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Old 08-01-2011, 02:59 PM   #11
mrwwwhite OP
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Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Bucharest or RTW
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Morocco - A Warm Up

South of this package tourism oriented town, we rode a 3 day marathon through Western Sahara, ending up in Dakhla. Along the almost featureless landscape we bushcamped on a nice beach near Sidi Ifni and on a golden dune near Tarfaya.

We couldn't get to close to the soul of this country rich in natural resources (phosphate, fish abundant waters and oil) but with a difficult history, where the traditionally nomadic Saharawi herders are bribed with tout-compris homes to leave their identity behind (or are forced to live in refugee camps called ironically villages de peche), and where towns resemble M.A.S.H. movie sets, with their population of military personnel and UN workers.

After a month in Morocco where we rode over 6000km, the motorbike is in great shape and we experienced no technical issues, except for the chain problem. We took a few low-speed falls due to deep sandy patches and rocky pistes, the battery was drained two times while charging our laptop with the engine off and we had to send home a few spares and personal stuff in order to lose some 6,5 kg off the bike (which do make a sizable difference). So our first advice (not that is a huge novelty) is pack light, cause every gram counts.

People in Morocco are friendly, sometimes aggressively trying to sell you something or guide you, are not easy to trust, which is a shame, because up in the mountains you will meet genuinely sweet villagers and generous men. Moroccans nurture close family ties and friendships, and we witnessed how they warmly greet each other for minutes. The caffe culture is a big deal here, with solo men filling up terraces from morning to dawn, at a chat over coffee with friends. Women are harder to meet, but they are highly educated and almost all speak fluent French. Some Arab and Berber will come a long way here; in Merzouga area English is largely spoken and understood. We bought a Meditel modem for Internet, but discovered that IAM has a better 3G coverage, so we suggest you get that one instead.

Food is a reason to be here in itself. Produce is mostly organic and very regional: in Fez you have the famous fassi cousine with treats like b'sara (a soup made of fava beans served with a fragrant garlic olive oil), pigeon pastilla (a pastry spiced with cinnamon) and very spicy and hot sausage made of mutton and offal; in Meknes you can eat the freshest figs and delicious flat bread with thin crust and cumin spiced crumble; pure eucalyptus, almond or cactus honey is produced high in the Atlas; in Erfoud you will eat the best dates with the extraordinary sweet and creamy Medjool reigning supreme; Marrakech is home to sheep meat and offal delicacies like tangia (mutton or beef cooked slowly with cumin, ras-el-hanout, preserved lemons and olives in a dough-sealed clay pot), sheep brains and tongue and mechoui (whole sheep baked with spices in a vertical clay oven); the freshest fish is in Essaouira and other coastal cities - here you can follow our example, and buy your fish from the fihermen, then have it cooked for 5Dh/plate at the public grill, next to the market; in the Banana Village just before Agadir you can taste the local varieties of banana and suculent cactus fruits. All over the country you can find tasty veggies, mutton and beef kafta, gorgeous watermelons and melons, dried fruits and nuts, along with top quality spices like saffron, paprika, cumin and ras-el-hanout. The breakfast is usually bread with the best local olive oil or served with honey sweetened leben (local yoghurt), or couscous with cold sourmilk from streetside vendors. Bread is sold freshly baked along moroccan pancakes, which in Fez have a sweet spongy texture. At lunch people usually eat a tagine (a typical stew of meat or fish, slowly cooked on charcoal in a signature clay pot). Dinner is protein based: kafta or harira (bean soup with aromatic herbs, which in Agadir is served with a local twist - with dates, a boiled egg and a piece of hard caramel). Other signature Morocco treats available countrywide are freshly squeezed orange juice and green/black tea perfumed with fresh mint (called whisky marocain). Tap water is safe to drink and wild camping is possible in most unmarked places, even if locals may try to discourage you from doing so.

Also, it will be difficult to leave the country without buying some good quality shit.
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