Morocco: Toubkal and Sahara at the end of the year. Here I explain how the idea came up until the Morocco trip: Toubkal and New Year's Eve in the Sahara. In addition to knowing all the conditions that I found to make this trip given the COVID situation
After the experience of the 3 Days Trail Ibiza in November, I had in mind to carry out some of my sporting adventures that I had forgotten for a while. Here I explain how the idea came up until the Morocco trip: Toubkal and New Year's Eve in the Sahara.
In this way and despite the Covid situation and the different regulatory changes that have arisen in recent months and with the arrival of Christmas, I had several options on the table.
My friend Sandra had proposed to me to form a travel group to spend the end of the year in the Canary Islands and take advantage of the opportunity to go diving. With all the mental mess that I had in my head planning my trip to Ibiza, the truth is that I did not pay much attention to it. I was waiting to spend my getaway to properly assess the plan.
While in Ibiza I had seen different posts on Instagram of trips scheduled by different agencies to spend the end of the year in Egypt or Morocco and I thought, What a madness!
When I returned from Ibiza I received the information from my friend Pako Crestas that, finally, after all these last months without traveling, he was going to Kilimanjaro. Also, after Kilimanjaro I had a group scheduled to go to Morocco: Toubkal and New Year's Eve in the Sahara.
Quickly my friend Pako sends me the information about the trip and the situation to travel to Morocco. At first I think it's crazy, but quickly the idea begins to spin around and around in my head.
Start. Toubkal and end of the year in Morocco in times of Covid.
COVID situation in Morocco (December 2020)
As I have been able to find in different sources, the situation in Morocco in relation to COVID is very controlled, according to reports much more than in Spain. Being there we have seen a lot of tranquility in this sense
Life in Morocco with COVID
Life develops normally in the streets, everything is open except for some tourist businesses, which have closed due to lack of tourism. Those who remain open are looking forward to welcoming visitors again and if they are already hospitable and helpful people, now, without a doubt, even more so. Putting all the facilities, effort and dedication so that we travel again. It goes without saying that the social situation in Morocco is generally more impoverished than ours. If in Spain we are suffering the serious crisis due to COVID and the lack of tourism and restaurants, imagine the situation that the tourism sector is going through in Morocco. With our trip we have had the feeling at all times of being helping a lot to people who were without income of any kind since March 2020.
Conditions to enter Morocco
As a condition to enter Morocco, it is necessary to fill out a telematic form, in the past you always had to fill out a form at the entrance to Morocco, which if I remember correctly they had stopped demanding it. With the new COVID situation, it is the same form adapted to health reason questions. You can complete it in the following link: http://www.onda.ma/form.php
It is necessary to carry out a PCR test with a negative result 72 hours before entering Morocco. The approximate price is 100 euros and depends on the place or autonomous community that we do it.
Furthermore, an invitation or hiring a local company is necessary to justify our trip. In this case this is provided to us by the local mountain guide company.
Conditions to re-enter Spain
In this case we also have to fill out a telematic form, See the portal: spth.gob.es. We can also fill out this form using an APP on our mobile.
It is a requirement to carry a negative PCR result. This PCR in our case is carried out in a laboratory in Ouarzazate with a price of € 65. Click here to see laboratory information.
What happens if we can't travel?
If for any reason we cannot travel due to the tightening of sanitary measures, border closures or because we obtain a POSITIVE result in the PCR, we have contracted specific travel insurance. This insurance offers us as a guarantee the reimbursement of the trip in case of not being able to do it.
If the POSITIVE result were for our return to Spain, said insurance would also cover € 90 per day for 10 days for hotel or hospitalization expenses. Another interesting coverage for our trip is the early return due to the declaration of an alarm status or notice of border closure, at origin or destination, among other coverage. There are many insurances that offer specific travel guarantees in the face of the COVID situation. Assess the one that best fits at the time of hiring.
Personal motivation to make this trip to Morocco in time of Covid.
I will not deny it. At first my head quickly rejected the idea of traveling. For two reasons, first the COVID, but the second, and really important for me was the next. At the end of the year 2018/2019, take a similar trip to Morocco. Upon my arrival in Marrakech, ending my adventure and after being in solitary confinement, I connected to a wifi. I called Alba without getting an answer and quickly wrote her a message to congratulate her on the new year.
I really wanted to talk to her and catch up. A few days before he explained that he wanted to do a skimo outing. Also, I wanted to explain my adventure in the Sahara desert. The last day I was able to connect to Wi-Fi, we spent a long time talking about a thousand things as we always did. Due to the bad connection we agreed to talk when I connected on a better wifi. It took a few days before I was able to connect to Wi-Fi again because it was a very rural area of Morocco.
On my return to Marrakech I received the messages that he had sent me those days that I had no connection. I quickly wrote to him, but got no response. I tried calling on the phone, no answer. I immediately realized that she was not receiving any of the messages I sent her. On the other hand, I received an unusual number of messages. Right away I received a call that would leave me in shock and more emotionally depressed than ever. Alba had been in a car accident, and both she and our two dogs lost their lives in it.
I do not want to extend myself more than necessary explaining this fateful accident, but you will understand it has taken me a long time to get over the news.
Make the decision to go.
At first my mind told me a resounding NO. Then I changed my mind. I am a person who, if I fall with the bike, I have to get on it as soon as possible so as not to be afraid of it. One thing that I apply to any aspect of my life, sports or not, is that I have never let myself be overcome by fear. So something inside me pushed me in an incredible way to make this trip, to go back to Morocco, to do Toubkal, which I have on my to-do list, and I am also especially excited to promote it. Somehow it will help me get rid of that "bad memory" of my return with all that it entailed and come back having enjoyed such an incredible country as Morocco.
I want to add that all my trips and adventures to the mountains, a part of it is with me, it has always been like that and will always continue to be so. I remember the illusion he showed me when I told him that I was going to Morocco with a group of strangers to do the Jbel Sirwa, the highest mountain in the anti-Atlas at about 3304m. Carrying out all the preparation for the trip together, informing me of all the information I needed about the sleeping bags and helping me to choose the best option for a down jacket. She was an expert at this!
I quickly commented to Ingrid, She signed up without thinking twice! What a joy to be able to share this adventure with her!
I mentioned all of the above to a very good friend some time ago, she was the one who got me involved to go back to the triathlon and do the 3 Days Trail Ibiza: Laia.
He is especially excited to climb the Toubkal and we had discussed planning the ascent together. I mentioned it to him right away, but due to work issues I was not available to come.
It will be pending for later or to carry out another of the many tangled and adventures that he is always proposing to me.
Day 1: Barcelona - Marrakech 12/26/2020
Airport of Barcelona
Our flight leaves at 17:40 hours from Barcelona to Marrakech at 20:05 hours.
That is why we go to the airport well in advance. As usual in recent trips, the best option we have to get to the airport is to go with our private car and hire the services of Park & Go.
To access the airport they make us show the ticket or boarding pass. This is because of the COVID restrictions that have been implemented at the airport.
Once inside we took a couple of photographs loaded with all our luggage. Then we go to the check-in desk.
Before checking in, we meet several workers from the airline (for our outbound flight is Vueling) who ask us for the PCR tests, as well as show the health form required by the Moroccan authorities.
We check in our luggage as normal. Just note that each step we take at the airport we are asked for the two documents mentioned above. So always have it well at hand and ready to show them when required.
We did the flight normally, the plane was practically full.
Marrakech Menara Airport
Upon arrival in Marrakech we pass the first control we meet. At this control, they ask all passengers to fill out the form and show the PCR. Mention that it is a single airport worker for all passengers, so just take a very quick glance at the document without looking at it (they will do this later).
At this point we observe the typical chaos that has always been at the entrance to Morocco, people trying to fill in the form that are at a counter and everyone asking for a pen with a somewhat chaotic scene. Something that I thought that with the COVID situation I would no longer see it this way. FOR THIS REASON, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND TO BRING OUR FILLED OUT FORM THROUGH THE WEB, AND PRINT IT, we will save a lot of time and possibly some discussion. I put the link again to do it HERE
A little further on we already find two rows with their respective counters to check the PCR tests more exhaustively, the form and that the data of these two documents fully matches our passport.
Once this control is carried out, we go directly to the entrance police control by the Police. In this control they will ask us for the form for the Moroccan authorities, where they will keep it. In my case they didn't ask me any questions. Although it is true that they may ask you about the reason for the trip or where you will be staying. As a general rule, tourists from Europe do not put any impediment to us.
Once the last documentation control has passed and with the stamps on the passport, we can only collect the backpacks and pass a final security control of the luggage through an x-ray tape.
Pick up at the airport.
Upon our departure from the airport, a sign with our names was already waiting for us. But it was not necessary, Hassam and Moustafa the contacts of the local company were waiting for us and they recognized me as soon as we left.
We embrace and he quickly thanks us for visiting Morocco. What a joy that they remember you in that way after two years and see that they are very excited to receive us.
Although on the trip our already typical and always known Ali hotel enters us the first night we have looked for a Riad.
First night - Riad Louaya
We have never been to a riad and there are many occasions that we have heard of them. For those who do not know: Riad, in Arabic, can be translated as Eden or Garden. And by extension, in Morocco they designate those houses or neighborhood structures that have their central patio as their most representative space, in which there are usually natural elements such as water sources, plants or flowers.
The rooms in which the guests stay are distributed precisely around that patio and there are usually not many.
Another distinctive feature of the riad is its exquisite decoration. Not only in its central courtyard, but also in its entrance corridor and other finishes of the building: mosaics of different colors, tiles with geometric and plant motifs, Arabic writing and other details that will contribute to offering the aforementioned charm.
The first night we wanted to do it in a Riad, browsing the internet we found information about Riad Louaya
We have to go through a couple of very narrow and typical pedestrian streets of Marrakech. When they open the door for us, we love the place and they welcome us in a very friendly way.
It has a patio with a very careful decoration and the room is fantastic.
We ask for dinner. But the person in charge informs us that with the COVID restrictions throughout Morocco, restaurants close at 8pm. In addition, he explains that he has nothing prepared since we have not reserved dinner for him in advance.
We ask him if he can prepare something for us, however simple it may be, since we are hungry for the trip. Finally he offers to prepare us a Cuscus apologizing for not being able to offer us anything else. Emphasize your total predisposition. A simple dinner being able to enjoy in a fantastic way the wonderful patio of the riad.
Day 2, free for Marrakech 12/27/2020
It is the day that the rest of the companions arrive in Marrakech. Since we are here, we have the day off.
We go directly to visit the Souk of Marrakech. As soon as I arrived, I was struck by seeing the Jama el Fna square empty of the food stalls that usually fill it, due to COVID.
He Souk of Marrakech It is a labyrinth of alleys full of stalls and stalls of all kinds where Moroccans do their shopping. He souk It extends from the north of the Jamaa el Fna Square and occupies dozens of streets in the form of a maze.
To buy something in the souk is mandatory resort to haggling. It's kind of game between buyer and seller. Although we are not used to it, we must let ourselves be carried away by this habit, try and enjoy. It is not surprising that the merchant recognizes only seeing us where we come from and speaks to us in Spanish. Some try between Spanish, French and Italian until you answer them. We find it very striking how easy they are for languages. I recommend not showing interest in a specific article and observing all the products.
It is also important to let them say the price first. From that moment on, haggle in a friendly tug of war. If you are not really interested in any product, do not get into too much conversation. They have a knack for selling, even if they show no real interest.
After wandering around the souk a bit, several people explain to us that today Sunday is the tanners' festival.
The Tanners' Quarter, located near the Medina, is the main focus of leather production for the souks of Marrakech. The neighborhood and the huge tanks that are in it, form one of the most typical images of this city.
As tourists they will offer us countless times to take us there. Always giving thanks, we wanted to get there on our own feet.
We quickly realized that reaching them is not very easy. The tanners' quarter it is lost in the eastern part of the Medina. The streets of Marrakech are authentic labyrinths and sometimes even looking at the map we can come across dead-end streets or that lead us to a different place than what might appear on the map.
We can play treasure hunt with the GPS, but we said yes to the next person who offered to take us to the area. We quickly began to advance all the streets.
Arriving at Bab El Debbagh Avenue our guide gives us a bouquet of mint: To better withstand the smell of the products used.
The first step to treat the skin is to introduce it in quicklime, later they introduce it in pigeon droppings to eliminate the smell. Finally they apply the natural dyes to dye the skin. Mint for the green color, poppy to dye it red and henna for dark brown (It is what I remember from the guide's explanation).
Finally, they put them to dry in the sun to leave them ready to be hand-tanned and make bags, wallets, beanbags or belts ...
Restaurants in Morocco on COVID
We had been informed at the riad that due to the confinement there was curfew from 9 pm and restaurants closed at 8 pm.
Apparently during the day we observed the open terraces and restaurants. But at the time of going to eat they inform us in several that only the terraces are open to drink tea or coffee. It is not possible to eat in restaurants. Everything has to be to take away (take away).
The truth is that we were a bit tired and we wanted to sit down and be calm. Sitting in the street to eat is impossible, since people do not stop approaching you to offer all kinds of things. We decided to take a walk and finally we found a place that makes pizzas and allows us to be on the terrace. The pizza wasn't worth much, but the fruit juices they make are spectacular.
It's a shame as I was really looking forward to a good tajin at a restaurant recommended to me on my last trip. A spectacular place. This trip is not going to be. One more excuse to visit this country again when COVID disappears.
Night at Hotel Ali
In the afternoon / evening we travel by taxi to hotel Ali. It is located very close to the Yamaa el Fna square. A hotel with an average rating in booking of 7.2. For me it is a simple hotel that offers all the basic comforts at the right price. As a strong point, it is located next to the Souk but without being noisy. Correct price quality and a good breakfast included.
I want to emphasize that in the same reception we found a currency exchange house. It is one of the cheapest places to exchange money.
At the door we meet Hassam again, he seems to be waiting for us. He immediately facilitates our room and helps us carry our backpacks. Later we go down with him to have tea and dinner in a while.
Tomorrow we will meet the rest of the group of the Morocco Toubkal trip and end of the year in the Sahara, and we will leave for Imlil. This is where we will start our first part of the trip: the ascent to Toubkal.
Day 3 Imlil and climb to the Refuge du Toubkal (French Alpine Club / section Casablanca) 12/28/2021
Knowing the whole team.
In the morning we go down to breakfast and we coincide with the rest of the group who are going to accompany us on this great adventure. Pako, Albert, Koke, Alejando, Ceferino, and the two of us; Ingrid and Galle.
We all have breakfast together. At the Ali hotel, breakfasts are usually very generous. All energy is low for a day that is going to be long.
Before heading to Imlil we have to go to the Airport. Upon arrival in Marrakech, a component of the group had problems with one of the flights, having to make the journey from Casablanca to Marrakech by taxi (they made an airlift in Casablanca). As a consequence of this problem our colleague Albert lost his luggage. We quickly go to the airport to see if they have been able to locate him, otherwise he has no clothes or material to make the ascent to Toubkal.
After a while of waiting Albert returns with Hassam and tells us that there has been no luck. They have the suitcase located, but it is in Casablanca. From the airport they make arrangements to bring the luggage as soon as possible. In this way we continue the trip to Imlil and Albert will look for material to rent or that we can leave him to make the ascent.
Imlil - Refuge du Toubkal (French Alpine Club / section Casablanca)
We arrive at Imlil and as soon as I get out of the car I see my friend Mohmad. We quickly hug each other and he lets me know how happy to see me there again. What's up friend? asks me. Around here very bad, little tourist and very hungry, wanting to see you here again.
Mohmad was my local guide on the last adventure in the mountains of the Moroccan anti-atlas, specifically to ascend the Jbel Sirwa (3304m). In that trek we shared good and funny moments.
Our colleague Albert quickly rents some boots in town, ice ax and crampons. The gloves will be left by Pako and the rest say they have no problem (corduroy pants, street sweatshirt and a feather). I am amazed at their adaptation to the circumstances, many would have already made the decision not to go up.
Here you have the track:
The climb is not technically complicated. It is a hiking activity. Halfway through we were able to enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice.
Later we come to Sidi Chamharouch shrine, a white-painted rock much visited by Muslims as a place of prayer. Here we can enjoy an excellent meal before continuing our way to the refuge.
Surfing the net I found this information: Sidi Chamharouch is a kind of Berber saint, he was the "king of geniuses" with the appearance of a black dog by day and a human by night, it is assumed that he spent the night in a grotto at this point , next to a large white stone where they have built a mini mosque, there is an annual celebration to which the surrounding towns come to make offerings.
The last stretch of ascent was especially hard for us due to accumulated fatigue and the cold at dusk. The shelter seemed never to come.
Day 4 ascent Jbel Toubkal (12/29/2020)
First objective of the Morocco trip: Toubkal and Sahara at the end of the year, climb the Toubkal. We left at 7 in the morning with the fronts. Without any cold and progressing very comfortably. When the sun began to rise, a fairly strong wind rose that made us very uncomfortable on the way up to Toubkal.
In the area of the summit the wind was very very strong, getting to destabilize us when walking at some point or another. Which made the thermal sensation go down a lot.
Once at the summit all the emotions of the trip surfaced from having reached this peak! Ingrid is very excited. What a rush it always gives to get to a top, reach your goal, enjoy that moment that gives you the views at the top of the entire route climbed.
Here is the track of the ascension:
Once up we take shelter from the wind behind some stones. Once out of the wind the thermal sensation is very good and pleasant. We eat some nuts and bars and have a coffee with milk that we carried in the thermos.
After this small pause we begin the descent along the same path. It's funny how easy and fast it goes down.
On the way down is when we take the opportunity to take some more photos. Before the climb between fatigue and the feeling of cold we have hardly taken pictures.
We arrived at the shelter. As soon as we arrived they had prepared a hot tea for us on the terrace, the wind has disappeared and the sun is spectacular. We all sat on the terrace enjoying tea and sunbathing.
Then we will go in to eat, collect all the backpacks and start the descent to Imlil. It is the same way up, and with the joy of having done the Toubkal everything is seen differently. Even so, the final stretch we were a bit fatigued. In one day we have descended from Toubkal 4167m to Imlil at about 1600m, and it shows in the legs.
Night at Dar Akiode Toubkal hostel
We walked to the Dar Akiode Toubkal hostel.
The hostel is located in a Berber village and has all the basic services.
As usual, as soon as we arrive, they invite us to tea. This time they accompany it with popcorn and cookies (curious mixture).
It has a large dining room where they have installed two gas stoves to heat the room a bit. I do not know if for this reason or another, in the room that has touched us began to create a great condensation, getting to wet all the walls. We were able to observe great humidity in it, and after having been in the accommodation for a while, even our clothes and backpacks began to get wet.
We told the person in charge and he quickly told us that he had another floor with rooms upstairs, in case we wanted to take a look. It was quite colder upstairs, but it wasn't damp at all. With the sleeping bag I prefer the cold than the humidity. After seeing the floor above we asked him to change rooms, to which they answered that no problem. They quickly raised one of the stoves upstairs to warm the room a bit. On the contrary to what happened downstairs, despite the stove being working, that humidity was not created in the form of condensation.
We had dinner with the whole group and at the end we asked for a bottle of water (thinking they had it right there) Our surprise is when he quickly answered us, if friend wait 10 minutes, he puts on his jacket and quickly goes to the street to get us a bottle . He came back after 20 minutes. One thing is clear throughout our trip, Morocco and its people are super helpful, and they try to do their best to make the stay perfect.
We rest very very well!
Day 5 Imlil - Marrakech - Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou - Ouazarzate (12/30/2020)
From Imlil to Marrakech - Farewell to two companions and retrieve the lost suitcase.
After our ascent to Toubkal it is time to head to the Sahara. But first we have to go to Marrakech, two of our companions in the group have only come to make the ascent to Toubkal. In addition, Albert has done all the ascent with corduroy pants and a street sweatshirt plus feathers. You do not have your suitcase and we have to go to the airport to claim it.
We go directly to the airport, we say goodbye to Pako and Alejandro. Albert heads to retrieve his suitcase with the help of Hassam. After a while of waiting they return with the backpack in hand. How good! We all get into the van and get ready to leave.
Koke before starting the trip asks Hassam to buy beer. How funny! But yes, before leaving Marrakech we stopped at a shopping center and bought beers. We also take the opportunity to buy wine and also a couple of beers. The end of the year dinner cannot be celebrated without a bottle of wine on the table!
Modification of plans to perform PCR
The initial idea of the trip was to go from Marrakech to Dades Gorges and sleep there. But with this option a problem arose: one of the group instead of returning on January 4, had the tickets on January 2. This in principle should not be a problem on a trip without COVID. But one of the requirements to be able to return to Spain is to have a negative PCR 72 hours before.
For this reason we were forced to modify the group planning so that this colleague could carry out the PCR. One option was to do it in Marrakech that same morning, but it exceeded the 72 hour period, so we had to do it on the same day, December 31.
Morocco, as you can imagine, does not have the same health infrastructure or laboratories as Spain. That is why we only had the option of doing the PCR in the town of Ouazarzate on the way to the Sahara. Against we lost the possibility of visiting the Dades Gorges. That we decided unanimously in the group the possibility of seeing them back from the Sahara if we had time (there are many hours of travel back and the rest of the group also have to do the PCR tests on day 02).
On our way we visit the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
Located in the foothills of the southern slope of the High Atlas, Lost in the ancient route of the camel caravans and a few hours from Marrakech, Ait Ben Haddou is the most famous Ksar in Morocco.
A Ksar is a group of adobe houses (Kasbah) surrounded by high walls crowned by towers. The houses were huddled within the defensive walls, and were designed to defend the crops and palm groves that grew along the rivers.
The fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou, in the province of Ouarzazate, is considered UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, and it is the Ksar or set of Kasbahs that is best preserved in the country and is a clear example of the architecture of southern Morocco.
Ait Ben Haddou was a mandatory stop for the camel caravans that through the Sahara trade route they linked Sudan with the imperial city of Marrakech via Telouet, bringing gold, silver and slaves and returning with salt.
Because of this, it was a prosperous city, home to thousands of people and featured small palaces, a public square, a mosque, an inn to house those traveling with the caravans, a fortified barn on top of the town, and two cemeteries, one Muslim and one Jewish.
When the roads began to be built and the caravan routes were past, the population of Ait Benhaddou declined rapidly and today only a handful of families live in the walled town.
Thanks to the funds provided by UNESCO and the filming of numerous films, it has managed to stop the abandonment to which it was doomed and is now the best preserved Kasbah in all of Morocco.
A movie theater: The movies in Ait Ben Haddou
The medieval look and beauty of the place has attracted a lot of directors from the film industry to film movies and television series and the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou can be seen for example in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, Game of thrones and Alexander the Great among others.
Ouazarzate - Hotel Riad Zaghro
We arrived in Ouzarzate shortly before curfew. We stayed at the Riad Zaghro. It is a Riad with a booking score of 7.9. It is not directly in Ouazarzate but in a town on the other side of the river. A less touristy area but with a lot of shops and restaurants very close. The hotel is composed of a central pool and the rooms are distributed around these. The room was fine. In addition, it had air conditioning with a heat pump. Something that we appreciated very much when it came to taking a shower and that the room was very warm.
Day 6 Ouazarzate - Merzouga, New Year's Eve in the Sahara (12/31/2020)
Laboratory for PCR
In the early morning, join us with the partner of the group to carry out the PCR test to be able to have the results on their return to Spain.
The laboratory where the test was carried out, and where the rest of the group did it on our return to the Sahara, was in the following:
Once the test was done, we headed to the town of Merzouga, to spend the end of the year in the desert.
Along the way we stopped for lunch near the town of Nkob, in the Auberge Kasbah Ennakhile. Then we continue the journey to meet our second objective of the Morocco trip: Toubkal and Sahara at the end of the year.
Merzouga - New Year's Eve in the Sahara.
In Merzouga the camels are waiting for us to take us to the haima, where we will spend the end of the year. But first we make a quick stop to buy water in the town of Rissani.
Take advantage of the last towns and buy water for your stay in the haimas. There are usually not or if there is, the price is much higher.
In the town of Rissani, as is usual in Morocco, some small children will come to us to ask us for some dirhams:
We continue the trip and approximately 30 kms in Merzouga the camels are waiting for us to take us through the sand of the Sahara to the haima:
A very quiet ride with the camels where you have to relax, enjoy the moment and watch the sunset from the Sahara sand, a feeling of disconnection and incredible tranquility where we can see images like this:
And after a while with the camels we reached the Haima:
As soon as we arrive, as usual, they offer us tea and nuts to warm us up, the last time with the camels we got to spend a little cold. Half an hour later, around 8:00 p.m. it is dinner, due to the curfew they cannot serve later. During dinner it was commented that due to the curfew they did not know if we could celebrate the "fiesta" until the beginning of the year, a nearby haima had canceled the plans for this reason, but finally we were able to enjoy the Berber kettledrums together with a couple of Miami, two travelers from the Canary Islands and a group of three people from Morocco. Speaking, we all understood each other perfectly between French, English and Spanish, so we were able to share a pleasant conversation and laughter around the fire.
Anecdote of the New Year's Eve night. Policeman
I have to write this little anecdote, without a doubt some are these little things that we remember the most when we remember and relive the trip.
As I mentioned before, we were all around the fire enjoying the timpani to the rhythm of Berber songs and between song and song having a few drinks and enjoying a very entertaining conversation with completely unknown people until that afternoon. How I like this about traveling! When suddenly a Moroccan police SUV appears from the dunes of the Sahara with its lights and siren on. It was approximately 11:45 p.m. and we had to put out the fire quickly and run towards the haimas. The faces of those responsible for the camp was a poem. They were really scared that they could report them and hurt them financially.
I remember arriving at our store I turned around screaming: SHIT, I LEFT MY BEERS! and go find them while Koke looked at me and laughed non-stop. When we heard that the car was leaving, we all went out again, this time without the fire to celebrate the beginning of the year, since there were barely 10 minutes to be able to say: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Day 7 Merzouga - The Todra Gorges -Ouazarzate (01/01/2021)
In the morning we got up in the Haima, inside the gamín marked a temperature of 4º, but we have not had any cold sleeping. We met the whole group in the Haima dining room and had breakfast. Now it is time to make a route again with the camels back to Merzouga and there take the car to return to Ouazarzate.
When we have been with the camels for a while, we ask the guide if we can get off and walk the last part of the way, so we take the opportunity to take 4 photos in the Sahara Dunes. The truth is that the whole group would have stayed one more day in the Sahara, and in this way enjoyed it even more intensely. I have to emphasize that getting to the Sahara involves many hours on the road and is somewhat tiresome for one night.
When we get to the car, Koke takes out some beers and we toast the New Year before heading out to the Todra Gorges
The Todra Gorges
The Todra Gorges are located on the eastern side of the High Atlas, the sub-mountain range where the highest altitude of the entire Moroccan Atlas is located. The passage of the extinct river Todra, whose flow only appears seasonally, has exceptional dimensions. The walls can reach the 300 meters high, while the gorge narrows to only 30 meters from side to side. An authentic natural rock corridor that makes its way into a world-class mountain range.
To get around it, it is best to leave your car in one of the car parks at the beginning and walk around it, to be impressed by the height of the cliffs. Some street stalls enliven the way. Given the magnitude of the walls, the landscape becomes gloomy, leaving the visitor dwarfed by this work of nature.
This place is today a paradise for lovers of climbing and hiking, and it has gained much popularity among those who visit Morocco. From here highly recommended hiking trails start that allow you to see the gorge from the top. Its only difficulty, save the unevenness to ascend to the top of the cliffs. Without a doubt, a place saved on the list to return and practice climbing in this spectacular corner.
On the way by car to Todra we will also discover the impressive palm grove of Tinghir, on the outskirts of this city. Dense and lush, it is a true green oasis, an orchard of palm trees and olive trees among the ocher and reddish color of the desert.
From here we will go to Ouazarzate.
Due to lack of time, the modification of the PCR plans of our colleague Ceferino, as well as the confinement at 8:00 p.m., we could not visit the other point marked on our itinerary: the Dadès Gorge:
We arrived at Ouazarzate at night, it has been a somewhat heavy day from so much traveling with the van, many hours on the road. At our entrance to Ouazarzate we find a police checkpoint, we have observed many police checkpoints along our journey. They make our driver get off. We notice in the policeman's expression that the conversation changes tone. He seems to be giving him a monumental row, with big gesticulations and quite the edge. Poor Mustang can handle the downpour as best he can, his face looks like a poem of concern.
It turns out that in the course of the day the left bulb has burned out, and we go without low beams on the left side. Curious the anger that is hitting him for this reason, and more when on Moroccan roads you can find vehicles that hardly meet any security measures. With the cars that you sometimes see on its roads, it gives the feeling of taking a trip back in time.
They take Musta to a tent and I think inside, the complaint is not spared. When I return I see that he comes with a piece of bread and I ask him about it: Musta and that piece of bread?
-The policeman gave it to me, Musta responds.
I am somewhat perplexed and continue asking him:
- Did the policeman give you the bread? - Thinking about how curious the situation is
"Yes, he asked me if I was hungry," he answered with a smile on his mouth.
-Then nothing fine? - I asked him laughing
"Nothing at all, just a piece of bread," added the policeman, very borderline with me and bad, but they gave me bread and there is no fine.
Curious, I keep thinking about the situation. We quickly arrived at the hotel. It is the same as our previous stay: Hotel Riad Zaghro
Day 8 Ouazarzate (02/01/2021)
Performing PCR test.
In the same way that we accompanied our colleague Ceferino a few days before, we directed the whole group to carry out the PCR tests that we need to obtain with negative results 72 hours before our return to Spain.
For this we go to the same laboratory in Ouazarzate: Laboratoire Daraa d'analyses medicales.
They serve us fantastically, I suppose we call attention to our motivation to carry out the test, some tourists in Morocco doing the PCR to be able to return. In this way they give us preference, we fill in the data and perform the test quickly.
The price is € 65 and the results will be sent to us by email.
Kasbah Taourir and Ksar de Taourir
The Kasbah Taourirt is located in Ouarzazate and is one of the most important on the Route of the Kasbahs.
It was built in the 18th century, although the family of Thami El Glaoui (The Lord of the Atlas) renovated it in the 19th century, specifically his brother. Most of the structure was erected in the 20th century.
After the independence of Morocco, the kasbah is abandoned because it belonged to Thami El Glaoui who supported the protectorate. But thanks to its beauty and easy access, the film industry shot several films in it and it was acquired by the city council, which has been restoring it in phases.
We must differentiate between Kasbah and Ksar:
The Kasbahs they are mud buildings, of berber origin, built in raw earth and straw, with a square plan with four towers in the corners and were destined to live a powerful family. Its walls are thick and its windows small, precisely designed to mitigate the heat.
A Ksar, plural, Ksur, is a walled town, a medieval fortification, protected by watchtowers, which in its interior are hundreds of houses, it is like a town, with its streets, its square to celebrate festivals and even its mosque.
During our visit to Ouazaarzate, we found the Kasbah Taourir closed as a result of the lack of visits due to COVID. However we were able to walk the streets of ksar of Taourir.
Ksar of Taourir
The Ksar of Taourirt it is very well preserved. Most of the houses are made of adobe, the only building material on the walls, the roofs are made of sectioned palm. The streets have no sidewalk and are made of dirt. It can be seen how the newly built mosque stands out, a reason that is quickly differentiated.
When you start walking through its streets, it gives the feeling of being in a true labyrinth of streets from the past.
My advice is that you get lost in the ksar, its streets and alleys, discover the thousand and one hidden corners, or simply have a tea while enjoying the atmosphere.
Strolling through the Ksar we were able to visit the Rose Noire Hostel. It is an accommodation with the Berber building style, which has been completely renovated into a hostel. They have managed to preserve the original Berber architecture and decoration. We ask to visit the interior. JMIAA HITTI, the person in charge of the accommodation, invited us to come and we were able to visit the interior of this magical hostel. It is an extraordinary mix between a hotel and a museum. It is a very tastefully renovated adobe building. A magnificent place. It has a terrace with incredible views where we could take some pictures.
For several decades, Ouarzazate has been devoted to cinema. It was during the filming of Lawrence of Arabia when the producers became convinced that permanent film studios had to be founded in this place of enormous potential: their varied landscapes, from the arid desert to the palm grove valleys, they turn the Atlas Studios into a huge adaptable set to all kinds of scenarios.
The Atlas Studios is located on the outskirts of Ouarzazate. It opens its doors to the public every day from 8.30 to 19.30 and admission costs 80 dirhams (€ 8). Tickets are bought directly at the box office.
Studies are also a source of income for the city, since at least 90,000 inhabitants of Ouarzazate live, directly or indirectly, from the cinema. Many of these works are derived in the construction of the sets or taking part as extras in the films.
Some of the movies or series that have been shot:
- Asterix and Cleopatra
- Lawrence of Arabia, (1962)
- Star Wars (1977)
- 007: High Voltage / His Name is Danger / The Living Dawn (1987)
- The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
- The Mummy (1999)
- Gladiator (2000)
- The Kingdom of Heaven in Spain / Crusade (2005)
- Kundun (1997)
- "Awakening of the Devil" (2006)
- Legionnaire (1998).
- War of Thrones (Season 3)
- Prison Break (Season 5)
Many are the blog reviews or travel pages that speak wonders or encourage without any doubt to visit it. Personally I think it is a curiosity, but I was quite disappointed by the visit. With the things to visit and if you have just enough time, I recommend you skip this visit, but as always for tastes…. If you are very cinephile or have a special interest, your visit may be especially attractive.
Return to Marrakech
After visiting the Atlas Estudio we ate in a nearby place and headed to Marrakech. Our colleague Ceferino had to fly that same day at night.
Day 9 Marrakech free day (03/01/2021)
The last day of the trip we had the day off. We value the option of going to visit Essaouira. After thinking about the matter several times, we decided not to go. From Marrakech to Essaouira it takes approximately 2:45 hours to drive. The truth is that after our transfer to the Sahara we were tired of so much car. That is why we decided to stay in Marrakech and take advantage of the last day to buy gifts for family and friends.
Day 10 Return to Barcelona (04/01/2021)
Today it's time to return, we have breakfast and our guides Hassam and Musta are already waiting for us to take us to the airport. But first a photo of the whole group before saying goodbye at the airport.
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