Morocco Trek

October 19 – 23, 2023 — A highlight of our trip was to be our desert trip. It was great! Said, our driver, picked us up at our riad and drove us over the High Atlas Mountains, stopping at several small villages and, after an overnight at a very nice hotel went on, now through desert terrain, to Erg Chebbi and Merzouga. Toward the end of our drive we encountered a sand storm. It did reduce visibility but Said, as a Nomad who grew up in that area, was unfazed. Fossils are prevalent in that area of Morocco and local craftsmen have created all sorts of decorative and usable pieces from granite containing fossils. We stopped at a workshop and could not resist a round platter

In Merzouga we met our camels and rode 90 minutes through a sand storm to our camp site for the night. Our heads were wrapped and, with sunglasses, getting sand blasted was not a problem. It was beautiful riding across the dunes toward sunset, and so quiet. At the end of 90 minutes I was ready to get off. Our “tent” was great with a solid floor, carpets, flush toilet and shower and a king-size real bed. We felt very spoiled. Dinner in the main tent was local cuisine, including tagine. We could see musical instruments set up and our hosts offered to play Berber music for us. The day had been long, so we begged off and all headed to bed.

Sunrise is very special in the desert with the colors of the sand dunes providing varying colors and shadows as the sun rises. The sand storm had ended but we had partial cloud cover that lessened the intensity of the show. It got better about an hour after sunrise when the sun got a bit higher and the clouds were fewer. That created wonderful shadows on the sand dunes as we rode our camels back out of the desert.

From Merzouga to Fez was a ten hour drive. It was nice to have Said doing the driving instead of us. He is familiar and comfortable with the area. We made several stops, arriving at our riad before dinner. The riad, Grand Alcazar, exceeded our expectations. The building is beautiful with detailed wood carvings and tilework. The staff was attentive and they had the best Moroccan soup we had anywhere. It also had good location as we could walk to both the medina (old town) and to the new town.

Houssaine, our guide the next day, took us to a pottery factory where everything is handmade and hand painted. We bought a tagine, this one painted. Last year, while in Tunisia, we bought a plain tagine, which we took back to Boston and used all winter. Once in the Souk, Houssaine took us to the famous leather dying area where raw hides are treated, died in natural dyes, and processed to be made into leather clothing and goods. Watching men stand, up to their knees, in vats of dye, dragging hides through the solution with no protective clothing, gloves, or masks, really makes you wonder how long they will live. The souk is laid out by craft, and each “square” is named for the craft located there, such as the Copper Square, the silver square, the pottery square, and the textile square. Fez has over 9,000 alleyways within the Souk, so getting lost is expected. Having limited time, it was nice to have our guide steering us through and not lose time constantly redirecting ourselves.

Our second day we had coffee near the Blue Gate, a key entrance into the Souk. It has pretty tile work that is actually blue on the outside of the Gate and green tile on the inside. We decided to explore the newer part of Fez so took a taxi to McDonald’s (really) in the new town, using it as a landmark for the taxi driver. As expected, the newer part of Fez is more upscale with larger buildings and attractive parks.

Atlas and Riff Mountains


Sahara Desert

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