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The Back Door to the Saharan Desert, Zagora Morocco

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 66Road Trip! The thing about spending the night in the desert is that you have to get there first. From Marrakesh it’s quite a trek and there’s just the company for the job. Sahara 4X4 tours. Rashid our tour guide was awesome! He spoke very good English and was able to answer all the questions we had even taking us to a couple of extra places upon request. The tour cost 140 euros per person for the 2 days we were gone, which I think is worth it.

Since it’s my very first review on trip advisor, why not!

Sahara 4 x 4 toursIt started bright and early when Rashid picked us up at our hotel. They pick you up and drop you off at your place of choice.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 1From the moment we turned out of the city, the views were captivating. 

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 2The scenery was always colorful with browns, reds, and greens melding together to create a breathtaking landscape.
Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 3 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 4Then there’s the matter of the Atlas mountains. Morocco is not the only country that gets to take in the beauty of the Atlas mountains, they extend through Algeria and Tunisia as well, they’re that vast. As Rashid told us, in Morocco there are different names for the Atlas mountains starting with the Rif (a crescent moon series of mountains) which turns into the the Tell Atlas, The Middle Atlas, and the High Atlas. The tallest peak of the High Atlas mountains sits at 13,665 feet (4,165 metres) and the name is Mount  Toubkal. Wanna know more, Britannica’s got you covered.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 5The beauty of the drive is the diversity. One minute its the desert landscape scattered with foliage, meshing with greens, and the next its a small village where the people that live up in the high mountains come to get supplies. Grocery stores aren’t readily available out here. Hot commodities are donkey’s and camels. You can get a donkey for approx. $250 where as a camel costs a couple grand, like a used car, but that is what they use as their car.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 6Coming from foot trails carved into the mountain, bringing the donkey’s they laden them with the supplies before starting the trek back up into the hills. This could be a multi day journey to come down and get all the way back up.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 7How many asses can you fit into the back of a truck? Obviously the best bet is sideways and I counted 6!

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 8Porcelain can be found often at road side stands right off the road. 

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 9Setting corn out to dry on the rooftops of the house. At least I think it’s corn, now I can’t remember?

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 10

IMG_1164After only a couple hours driving we stopped for a break.  

IMG_1169 IMG_1180As I said in my first Moroccan post, we just couldn’t get enough of that mint tea, so we just over did it and ordered it at every opportunity.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 96Perfect for us, because Rashid is an excellent tea mixer/pourer. Trust me, its an art.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 11As we started the winding road up and up, it was nice to look back.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 12On the sign in between the 2 towers it tells you our altitude at this moment, 2260 meters. A little over halfway to the tallest point of the Atlas mountains. SPOILER ALERT: We never make it to the tippy top. It has a lot to do with ice, snow, and no available roads.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 13

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 14

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 84 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 83

CLA studios. Movies filmed here: Lawrence of Arabia, Tea in Sahara, Black Hawk Down, Kundum, Gladiator, Cleopatra, The Mummy 1 and 2, Alexander the Great, Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Troy, Hidalgo, Babel. 

Drove right by the studios on the way to the desert.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 15Moroccan Baths. Stopped for lunch at a local restaurant called El Bahja.


Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 18After a few snaps in town we hit the road again and headed back out to the vast landscapes of the ever closer desert.


Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 21 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 22 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 23 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 24Then came the date trees. We were just in time for date harvesting. Trees upon trees laden with figs ripe for the picking. With the dates came the insects. The area was teaming with them. Hard to keep the windows down if the car was at a stand still because the bugs would swarm the area.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 103

Dates! Ripe and ready for the picking.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 104

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 25 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 27 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 28In one town, date harvesters bring boxes filled with dates to the local market and sell them by the boat load. When dates are in season the prices are cheap and it’s like a stock exchange in the small square.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 29Trying my hand at snapping pics as we sped along the road. 

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 30A cemetery we passed by.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 31Like a bus, the van stops to pick people and goods up along the road as they head from place to place. Since most people use camels or donkey’s to get around, its very common to catch rides or hitch hike from a neighbor heading the same way you are.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 32 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 33Just a few minutes to load everyone in and they are on their way.

A couple of hours later, we found ourselves at our destination but the last leg of the journey would be done by camel. We loaded up and road out just as the sun started setting.

 

 

 

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 99

Source: @will

Source: @will

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 38 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 39 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 35First time on a camel. I’m convinced that you don’t ride a camel the same way you do a horse. I believe this because I saw how the locals road the camels and it was with both their legs on one side on a saddle that sits back, whereas we did the whole horse thing. Not very comfortable, probably too much information, but I didn’t walk straight for about a week after that camel ride.

Moroccan desertRiding a camel out to the desert.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 34 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 37Hey guys!

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 100 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 36Anytime I’m outside to see a sunset, it was a good day.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 40Just arrived at the camp. As the camels hunker down for the night, we will head to our tents!

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 45The tents were set in a circle with an inner area that had cushions to lounge on.


Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 42 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 43 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 44My tent for the night.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 47Inside of the dining all. 

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 50In the last dying light of the sun, I walked up on a hill of sand and watched it set. It was as dark out here as it is at night when you are at sea. The stars were illuminated brightly in the sky, It’s so refreshing to look up at them without the hindrance of city lights.

I didn’t have much to eat this night. My stomach was in turmoil. Tied in knots and hurting, it was a typical bacterial situation, same thing that happened in both Tanzania and Senegal. Will saved my life with some Pepto tablets and I was in bed before dinner even finished trying to survive the night. Luckily in the morning, I felt much better.

EARLY MORNING

As excited as I am to catch a sunset, I’m just as excited to catch a sunrise. The next morning they came by and woke everyone at camp up just in time for us to walk up the hill for a few shots.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagorav 53 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 52 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 55
Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 58Camp in the morning light.


Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 61The camels still haven’t fully woken yet. They will soon though, after breakfast its back to the village, although we opted to not have a camel ride.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 68 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 66The desert in all her glory. Beautiful.


Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 70 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 71Heading back to our car, we hit the road and abruptly slowed pace to share the road with these guys.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 72 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 74In Zagora, Rashid told us of the saying “52 to Tombouctou” He explained it saying that once a year camel caravans set out to Tombouctou from Zagora (the road where this sign is specifically) and it takes 52 days to get there at which point they sell and trade and then head back. Now I know where Tombouctou is, Mali!
Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 77 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 78Road work. No hard hats, no safety equipment, and we drove right by that pile of dust!

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 79This reminds me of Edoras from LOTR. Just a wee little bit.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 81Shaped like a tagine, Moroccan dinnerware which dishes are typically served on, this mountain has the perfect Moroccan touch.

AIT BEN HADDOU

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, Ait Ben Haddou is a ksar (fortified city) located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 85 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 86Where scenes for Gladiator were filmed.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 87 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 88Jumping out of happiness to have seen an ancient city out in the desert.
Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 89 Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 90The gate in the bottom left side of the screen was built for Gladiator the movie.


Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 94Rashid’s the best, he took us off-roading to get to this vantage point for a few photos.

Road Trip Morocco to Zagora 95Afterwards, it was a leisurely drive back to Marrakech, where we had dinner and went to bed early for a very early flight back to Rome the next day. So much fun!

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.

Cassey

 

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3 Responses to The Back Door to the Saharan Desert, Zagora Morocco

  1. Aiden January 22, 2016 at 18:28 #

    Some awesome photography here. The photo of you on the camel is one for the books!

  2. Adam February 16, 2016 at 09:07 #

    So just went on down to Morocco and on your advice, we got the same tour. It was an great trip. Sahara 4X4 was excellent and we had Omar and he did just as good of a job. Its a long drive and they make it comfortable and informative.Thanks for the advice.

    • Cassey February 16, 2016 at 10:05 #

      Adam! Glad you enjoyed the tour. I really loved this trip and the tour guides are awesome 🙂

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