We spent three weeks exploring Morocco by car in what turned out to be a grand and epic adventure! I will recap it in an epically long blog post (sorry!). Our route:
We were originally planning on a shorter Moroccan trip without renting a car, but after talking with Concha & Ale, we decided to extend the trip and rent a car to see more of the country. We are really glad we did, as the landscape in Morocco is unique and diverse. Some highlights from our drive:
The North (Tangier —> Oued Laou —> Chefchaouen)
Northern Morocco has sleepy seaside towns, rolling green hills, and the impressive Rif Mountains.
Beach + crazy clouds in Oued Laou on the Mediterranean
Mountains near Chefchaouen
Rolling hills on the way to Chefchaouen
Middle Atlas (from Fes —> Azrou —> Marrakech)
The middle of Morocco surprised us with forests of oak trees, giant cedars, and monkeys!
The South (Telouet —> Draa Valley —> Dades Valley)
The southern route was truly amazing. The scenery was from another world. We found out many Hollywood movies and shows are filmed here (including my favorite - Game of Thrones!).
Ridley Scott filmed Prometheus near here - we can see why!
Oasis Towns in the middle of nowhere. Can you see the houses in this pic?
Houses camouflaged into the side of the mountain
The mountains disappeared as we headed towards the Sahara leaving us with red rock, sand and the open road:
Simon having a stretch on the way to the Sahara
Anti-Atlas & The Coast (Taliouine —> Essouria —> Asilah)
The drive back to the coast was equally as interesting along the anti-atlas range.
Looks like California!
On the beach at Oualidia
Driving in Morocco
The cars here are all manual transmission and since I can’t drive stick, Simon carried the burden of driving us for the entire trip. He did a great job navigating the many challenges along the way:
"It’s like a video game with real life consequences". -Simon on avoiding pot holes.
The local roads are unpredictable. There are numerous pot holes, unexpected dirt roads, and half paved/half dirt roads like the one pictured above. To make matters worse, our rental car had one completely bald tire that was punctured with a slow leak. Our spare tire and only backup was completely shredded:
This is a common sign in Morocco meaning “pot holes ahead, your tires may blow out”:
Luckily, Simon is good at video games and we made it back to the rental agency with all tires intact!
We also came across:
Winding mountain roads
Risky and aggressive passing
These overloaded hay trucks were everywhere!
Police stops….(OK, this isn’t a police officer, but King Mohammad VI, the beloved King of Morocco).
The police are very strict about speeding in Morocco. There are many speed traps setup and if the police photo you going over the limit you pay a fine on the spot. We were extra careful about our speed, but even so, we got pulled over once. You can bargain everything in Morocco, including the speeding fine. Simon charmed the officer into reducing our fee from 500 to 200 dirhams by talking to him about America and American movies. The officer’s favorites: Bad Boys and Saw 5.
By the end of our three weeks, it felt like we had driven every road in the country! We met so many interesting people, were challenged in countless ways, and saw unreal natural beauty.
As we approached the modern city of Casablanca, the local roads were replaced by a neatly paved mega-highway:
I have to admit, we were a little sad to leave the chaos behind!