valleys converge. All that remains are masses of grey stone and slate, still clearly divided into walls and doorways and the occasional window. It must surely have been an ancient fortress.

 

Often when we drive through villages, children run out to wave and shout at the truck – some run away in terror, but mostly they are fascinated. We stopped several times to hand out some soft toys and pens – I was asked more frequently for a pen, than for money! “Un stylo! Un stylo”, the children would shout if we stopped.

 

I was struck by the determination of one young girl who had heard us coming from a good distance away, she had run to the roadside with her wares – brightly embellished baubles, good-luck charms which you hang in the windscreen. As the truck approached she held them in the air, and as we passed, she ran as fast as she possibly could – her tenacity was remarkable, and eventually persuaded us to stop. We bought the bauble, though she was reluctant to have her picture taken, we remembered her none the less.

 

On our first night in the Chicaga dunes, we walked a little distance from the truck to watch the setting sun, sit on the sand and contemplate the beauty and silence that are the real treasures of the desert.

 

In the distance, we could see some Berber tents and hear a faint sound, gradually getting closer. Somebody was singing, and it sounded quite enchanting, a wailing like a prayer in the twilight or some ancient chant. Smiling we listened for a bit, “I wonder what he is singing”, I said to Dale. He paused for a moment to listen again, and then he smiled; “I think he’s actually singing: ‘Buffalo Soldier’”, and sure enough if you listened carefully, you could make out the Bob Marley classic! He found us eventually, bringing with him a somewhat battered looking teapot and some glasses. He offered us some mint tea, and chatted with us for a while; such is the nature of Moroccan hospitality – even in the desert!

 

 

Click here to view further pictures in our photo gallery.

 

 

 

 

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