Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Domes in Laayoune

After experiencing some amazing hospitality in Northern Morocco I continued towards Southern Morocco and Western Sahara for some more Saharan adventures! My first stop was Agadir.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. On the Road to Agadir
On the road to Agadir

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara – Agadir

Once I was settled in at my host’s place, we went for a walk. We had decided to head to the nearby souk, but my host had forgotten that it was closed on Monday. Whoops. We thought a detour to the beach area would be in order. The beach area had a carnival kind of atmosphere, with a Ferris wheel and dodge ’em cars. There were also people selling their wares along the promenade, expensive brightly lit restaurants and even a casino.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Ferris Wheel at the Beach Area

Take Me Down to the Paradise Valley in Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

The next day, I made my way to the Ibatwar area to get a taxi to Paradise Valley. Paradise Valley is a natural attraction containing rock pools. The taxi was super old. From the 1970s. It looked like it was barely holding together.

A couple on a short holiday in Morocco were already waiting in the taxi. It was a five seater with the driver. It wouldn’t leave until there were six people in it, not including the driver. Four in the back seat and two in the front passenger seat. Was this a sign of things to come in Africa?

Change of Plans in Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 30 minutes, no more passengers had joined us. We decided to go to a closer town, called Awrir and get a taxi to Paradise Valley from there instead. With the destination change, we were full up and ready to go a few short minutes later.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Lovers in the Front Seat?
Lovers in the front seat?

A very squeezy and bumpy ride to Awrir ensued. When we got there, we were dropped off right next to a roomier green taxi. Thankfully, that was our ride the rest of the way to Paradise Valley.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Cosy ride From Agadir to Awrir

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara – Paradise Valley

Upon arrival at the Valley, we started walking towards the trail to the rock pools. We passed some locals on the way, who of course offered us their guiding services. We could already see the trail by that point and it looked like it was very easy to follow, so we declined.

Easy Trail to the Water in Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

The first part of the trail was slightly uphill and very exposed, but fairly short. Once we got to the top we had a lovely view down into a valley lined with palm trees. A small steam could also be seen meandering through the trees, presumably running to, or from, the rock pools we were heading towards.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley Stream

Another 5 Minutes on the trail brought us to a part of that steam where a small artificial swimming area and waterfall had been created by sandbags used to dam the watercourse. There were several stalls there offering drinks and Tangin, a local Moroccan dish, in clay pots.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley Sandbag Waterfall

Making Friends With Locals at Paradise Valley – Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

We continued along the trail for a few more minutes until we reached another area with stalls. A portly man from one of the stalls ushered us towards him to show us his food. We let him know that we were heading to the pools first.

He then showed us the right trail to take and told us which way to go at the tricky junction. He also strongly encouraged us to come back to see him when we were finished.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley. Small Rock Pool

Following his suggestions, we were soon looking down on people swimming in small pools and sunbathing on the surrounding rocks. There were even some people camping in the area, as well as kids jumping the 5 metres or so from near the trail, down into one of the pools.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley. Large Rock Pool

Once we’d walked to the end of the pools to see the small waterfall, we were feeling a bit hungry, so we returned to the portly man’s stall for some food.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley Tables in Water

After filling up on food, I returned to the entrance to grab a taxi back to Agadir, while the portly man showed the couple I was with the secret swimming hole where they could enjoy a peaceful, secluded swim away from the crowds.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley Home Made Bridge

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara – Finding a way Back to Agadir

Once I’d made the short trip back to the road, I found a green taxi to take me all the way back to Agadir for only a few dirhams more than the taxi I’d gotten to Awrir earlier. I was already sold on that fact alone, but then the lovely driver offered small glasses of cold water to all his passengers. Given how hot it was, they were very much appreciated!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Paradise Valley Green Taxi

While I wouldn’t say that Paradise Valley is spectacular in any way, it is still quite lovely and it was nowhere near as crowded as I thought a popular tourist destination would be. Also, considering it’s free to enter the area, I think it’s definitely worth the visit. At around 30 dirhams, or €3 each way for transport and 45 dirhams, about €4.5, for the portly man’s food, it certainly is a cheap way to spend a day with nature and relax for a while.

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara – Laayoune, Capital of Western Sahara

From Agadir, I continued onto Laayoune, the capital city of Western Sahara. There were a couple of things I noticed about Laayoune straight away. One was structures on roundabouts. These normally took the form of fountains, sometimes accompanied by trees.

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara – The Occupation No One Wants to Talk About

The other was the sheer amount of Moroccan flags hung on street lights or in other public areas. Obviously, this is the Moroccan government trying to assert their ‘rule’ over the area. You see, no UN member state officially recognises Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara. That essentially makes it a state under Moroccan occupation.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Laayoune Roundabout Fountain
Roundabout fountain

Locals there do not consider themselves Moroccan and would rather be formally recognised as their own sovereign state. The occupying government has policies in place that mean their families and livelihoods could be under threat if they make their true views known. They even fear talking about it in private in case they are being surveilled.

That’s why you never really hear of protests in the area, despite local sentiment. Police checks along the roads aimed at finding out if journalists are in the country could be another factor.

The Windy City of Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

Another thing that became very clear whilst walking around Laayoune was that it was windy all the time. There was no point during my stay where there was no wind. The effect of the wind was very cooling though, which meant that even though the sun was quite hot, the ambient temperature was quite pleasant. I was okay with that.

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara – Yet Another Long Bus Ride

I purchased my onward ticket to Dakhla at the bus station as there was no bus from Laayoune that went all the way to the Mauritanian border. I was seated next to a guy who had figured he had two seats to himself.

When I moved his stuff to his seat and sat down, he got all angry. Pointing at the number on my ticket didn’t make him any happier. He tried to grab my bag, then he tried to grab me. I shooed him away and luckily the lady who was sitting across the aisle said something that made him stop and he went back outside.

Dakhla – Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

With that crisis averted, it was a pretty uneventful trip to Dakhla, where I had to wait for the ticket office to open before I could get my bus ticket to the border.

 in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Bus to Dakhla from Laayoune

Shortly after leaving the Dakhla station there was a police stop which seemed specifically aimed at checking up on how many foreigners were on the bus. They only asked for foreign passports. One of the policemen asked me some questions, but I couldn’t understand his English. At one point it sounded like he was saying, “Is this your nation”, when he was actually saying, “What’s your destination?”. That explains the confused look.

Southern Morocco and Western Sahara Where the Sands Take Over the Roads

As we were driving along, the ever-present wind had been hard at work moving the sand dunes onto the road. In fact, the whole right-hand side lane had been rendered completely unusable for a couple of kilometres.

Some of the sand had even started encroaching on the left-hand lane, meaning that the bus had to move onto the road shoulder at a few points on the journey.

I’d never seen anything like that before, so I was equally amazed and frightened at the power of nature. And what trip to Southern Morocco and Western Sahara would be complete without a camel blocking your way?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Camel on the Road

Want to know more about what to do in Southern Morocco and Western Sahara? Check out Maroc Tourisme

πŸ‡²πŸ‡¦Southern Morocco and Western Sahara SummaryπŸ‡ͺπŸ‡­
 in Motion Travel Blog. Southern Morocco and Western Sahara. Travels in Morocco
Travels in Morocco
In a few words

– Tea and amorous locals

Languages

– French and Arabic

Currency

– Moroccan Dirham (MAD)

WiFi Availability

– πŸ“ΆπŸ“ΆπŸ“ΆπŸ“ΆπŸ“Ά
Cafes with WiFi are everywhere. Most will give you the WiFi password without buying something, just check with them first. Some will be sneaky and try to charge you for it.

Transport

– πŸš—πŸš—πŸš—πŸš—πŸš—
🚍 Modern air-conditioned coaches are used on all intercity routes, but their cost is on par with European coaches.
Public transport systems are pretty well developed in major cities and reasonably priced.
πŸš† There are trains in the north, but they are expensive and rarely run to schedule.
πŸš• Shared taxis can be found for short trips and they’re normally reasonably priced, but they will be overcrowded.

Roads

– πŸ›£πŸ›£πŸ›£πŸ›£πŸ›£
All main roads, as well as suburban roads, are sealed and well maintained.

Scenery

– πŸœοΈπŸŒ²β›°οΈπŸ–οΈπŸžοΈ
The combined area of Northern and Southern Morocco and Western Sahara is huge! It offers a great variety of scenery, from coastal plains, to snow-tipped mountains, to tree-lined streets and moving desert sands.
Prices – πŸ’°πŸ’°πŸ’°
Most things, except for transport, are quite reasonably priced in Morocco. You can get a meal at a cafe for around 30 MAD, (€2.7). Note that the prices get more expensive the closer you are to tourist areas. Marrakech and Casablanca, for example, are more expensive than places like Tanger and Agadir.

Checkpoints

– πŸ›‘πŸ›‘
I didn’t encounter any checkpoints until I was on the way from Dakhla to Rosso, near the Mauritanian border. They specifically exist to check that foreign journalists aren’t trying to sneak into a sensitive area. Officers will look at your passport and ask what your occupation is, then let your bus go.

Border efficiency

– πŸ›‚πŸ›‚
The port entry was quite efficient. The land border was relatively efficient, but the lack of signage made it a little confusing.

Corruption level

– No corruption was evident.

Overall

– πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Check out all of the overland adventures from Morocco in Northern Africa to Benin in West Africa:
The Port of Tanger
Northern Morocco
Southern Morocco and Western Sahara
Mauritanian Coast to Capital on the Iron Train
The Mauritanian Capital, Nouakchott and Beyond
Super Social Senegal
Gambia
Southern Senegal
Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
Sierra Leone
Liberia
CΓ΄te d’Ivoire
Ghana
Togo
Benin

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Adventures in Northern Morocco

After a great introduction to Africa in the lovely Port of Tanger at Morocco’s Northern tip, I had hopped on a bus to continue my adventures in Northern Morocco.

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Casablanca

I was super hungry once I reached Casablanca, so I tried to find a cafe where I could sit down for a meal. In Tanger, cafes always sold food, but it turns out that cafes in Casablanca only sold coffee, not food. Not even snacks. They also seemed to be full of men just hanging out watching a world cup match. Ahh, the perils of travelling in Africa during the FIFA World Cup!

It was time to give up on the idea of getting some food and hope that tea and Wifi could take its place. Once online, I’d received a message from my pre-arranged host saying that he could no longer host me. Uh oh! Panic mode engaged! I madly searched for another host. Luckily a couple of Khalids that I had been conversing with in the weeks prior to my trip came to the rescue. Khalid is a common name in Morocco!

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Meeting the Locals

The first Khalid, let’s call him Khalid number 1, tried to organise a car to drive the 70 kilometres from the town he was in, to pick me up. He would then drive me the 70 kilometres back to his town and host me there. The Second Khalid, let’s call him Khalid no 2, also offered to help me out by picking me up and hosting me at his place in Casablanca. Aren’t Morrocans awesome?

Obviously, it was much easier to stay in Casablanca to save Khalid number 1 a 3 hour round trip. So I went to Khalid number 2’s house and met his housemates. One of the housemates was hilarious. He was walking around dancing whilst on a video call to his girlfriend. No talking, just dancing. Then he just handed the phone to me, so I could talk to his girlfriend while he continued dancing. I guess if you gotta dance, you gotta dance!

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Exploring the City

After chatting with Khalid number 2, his housemates and the girlfriend for a bit, Khalid drove me and one of his housemates around for food. Then a tour of the city which included a drive-by of the biggest mosque in Africa, Hassan II Mosque. We ended up eating near the beach which is apparently where everyone, from partygoers to families, to rose and toy sellers, came out to play at night. The beachside promenade was lined with restaurants and clubs. The clubs seem to serve a slightly different purpose to what they do in other places. There was no pounding music and drunken dancing, just people sitting around and chatting while smoking and eating.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventure in Northern Morocco. Beach Club

The next morning, Khalid number 1 didn’t want to get up, so his friend drove me to the train station. There I boarded a train for a short ride to a little town, 70 kilometres away, called Settat, where I would meet Khalid number 2. Once I’d bought my ticket, I went to a small snack shop at the station to get some food. They had tacos! But they were a little bit different to your average taco. They were just meat and vegetables wrapped in tortillas. I guess you don’t go to Morrocco for Mexican food!

The train was not airconditioned, but I didn’t become aware of that until more than halfway through the journey. At that point, I was sitting right in the direct path of the sun. Let’s just say that last part of the ride was uncomfortable enough that I was really glad to exit the train once we arrived!

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Settat

I caught up on some writing in a cafe near the station whilst waiting for Khalid number 2 to come and get me. As I was leaving the cafe, the staff called out to Khalid to say that I had to pay, even though I’d only had some hot water. Apparently, they charge 11 dirhams (€1) for using their WiFi. But only if you’re a tourist. Of course they don’t tell you that before you sit down. It’s not normal practice in Morocco but as Khalid later told me, this cafe is infamous for ripping people off. Even locals. They get away with it because they have the best coffee in town. The things people do for coffee!

Khalid and I hopped in a taxi to get to his district. After the taxi had driven off, I realised that my sports water bottle must’ve fallen out onto the seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the taxi number, so we decided to check at the taxi changeover depot later in the day.

Moroccan Hospitality

Upon arriving at the home of Khalid’s family in Settat, I was greeted with hugs and kisses! These kind people welcomed me like a member of the family. How sweet! After a small rest, Khalid took me to the local butcher so I could buy my dinner. But his family wouldn’t let me cook it. Or even help them to cook it They insisted that because I was their guest, they had to take care of it for me. This Moroccan hospitality is really something!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Friendly Neighbourhood Butcher
Friendly Neighbourhood Butcher

They insisted that I drink some tea and talk while I waited for them to prepare my dinner. Moroccan tea is pretty awesome, so I didn’t argue. It has fresh mint added to it before it is boiled. That means that it’s fairly strong, but oh so delicious!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Home Cooked DinnerHome Cooked Dinner

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Exploring Settat

After dinner, Khalid and I went for a walk up a hill to see the sunset. On the way up a couple of boys walking a dog called out to me. After they’d asked all the standard questions aimed at foreigners, one of them told me I had β€œbeautiful hairs”.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Settat Sunset

On the way back down, Khalid flagged down a taxi to see if we could find my water bottle. The driver told us to get in, despite the fact that he already had a passenger onboard. Apparently, taxis in Settat will take as many passengers as they can carry, then the driver will just decide what each person pays when they want to get out.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Settat

Upon finding the depot closed, we walked to the main square to check out a local craft maker fair that was happening. While we were there, we searched some local shops for a small Moroccan flag to add to my collection. Khalid offered to get it for me, because he believed that he would be able to get a cheaper price due to the fact that he was Moroccan. After walking around the town for a bit, we went back to the family home for more food and tea.

Schedule? What Schedule?

The next morning, Khalid’s family had kindly prepared for me a delicious breakfast. After I’d finished eating, Khalid took me to the train station. The taxi depot was just down the road from the train station, so we made a quick stop there. Unfortunately, my bottle wasn’t there, but there was a heap of other things there. Like keys, handbags and other miscellaneous things that had been left in taxis.

Adventures in Northern Morocco – Getting to Marrakech

Once at the station, we had to wait in line for a while, so by the time we got to the ticket window, it was 3 minutes after the scheduled departure time for the train that was yet to arrive. We waited on the platform for a further 6 minutes before it arrived. The delays didn’t end there either. About 20 minutes into the trip, the train just stopped in the middle of nowhere for 30 minutes. Almost as suddenly as it had stopped, it started moving again, albeit it very slowly, only to stop again just 10 minutes later. For an hour! A few more random stops along the way turned a 3 hour train trip into a 5 hour train trip. I guess the arrival and departure times indicated on the timetable are only suggestions.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Adventures in Northern Morocco. Marrakech

At the end of the train line in Marrakech, I had to transfer to a bus at the bus station behind the train station. The driver ushered me on to the bus and I took my seat thinking that it would be leaving soon, but of course, I wasn’t to be that lucky! I guess the bus driver was waiting for the bus to fill up, so I was sat there for nearly an hour before we moved. It seemed my half day trip had now turned into an almost full day trip. That’s just how things work in Africa!

More Moroccan knowledge
– Moroccans will go out of their way to help someone in need
– Locals can’t comprehend having a meal without bread
– schedules really, really don’t mean a thing
– Moroccan families just can’t do enough for their guests

The adventure continues into Southern Morocco and Western Sahara

For more information about Morocco visit the official Moroccan National Tourism Board website.

Check out all of the overland adventures from North to West Africa:
The Port of Tanger
Northern Morocco
Southern Morocco and Western Sahara
Mauritanian Coast to Capital on the Iron Train
The Mauritanian Capital, Nouakchott and Beyond
Super Social Senegal
Gambia
Southern Senegal
Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
Sierra Leone
Liberia
CΓ΄te d’Ivoire
Ghana
Togo
Benin

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A Local Experience in The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco

I had excitedly boarded a ferry at the Tarifa port in southern Spain ready for a new adventure! Just 35 minutes later I’d stepped onto another continent. Beginning at the sunny port of Tanger in Northern Morocco.

The Port of Tanger

It was a fairly short walk from where the ferry was berthed to the road out the front. I hadn’t even made it out of the secured area of the port before the touts started. The first person to stop me was a registered tour guide who promised the best tour of the port of Tanger in Northern Morocco, of course! He let me continue on my way once I’d told him that I was meeting a friend in town. There were also the familiar calls of, “Taxi? Taxi?” on the way out. It seemed like an eternity before I made it to the road. Once I finally made it, an older man stopped me. He thought that I looked lost. He gave me directions to the medina (city centre), then told me not to trust anyone. I’m not sure if that included him or not.

K in Motion Travel Blog. The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco. Near the Ferry Port

Finding the bus I needed to catch to my friend’s place in the suburbs of the port of Tanger in Northern Morocco proved to be a little more problematic than one would think. Firstly, it was almost impossible to find someone who understood English. Everyone was expecting me to speak French. Then I was sent in the wrong direction several times by people that wanted to help, but obviously had no idea where the bus left from. After an hour of walking around Tanger and bugging strangers for directions, I almost accidentally stumbled upon the correct bus stop. You could say I was very relieved.

K in Motion Travel Blog. The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco. Tanger Town Centre

A Local Bus Ride in the Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco

Happy that things in Tanger should start to get more simple from then on, I cheerily got on the bus. I advised the driver of the name of the place I needed to go. The only problem was that the driver didn’t know the name of the place I had given him. Firstly I thought I was pronouncing it wrong, so I wrote it down for him. He still had no idea. Then a nice lady on the bus who knew a little bit of English helped me out. She went around the bus asking everyone where the place was. It took nearly the entire journey, but she found one person at the back who knew. Thanks to a wonderful group effort, I was finally able to get to my destination.

My host, Noissair came to meet me and we went back to his place. There I met his lovely housemates, who chatted with me for hours. They were very happy to share their thoughts with me, especially about what a lot of Moroccans think about the French language. Apparently, there’s a bit of a movement to try to change the second language in Morocco from French to English. It came about because many think French as useless for communicating with the world, particularly in business settings. Some interesting points were made.

After such an interesting and challenging day, I was exhausted. I retired to bed to ready myself for the adventures to come.

The Challenges of Getting From the Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco to Casablanca

The next morning, I got myself back to the intercity bus station in the city centre. Once there, I couldn’t walk two steps without someone trying to get me on their bus. It seemed that buses to Casablanca run extremely regularly. That meant it would be easy to get one whenever I needed it, so I decided to walk around for a bit. I wanted to find something to eat before getting on a bus. Well, that did not turn out as planned due to the fact that people were smoking inside all of the cafes near the station.

Seeing as lunch was a bust, I decided to change some money. That also didn’t go according to plan. The first 2 places I went to, that looked very much like currency exchange places, didn’t exchange currency. Surely a bank can change it, right? Apparently not when there’s a problem with their system. I finally got to a bank that could change currency and they wouldn’t accept one of my notes. Because it wasn’t new. It wasn’t particularly old either, that back just had high standards. Luckily I had more where that came from.

Back at the bus station, I was again accosted by the first person upon entering. They got me on a bus leaving within 5 minutes that was 10 dirhams cheaper than the one someone had tried to get me on earlier. Before we left the station, a young boy got on the bus selling ‘Kleenex’, which is apparently the name applied to all tissue products in Morocco. He was followed closely by an older guy selling portable USB chargers. Those guys certainly did their market research!

Drama on the Side of the Road

To break up an otherwise long and boring bus ride, the bus stopped on the side of the highway. We were there for about 20 minutes while a woman argued with the bus staff. She wanted them to drop her in a town that the bus wasn’t scheduled to go to. Many passengers got off the bus to watch the exchange because, as I was informed by the young man sitting next to me, Moroccans love to watch arguments.

After the commotion was finally over and we started moving, the young man, who was by far the best English speaker I had come across in Morocco so far, started telling me about how he hates the French language. That’s why he doesn’t speak it. He also revealed that he’d learnt all his English from watching television and movies. He told me that the English taught at schools there isn’t nearly good enough for use in the real world. I guess that’s bound to when it’s the third language most people learn.

What I’ve learned about Morocco so far –
– schedules are just a guide and rarely adhered to
– simple things are way more challenging than you would expect.

Let’s see what else I can learn before I’m through. The Moroccan adventures continue here

Check out all of the overland adventures from North to West Africa:
The Port of Tanger in Northern Morocco
Northern Morocco
Southern Morocco and Western Sahara
Mauritanian Coast to Capital on the Iron Train
The Mauritanian Capital, Nouakchott and Beyond
Super Social Senegal
Gambia
Southern Senegal
Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
Sierra Leone
Liberia
CΓ΄te d’Ivoire
Ghana
Togo
Benin

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