The Morocan Sahara (1)

A varied adventure

Everything south and east of the Atlas Mountains is considered Sahara, the red sand dunes, but also the bare stone plains and the barren sea-dune landscapes of Plage Blanche. We want to get the most complete impression, so we take the time to explore this special region.

Mirleft and Legzira

We enjoy the peace, the sea and the luxury of a camping place in Mirleft, at the auberge / camping le Nomade there is room for our Milady and Sonja also enjoys …

The town of Mirleft is like many Moroccan, a street with shops, a lot is being built and new facilities are laid out, all very recognizable, very African.

One of the highlights of the Moroccan coast is the rock arch at Legzira. At low tide you can walk underneath, from the hamlet of Legzira – a few restaurants and hotels on the coast – we walk southwards towards the rock arch, a nice walk on the quiet beach.

Guelmin and surroundings

Geulmin is located in the middle of the desert landscape of the Sahara, this is really different from the coast or the mountains.

Thanks to Peter, a Dutchman with years of Moroccan experience who appeals to us at the Marjane supermarket, we find the source at Fask. A beautiful place to spend the night with camel caravans that pass by and of course the hot spring.

Tan-Tan

After an afternoon and a night of relaxation at this source, we continue to the south, on our way to Tan-Tan. As advised by other travelers, we take the piste (dirt road) to Plage Blanche. This will be a first experience with finding the right way via the paper Michelin map in combination with the open street maps from OSMAnd.

Our bonnet lunch

At the end of the afternoon we find a camping spot at the top of the rocky coast that connects the beach with the stone desert, near a military post.

Along the way we encounter more and more Land Rovers, for example those of fishermen along the coast …

… and this tow truck.

These oldies still do a great job.

We drive via the pistes to Tan-Tan and enjoy the beautiful Atlantic Ocean coast one last time.

From Tan-Tan to Tiglit

About 25 km north of Tan-Tan we take the piste to the east, we drive through a desert landscape as you imagine it. Dry plains, mountainous paths, sand dunes and green oases alternate, we enjoy every kilometer.

Around noon we arrive at an oasis where ostriches are grown, we get out to look and are immediately invited to come for tea. A little later it turns out that a meal has also been prepared and that we are expected to have dinner, Sonja with the women and I with the men, quite special, but not quite our way…

At the end of the day, it is already getting dark, we find a place in the oasis of Tiglit. Park4Night does not yet offer overnight accommodation here (now we have added it), so we ask at the government office along the road whether we can stand here. No problem, we even get an extra sheltered place due to the strong wind.

The next morning we leave on time and are again surprised by one impressive landscape after another. According to the map and OSM this road is a piste, so we are pleasantly surprised that there is a beautiful new tarmac road here.

Foum-el-Hisn and Icht

We follow a sign to the petroglyphs near Icht and, when we ask about it in a nearby oasis, are shown around by Rachid on the nearby mountain.

We offer him some dirhams for his services, but he doesn’t want them. He even tells us that we can happily spend the night in the oasis between the houses and the mountain.

In the evening we meet Hassan and Abdelrahim, student of English and law student, they invite us to spend the next day together so they can show the area.

In the morning we are welcomed by the Abouri family, Hassan is just awake when we arrive. His sisters Zainab, Habiba, Zahra and Fatma are most cordial and receive us with tea and sweets, cookies, dates, nuts, honey, bread and nut paste. We immediately have a nice conversation with the family and Abdelrahim although we have to switch between English, French, hands-and-feet language and a word of Amazigh or Arabic here and there. Father Abouri also comes to get acquainted and remembers a few words of Dutch from the 8 months he worked near Venlo in the 70s: “goeiedag mevrouw, goeiedag meneer“.

After tea we take a walk through the town of Foum el Hisn and see the irrigation works for growing the crops.

Afterwards lunch is served for us, couscous with vegetables (and beef for me and our hosts) and fruit.

In the afternoon we visit Icht and the nearby dam.

On the way back to Foum-el Hisn we stop at a checkpoint of the Gendarmes and Hassan asks if we can get permission to sleep at their home. That appears to entail a lot of paperwork, so we give up. We drop Abdel at home and say goodbye to the Abouri family. We are given all kinds of small gifts and of course we still have to drink tea before we continue to the campsite in Icht.

Icht to Tafraoute and Tata

Because we will meet Omar on Sunday in Foum-Zguid, we still have some time to spend an extra round through the Anti-Atlas. We take the main road from Icht to Tafraoute, nice drive through oases in the mountain valleys and along challenging winding roads in the mountains.

Near Tafraoute, the Lonely Planet draws our attention to the ‘Pierres Bleues’ by the Belgian artist Jean Verame. The original artwork has been repainted many times, but it remains an interesting marker in the landscape.
By the way, it is striking that here, high in the mountains, the almond trees are already in full bloom.

In Tafraoute we find a beautiful camping place among the palms of the oasis, just like many European winterers who have also found a nice place here. We are approached by Hassan Elmzare and we agree that the next morning we will bring the car to his garage to have the alternator checked.

The alternator is dismantled and a burnt wire is also discovered. The alternator is serviced (new carbon brushes and cleaning) and the wire is replaced very neatly. In the meantime, the rubber seals of the air filter housing are also being replaced, which are broken or completely endured.

The road from Tafraoute to Tata is fine, somewhat narrow in places and here and there the asphalt was washed away by the heavy rain showers that apparently also occur here.

In Tata the campgrounds in the city all seem to be packed with camper vans side-by-side. We therefore sleep at the campsite near Dar Ouanou, with wonderfully quiet and excellent facilities, good showers and sanitary facilities and plenty of room to stand.

The next day we agreed with Omar in Foum Zguid, he recommends camping Khaima Park, so we go there after another nice drive through mountains and desert.

At the end of the afternoon we meet Omar, after we have had tea at the campsite, he takes us into the city of Foum-Zguid and we see beautiful places that we would not have discovered without him.

Challenging ride through the Sahara

Omar will guide us through the Sahara.
So far we have taken more or less beaten roads and pistes, we have agreed with Omar that he will take us a little further into the desert. That works out fine…

… and in the evening we can enjoy the relative luxury of the camp in Erg Shigaga on the edge of the Iriki plain.

After a quiet night in the desert with a beautiful starry sky, we have breakfast early to be able to leave again at 9 a.m. I ask Omar to also take us into the dunes by car so I can gain some experience, great to do.

Sonja takes the opportunity to return the sand she brought from the desert 4 years ago.

The ride continues through the alternating stone and sand plains and along rows of dunes. We visit the Oasis Sacré, an oasis with nearby Jewish settlements and over the centuries many burial mounds have been dug.

An old Land Rover has also been left of which we take some pictures and which Omar subjects to a thorough inspection.

At a watering hole we see a group of donkeys hanging around, Omar starts the pump and the water troughs fill of which the donkeys drink.

Moments later, a large group of camels also come to drink.

In Zagora we drive to Garage Sahara to have the car lubricated after the trials in the desert, but more about that later …

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