Morocco Motorcycle Holiday – North Africa – sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?
When we decided to make the motorbike trip, our family and friends asked: “Why would you go there?” With all the research made that proved otherwise, we started the adventure a bit doubtful, scared and not knowing exactly what awaits.
But isn’t that the exact reason why we travel? You travel to learn, to meet, to feel. To find out on your own how it is. To experience first-hand what some people describe just by what they hear.
Southern Spain – here we come!
Riding a motorbike in our part of Europe is out of the question in February. So we decided to head to more warmer lands such as Malaga, southern Spain. We ride West of Malaga on a narrow curvy road having the sunrise on our tale. The colors vary from orange, grey and black. We ride having the dramatic sky up and the orange/lemon orchards in the pick of their season on the side of the road.
What an experience!
The sunrises we were given to see in this trip topped any other we have ever witnessed. The road crosses beautiful Spanish white villages and Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. The city of Ronda awaits with its Majestic Tajo (Gorge) de Ronda. The most photographed attraction – Puente Nuevo (The New Bridge) is set over the Gorge.
The ride to Algeciras, Southern Spain, brought more curves and plenty of photo opportunities. A stubborn rain accompanied us all the way. We reached Algeciras and boarded the Ferry to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The city of Ceuta is situated right across from Gibraltar Strait on the African Continent. And here starts our Morocco Motorcycle Holiday.
Ceuta – the gateway to Africa
If you want to really experience North Africa on a Morocco Motorcycle Holiday cross the border with Morocco at Ceuta. If you look for a smoother, faster crossing, Tangier Med should be your choice.
Even if we knew what to expect, the border at Ceuta made us wonder Where have we landed? Is this country safe?
The words of our friends and family echoed in our minds. So we started thinking that it probably wasn’t a good idea to come here.
Border crossing adventure
The border crossing is nothing like we’ve experienced before. The border is full of civilians trying to help you cross. They offer services and advices on how to cross, that does not come cheap. We ignored them, of course. Tens of people were crossing from Ceuta in Morocco, on foot, carrying big bags of goods to trade or to use. Kilometers of cars waiting in line to cross in Morocco. We slipped easily trough the cars, just as the other Moroccans driving bikes or scooters did. We stopped at the first official we could find.
Per his recommendations we managed to fill in the paper work necessary (and there is some) and crossed the border.
At the border you get an entry number for your Morocco Motorcycle Holiday. You must declare this number at each hotel you stay in. This made us feel safer. With anxiety in our hearts and worries, we arrived in Chefchaouen late afternoon. Since in February the days are shorter and our gear all wet, we left strolling the city for tomorrow morning. We settled for a hot glass of whisky Berber (traditional Moroccan mint tea). Our host has brilliantly prepared the traditional veal Brochette for dinner – veal skewers with chopped onions and grilled tomatoes.
Chefchaouen – The Blue City
In the light of a clear Moroccan morning, North Africa started looking a lot better. The clouds have cleared leaving room for a beautiful blue sky accentuated by the blue buildings of Chefchaouen. Everything looks better in the sun and with a full stomach. A visit in the Medina allowed us a sneak peek on how people live in the region. You can find everything on sale: from Mobile sim cards to babouche (Moroccan slippers that make you feel like you are part of one of Scheherazade’s Stories), paintings and the best Moroccan spices.
The Moroccan architecture catches the eyes – kasbahs made by mud bricks adorned with beautiful colorful tiles and painted wooden ceilings. We paid a visit to Chefchaouen Kasbah built in 1471 by Ali Ben Musa, the founder of the city. A gem with a beautiful garden and orange trees, a short break from the crowded market streets.
Volubilis – the ancient capital of Mauretania
It looked like a great day for riding. So, our Morocco Motorcycle Holiday continues from Chefchaouen to Fez ready to break yet another myth on Morocco. The road gets interesting a few kilometers after exiting Chefchaouen. Full of olive groves, olive oil mills and not one trace of kief (cannabis product) sellers. Maybe we were just lucky enough to find beautiful fields of daffodils instead.
The smell of olives accompanied us a long section of the road. We turned right in Fertassa to make a stop at Volubilis. The place is the ancient capital of the kingdom of Mauretania, one of Morrocco’s best preserved Roman Ruins. The Archaeological Site covers more than 10 centuries of history. UNESCO included this place on its World Heritage List on December 1997. The site preserves a triumphal Arch, stone mosaics, public baths, an oil mil restitution and a diversity of columns (fluted, spiral and plain). The autorities have made a lot of effort to restore and keep this legacy.
When in Fez
We arrived in Fez in the afternoon, with full traffic in motion. But if you travelled to Athens (Greece) or Tirana (Albania) you can find your way in any major Moroccan city. Fez is a charming city and has one of the world’s largest pedestrian areas. We used Bab Bouljoud, one of Fes iconic images, to enter Fes Medina. You feel like it’s a gateway to the past. Fez Medina vibrates.
The place is full of merchants – food, carpets, blankets, butchers topped with the Leather Tannery. The Tannery treats the skin with natural resources (pigeons droppings, cow urine, etc.) to make it softer. To color the skin they use natural pigments. It all paints a beautiful picture of the past, having the future just outside the Old Walls of the Medina.
Middle Atlas Mountain Ride
Heading south revealed a different Morocco with great mountain roads to ride and the macaques monkeys roaming free on the side of the road. The Middle Atlas Mountains and Ifrane National Park did not disappoint. We were lucky to find the snow barriers open, but this doesn’t mean that there is no snow, just that the road is clear.
4 degrees Celsius felt a lot lower on a moving motorbike with the cold air and the snow all around us. Fortunately, the road was in perfect condition. Some more clothes plus the rain gear gave us the boost to move forward and even to play a little bit in the snow. Seeing the Moroccans building snowmen with their children and riding the snowmobiles was a picture that seemed unreal but, yet it was there, right in front of our eyes. This Morocco Motorcycle Holiday sure changed some ideas in our heads.
Tunnel of the Legionnaires
The snow was all over by the time we reached Midelt. The temperature has risen to 15 Celsius and riding the Ziz Gorge changed the scenery completely. The road took us riding through the rugged Tunnel Zaabal. Also known as the Tunnel of the Legionnaires, it was built by the French Foreign Legion in 1930. 62 m long and 3 m high, it took the 3rd foreign infantry regiment 6 months to build it. An overnight in Er Rachidia gave us more strength for what was waiting the next day.
The Mighty Sahara Desert
No need to say that the scenery changed again while continuing our Morocco Motorcycle Holiday riding south to Merzouga to the place known as Erg Chebbi – a sea of sand dunes formed by the blowing wind – the gateway to the Sahara Desert.
The terrain is flat, and the road is straight, the buildings have the colour of the sand and only the green Oasis formed alongside the road and the blue sky stain the reddish landscape. We met Omar at Afriquia Gas Station and he led us to his Palace – a beautiful Riad with gardens, terraces, swimming pools and rooms that make you feel like a pasha.
The staff welcomed us with the traditional whisky Berber (mint tea) and delicious Moroccan desserts. After a relaxing time at the Riad we prepared for the camel ride in the desert and took some warm clothes for the night we were going to spend in a tent in the desert camp.
The nights in the desert are cooler than the days. The hosts tell us that the Berbers move through the desert during the night to avoid the heat. They use just the stars for guidance and rest during day time. The night at the bonfire and the desert people playing the drums gave us an experience we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
We enjoyed a Moroccan breakfast at the restaurant of the desert camp and mounted the camels to head back to the Riad. This is where our favorite camel (BMW F800GS motorbike) was waiting to take us on more adventures in Morocco. After a little play time riding the sand dunes and cleaning and lubricating the motorbike chain, we followed the road to Tinghir.
Robust, spectacular, majestic – Todra Gorge
Morocco Motorcycle Holiday
Todra Gorge was in our minds as we were riding alongside a beautiful oasis and the thought of us riding this beautiful road made us eager. And here it is, cut through the high limestone walls, by Togdha River, robust, spectacular, majestic. Todra Gorge is not the only gorge in Morocco. The men have built an amazing Road right alongside Dades Valley cutting through Dades Gorge.
Orchards of fig, almonds and olives sit at the foot of the mighty Atlas Mountain. As the road gets higher in altitude the landscape becomes more dramatic rewarding the riders with a new view of the Dades Valley with each turn. The road snakes up to the mountain and the turns grow in difficulty on a couple of kilometers. Nature rewards our efforts – the views are spectacular. This Morocco Motorcycle Tours surprises us each day.
Arriving in Oarzazate we made a first stop at Taorirt Kasbah, one of the most famous Kasbahs in Morocco. Former residence of Pacha Glaoui and his family, the kasbah offers a sneak pick on the past life of an Atlas Lord with 4 wives. A few rooms renovated by UNESCO are open to the public and restauration is ongoing.
on the trail of Gladiator – the movie
Morocco Motorcycle Holiday
There is no Morocco Motorcycle Holiday without a stop in Ouarzazate. Atlas Studios still film great movies here. The Studios hide movie sets and props used in The Red Tent, Gladiator, Cleopatra, Hercules, Asterix & Obelix and many more. Taorirt and Ait Benhaddou Kasbahs were also used in movies such as The Queen of Desert, starring Nicole Kidman.
The road of a 1000 Kasbahs is one of the most scenic roads in the World and our ride to Ait Benhaddou was one of the highlights of the trip. Between walking the bridge to the Kasbah and crossing the Valley by motorbike, we choose the hard way. Crossing the valley on two wheels was more fun and exciting.
Ait Benhadou – the Ksar
Ait Benhaddou is a ksar, a fortified village situated along the former caravan route from Sahara To Marrakech. Nowadays only 5 families still inhabit this place. Walking the labyrinth narrow streets of Ait Benhaddou guided by a local, showed us a different side of Morocco.
After visiting the Ksar with its small market place and Belleview point on top of the Hill, after stories on movies filmed here, our guide, a young Moroccan, invited us to his home. 13 people leaving in a Moroccan house built from mud bricks as most of the houses in Morocco are. A household having an old and a new kitchen, animal shelter, carpet weaving loom and dormitories. We were fascinated by the locks they are using – big wooden locks with an interesting opening system.
High Atlas Mountains
We left Ait Benhaddou behind and continued our Morocco Motorycle Holiday following the African trade route, crossing the Telouet Pass to reach 2260 m in altitude, Tiz’n Ticka Pass on the High Atlas Mountains. Considered one of the dangerous roads in the World, the road to Marakesh trough Tiz’n Tichka Pass was a great ride although the traffic grows while getting closer to Marrakech.
Marrakech is a charming city once you get traffic out of the equation. Marrakech Medina with its narrow labyrinth streets, hundreds of sellers, thousands of goods and the tourists trying to get a good deal on souvenirs makes the place authentic.
Some advice to survive Marrakech during your Morocco Motorcycle Holiday
– don’t miss the Koutoubia Square with Koutoubia Mosque – it is the iconic image of Marrakech
– Bargain for everything. You would be amazed on how low they can leave the price once you get in the game.
– Make sure you know from the start if the prices are in Moroccan Dirhams or Euros. It can be tricky sometimes, especially in some cooperatives.
Don’t ask for directions
– Don’t ask for directions unless you are prepared to pay a fee for the service. If you get lost look for the top of Koutoubia Mosque or the smoke from the restaurants in Jemaa el Fna Square to make an idea on where you are. If this fails – ask an official (police, museum curator) or you can stop at a Riad to ask for directions. Under no circumstances tell the person trying to “help” you what you are looking for. He is going to follow you around even if you already know the way and he will ask for money for the so-called “service”.
– Be prepared to be invited to buy stuff and the sellers to be persistent about it even if you say no. It is important to understand that this is a totally different world and culture and that if you continue saying no and leaving the place they will eventually leave you alone.
Jemaa el Fna Square
– If you are in Jemaa el Fna Square and want to take pictures to the bands of musicians playing live in the square, be prepared – you will be asked for money after and they will be persistent about it. Better film a general image from a considerable distance.
– If you look for something to eat at the open terraces in Jemaa el Fna Square, until you decide where to eat be prepared to be stopped every 10 seconds with a new offer for food. You can either accept the offer, say no or just say you eaten already and most likely they will leave you alone for the moment but will release an invitation for tomorrow night.
– if you see the head of a camel or goat or any other animal on display it means that the shop sells that type of meat and also that the meat is fresh
Morocco Motorcycle Holiday along the Atlantic
The road to Rabat took us to the biggest mosque in Morocco – Hasan II Mosque in Casablanca. The mosques minaret is the tallest one in the World (210m). Although the mosque is impressive, and the tile work is perfect, you need to know that the road is crowded.
If you want to visit Casablanca for the famous Casablanca movie know that the city itself was not used in the production of the movie. After the capital city of Rabat we continued our journey towards north Morocco to the port city of Tangier – with stops at the artificial Cave of Hercules and Cape Spartel.
Beautiful and clean, with many hotels that offer rooms with sea view, Tangier is situated at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The beach is also close by so a bit of relaxation right before saying goodbye to a country that offered us one of the best experiences of our lives is welcome.
We took the windy road to Tangier Med Port to cross by ferry to Spain – Europe. Now this was a totally different experience compared to the border of Ceuta. Very well organized, with friendly officials making the crossing stress free.
Make sure you carry with you copies of the paper work filled in when entering Morocco – both personal details and vehicle information will be required. After scanning the vehicles with special technique, we were free to go and were on the ferry in matter of minutes.
Traffic light – airplane landing
We could not ride all the way to Malaga without crossing the border from Spain to Great Britain’s Gibraltar. We were surprised to stop at the traffic light to let an airplane go through. Gibraltar runway cuts off one of the busiest roads in the area, leading to and from the border.
Waiting at the red light to let planes go trough is one of the highlight of the area, many tourists try to get the perfect shot of this less encountered situation. But this is not the only thing you can do in Gibraltar. Gibraltar rock hides treasures such as the spectacular Great Siege Tunnels, WWII Tunnels and the Apes Den – the only place in Europe where Apes roam free. They have no shame and would still anything you have. Walking up is an effort that will be rewarded with great views over the Strait of Gibraltar.
Last day on the motorbike finds us riding from Gibraltar to Malaga. After more than 2000 km in North Africa we managed somehow to get a flat tire on Europe land. We stopped every 10 minutes to put some air in the tire until we finally found a tire shop to fix it.
What made us feel safe during this Morocco Motorcycle Holiday:
the fact that the authorities would know at what hotel we spend every night as well as the frequent police controls on the road. We met the Gendarmerie Royale or Surete Nacionale (National Security) every single day for their routine check points. We only got stopped twice and the experience with them was positive. Fluently speaking English or French they were educated and extremely friendly asking about our experience in their country and wanting to know if we have had any problems. Fortunately, we didn’t.
– The adventure started rough with a wakeup call. Crossing Ceuta border made us understand that there are worse problems in the World than the ones we complain about every day. I’m sure we will complain less.
– As adventure riders we know that you cannot know a country by the stories in the media or told by friends that did not travel there. We have made friends, talked to people, visited places. None of us got robbed or attacked. Still, we’ve learned that to enjoy Morocco you need to empty your mind of everything you believe things should be like and embrace the country as it is.
It is in the end why you travel, isn’t it? If every country would be like your own what would be the point of travelling?
Bargaining, following you around to offer services or products happens in the bigger cities where competition is high. This way of doing things may seem aggressive but you need to remember that this is North Africa, a totally different world and culture. Still, keep your senses awake.
It is not a travel to be made alone, unless you are a lonely wolf.
Having companions to exchange ideas with and a Flag Speciale Beer at the end of a riding day can make all the difference for a more comfortable, enjoyable trip and can make you feel more secure.
Ride this Morocco Motorcycle Holiday with someone who knows the way
It is hard to find people to travel a long distance and for so many days. That is why companies such as Adventure Motorcycle Tours – Transylvania Live are good for. They have the knowledge, can assist and advise for a better understanding of the place you visit, plus if there are more people in the Morocco Motorcycle Tour they organize, even better. So, the advantage of taking Adventure Motorcycle Tours – Morocco Motorcycle Holiday is that they provide tours with a BMW of your choice included, so fly and ride can make the travel less tiring.
Their tour also includes a mechanic driving a support car carrying your luggage, refreshments and a spare motorbike in case of surprise situations such as our flat tire, so worry free.
They take care of everything: hotels, border crossing, motorbike parking, etc. The only thing you need to worry about is what to have for lunch/dinner or what souvenirs to buy, and they have some good recommendations on that as well.
The staff is very friendly and happy to answer all your questions.
All in all, we had an amazing experience.
In three words: enriching, adventurous, spectacular!
We already made the promise to return.
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