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Old 08-01-2011, 02:57 PM   #9
mrwwwhite OP
Studly Adventurer
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Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Bucharest or RTW
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Morocco - A Warm Up

After loading our Tenere in a van that broke down 300 km from Livorno (where we were to catch the ferry to Morocco), we began our trans-Africa riding adventure with a bang. It's crazy how the 2008 VW Transporter timing belt gave up at merely 50K!

EU citizens are allowed a 90 days stay in Morocco without a visa. We entered via the newly launched Tanger Med port, where the border formalities are a breeze; its a one-stop-shop, you get your passport stamped, then checked by the gendarmerie, then the duane officer issues for free a Declaration d'admission temporaire de moyens de transport (temporary import permit).

For the customs you can apply online, using this form. The International Motor Insurance Card (green card) from your country of origin may also cover Morocco, you want to check this with your insurer (that is the case for Romania). Otherwise you can purchase insurance at the border. The Moroccan infrastructure is quite developed, with over 1145km of autoroute and good tarred roads even in countryside. Morocco is an offroad paradise, with adrenaline-pumping pistes zig-zagging the ever changing landscape. The gas (essence) is about 1 Euro/liter and widely available at gas stations or at hole-in-the-walls in small villages. There are ATM machines everywhere, but obviously the food stalls are cash only.

Morocco boasts a diverse landscape, ranging from wild Atlantic coasts to 4K High Atlas peaks, from sterile desert to lush oases, from Sahara dunes to mudbrick villages. We rode through the north (Tanger, Larache) which is feeling the crunch of the real estate bubble, with ghost towns and suburbs that nobody can afford built in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in and around Rabat for a week, waiting for the Mali and Mauritania visas, camping on beaches and getting to know the local way of life.

While Rabat has an european feel, the shanty towns that line the coast and the lively fresh food markets are intensely moroccan, so is charming Mahommedia. East from Rabat we used Meknes as our base camp for a few days, visiting the Imperial cities (Fez, Meknes), the sacred town of Moulay Idriss and the ancient ruins of Volubilis.

The Medina, (the medieval centre of Fez) has not changed for centuries: a maze of narrow alleys housing hundreds of merchants and craftsmen, stalls with spices, dried fruits and nuts, fish, handmade copper items, carpets and musical instruments. A seat of Arab learning, a Holy City and a place of pilgrimage (when the route to Mecca was obstructed), Fez was a place of considerable importance until recently, being the depot for the caravan trade from the south and east of the African continent. A must see in Fez is the Leather Souq with the oldest leather tannery in the world, Chouwara.

Even if Fez has a more intricate architecture in the beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Medina, we found that Meknes has a more authentic feel, with few to no tourists and touts and a Medina where people seem to actually live and work (not just for show). Moulay Idriss is a little gem, a fairytale town on top of a mountain among olive tree hills, where life has a slower pace.
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