Roundtrip in Morocco (Pearls of Southern Morocco)

From March 28. to April 7. 2019

Day 0 - Wednesday March 27. 2019

Oslo - Gardermoen (Oslo Airport)

As the journey started very early in the morning on March 28., I chose to stay the night at a hotel at Gardermoen (Oslo Airport) to get a little longer sleep.

I was at work but left at half past two. I took the subway to the city center where I went to the hairdresser to get a haircut. Afterwards I went home. At home the suitcase was ready, but I would have with me a small bag and a few things I had brought with me to work as well. However, this was quickly done to pack into the bag I was going to have as hand luggage. In addition, I did some other final tasks that needed to be done before I left, and then I was ready to go.

I walked down to the bus with my bag on my back while rolling my suitcase. At the bus stop, there were not many minutes to wait before the bus arrived. I took it down to the bus stop Smedstua on Østre Aker road. Here I went down under the road and up again on the other side to take the airport bus from the other side. There wasn't a long wait here either. About half an hour later I arrived at Gardermoen. By now it was 6 in the afternoon and I found the Radisson close to the airport where I was going to spend the night.

The Atlas mountains towards Marrakech. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 29/3 2019).

I checked in and then went upstairs to the room and settled. Next was to get some food before I went to bed. I went down to the restaurant and ordered food and drink. While I waited for the food, I worked a little on the laptop. Drinks came straight away, but the food lasted. It would appear that the waiter had forgotten to place the order for the food. She regretted that this had happened, so it was just a matter of being patient and waiting a little longer. But when the food finally arrived, I was served a very good rack of lamb. In addition, I treated myself to a small chocolate cake for dessert together with a glass of calvados. Along the way, I made good contact with the two waiters who served me. So, despite the oversight, it was a pleasant session in the restaurant.

After the meal I went back to the room. Here I wrote the day's chapter in this diary and also checked in on the plane. And then it was just a matter of crawling into bed to get some sleep.

Day 1 - Thursday March 28. 2019

Oslo - Frankfurt - Marrakech

I slept well, allthough a little short this night. The clock rang at 04:15 and then I had 15 minutes until to meet the guys at the airport itself. I just had to get dressed and pack up the charging equipment as both laptop, mobile and power bank had been charged up during the night. Checked that I didn't had left anything behind and checked out of the hotel. Then I walked the short way to the airport and stood up at the meeting point 1 minute late. The other two were nowhere to be seen, surprisingly. At half past five I sent a text and wondered where they were, only to know that they were at the airport and had checked in and had their luggage delivered. So it was just for me to get my luggage delivered and then we could get through the security check and to the gate from which the flight to Frankfurt would take off. Since we were out at dawn, there were no problems getting through. At the gate it was then just a matter of waiting for departure.

The factory in the Atlas mountains where they produced oils and cremes of the fruits of the Argan tree. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 29/3 2019).

After a while of waiting, we were able to board the plane and get to Frankfurt where we had to change planes. Once there we had plenty of time. This allowed us to peacefully eat breakfast before we found the flight to Marrakech. After locating the gate for the flight to Marrakech, we found a place to take the first "medicine" of the trip - ie a gin & tonic, and eventually a beer. After finishing our drinks, we went to the gate just as they were starting boarding - perfect timing. We got on the plane and were ready for the next leg.

On the flight to Marrakech, we were served lunch with a cold meat pie and hot spaghetti. After we finished eating, then the drinks service came... Once we arrived in Marrakech with 25 degrees and sunshine, we made it through passport control - eventually - and collected our luggage. After getting through we went out to find the guide. But he was nowhere, instead we found a small group of Swedes who were going on the same journey as us. We stood there and waited, and eventually the guide Ali also appeared together with the driver who was to take us to the hotel. It turned out that the group was only supposed to be 10 people - 7 Swedes and 3 Norwegians, as well as the guide who was Swedish-speaking but possibly of Moroccan origin. (Later it emerged that Ali was Egyptian and had lived for several years in Sweden.)

We got into the small bus and were driven the short way to Red Hotel, which was centrally located in Marrakech. We got some information along the way on the short drive, and also some more in the hotel lobby. We then got the keycards for our rooms and we had time at our own disposal until dinner later in the evening. For my part, I repacked a bit so that I had at hand what I needed on the journey in my small rucksack. The rest was distributed between suitcases and bags. I then took a shower and then went down to the pool with my laptop and wrote today's chapter of this diary while I had a cup of Moroccan tea.

While I was sitting there by the pool, Kristen also arrived. And not long after, it was time to gather. First we had to arrange some local currency and then also some water for the next day. After putting the water bottles in the room, we once again sat by the pool and had some more "medicine". While we were sitting there, the rest of the group eventually arrived. We finished our drinks and then we all sat at the table for a dinner together. It was a buffet, but with lots of hot dishes and lots of desserts. And the food was very good. After dinner, the three of us had another "medicine" and then it was time to retire to the room. Thank you for today!

The surroundings near the top of the Atlas mountains. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 29/3 2019).

Morocco is a kingdom in the north-west corner of Africa with a coastline both to the Atlantic and to the Mediterranean. The capital is Rabat and the country's financial center and largest urban area is Casablanca. Other major cities are Fez, Tangier and Marrakech. There are two major mountain ranges that dominate the country. In the north, there are the Riff Mountains up towards the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Atlas Mountains otherwise run through the entire country.
The population is mainly composed of Berbers, with Arabic and Berber as official languages ​​and French as a secondary language.
Today's Morocco has been inhabited since the Neolithic, around 8000 BC. as the traces of the Capsien culture may indicate. Later, different people groups arrived for shorter and longer periods, especially along the Mediterranean coast. With these, the Roman Empire also entered the north. After the fall of the Roman Empire, different groups took over until the Arabs arrived in 670. But there was soon a break with the caliphates in Damascus and separate dynasties were formed in the country. Under the rule of the Almoravids, a good part of present-day Spain and Portugal and most of present-day Morocco, as well as parts of Algeria, were held. The Almoravids were succeeded by the Almohads, and then civil war broke out. In the end, the Alaouite dynasty emerged victorious and has been the dominant dynasty ever since. In 1912, Morocco became a French protectorate, but regained its independence in 1956.

Day 2 - Friday March 29. 2019

Marrakech - Aït ben Haddou

As usual on travels arranged by Tema reiser, I had to get up early, 06:30, with departure at 08:00. I sorted myself out and went down to breakfast with the rest of the group, and then went back to the room to do the final packing. Then I was ready for departure.

We gathered in the lobby of the hotel and were ready to leave. The only person who was not there in time was the driver of the bus. But eventually even he appeared. Thus we found our places in the bus, the luggage was eased in and then we set off. This day we were going up and over the Atlas Mountains (High Atlas) and back down a bit towards the desert on the other side.

On a roundtour in the kasbah Telouet. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 29/3 2019).

On the way up we stopped after about an hour at a café along the road. Here we had the opportunity both to look around and as a toilet stop. And those who wanted also bought something to drink. It was cooler up here and also quite windy. After a good, long stop, we continued our journey. Now we entered a long section where they were carrying out roadworks, which meant that it did not always go as quickly. But at the same time, there was probably a need to widen and improve the road on this stretch. About an hour later we stopped again in front of a building where oils and creams were made from the fruits of the Argan tree. The local ladies were responsible for this and the factory and shop were run as a cooperative. Here we were shown the process for producing the oil from dried fruit, and of course ended up in the shop where we could shop. Which most people did, myself included.

After the tour and the shopping, we drove on, but only for 10 minutes, because then we were up at the highest pass we were going over in the Atlas mountains - Tiscka. Here we had a short photo stop. It was cold here and the wind blew strongly, so strongly that I had to leave the cap in the bus, otherwise it would have been blown away. We drove a short distance further at more or less the same height until we began the descent on the other side about 20 minutes later. Here we stopped once more, because now we had to change our means of transport.

While the bus continued with our luggage on the main road, we got into cars and started driving on slightly smaller roads through the barren countryside. However, there were more lush places in between, and as we got further down it became more and more lush. But we were, after all, on the Sahara side, where at the same time the climate was much drier. We drove down a valley and passed, among others, a salt mine where we could see the white salt seeping through the mountains. After driving for a while in the valley we finally arrived at a village called Telouane. Here we turned off the road down to a kasbah - a small city enclosed by a city wall and with a palace inside the city. Here we had a tour of the palace, which had been built at the beginning of the 20th century and had housed a rich and powerful family - the Glaoui. Today the kasbah had been vacated and started to fall into disrepair. The family had lost all its influence and wealth in 1956 with the liberation of Morocco from France.

Towards the dessert, with settlements pretty high up in the mountains. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 29/3 2019).

After the tour, we were driven up to the main road again, where there was a restaurant - Chez Ahmed - where we had our lunch. As we entered the restaurant, we passed through a group of women in festive attire. And while we were eating our lunch, the women and a group of men started playing and singing local songs – ie the men played and both men and women sang. We traveled on while they were still performing for another group of guests who presumably were Americans.

We continued our journey in the valley which eventually became a canyon. Here we drove along the edge for a while before we started the descent in a side branch. Eventually we descended to the bottom of the valley and continued until it opened up and we came out onto a more open plain-like landscape. Out in this landscape we then arrived at the town of Aït ben Haddou. This was the terminus for the cars, which then left us. Before we got on the bus, we were going to take a short walk to a Ksar - a city with fortifications and city walls - also called a castle. Here we also had a local guide for the area. First we went to a point in the city that gave us a good overview of the old castle. We then went down to the river and crossed it on sandbags and logs, before we then began a small walk inside the castle itself. The castle was on the Unesco world heritage list, but was also still home to a few families. We walked around the area a little and finally ended up inside one of the families who lived here, where we were served Moroccan tea. The lady also displayed a number of carpets, but without any trade this time. The group then split into two, as some wanted to go to the top, while others thought it seemed too tiring. It had been uneven steps and difficult to walk on the little walk we already had taken, so only the most fittest made the trip up. The rest of us strolled around to a bridge back to the other side of the river, where we waited for the rest to return. It would then turn out that the trip up was probably not as difficult as the rest of us had thought. After the whole group had gathered again, we went back to the bus.

We got into the bus and drove a short distance back again where we arrived at our accommodation - Ksar Ighnda. After some back and forth with room keys – there was no room for the guide – we got our keys and could go to our rooms. Here I took a shower and got ready for the evening. Then it was time to gather for a "medicine". We sat by the pool and eventually got in touch with a waiter and were then served our "medicine". Gradually, the rest of the group also found the way, although only one being tempted to join us. Then it wasn't too long before it was dinner. But before dinner we paid tip money to the guide, money that was supposed to cover all tips for the whole tour as long as it was part of the tour. We then sat down at the dinner table and had a buffet dinner as usual. Today too, there was good and varied food. After dinner, the four of us took another "medicine" in the bar, before going to our respective rooms. In the room I sat and finished writing today's chapter of the diary before going to bed. Good night.

Aït ben Haddou. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 29/3 2019).

Aït ben Haddou is a fortified city, also called a ksar, along the old caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech, which is a link in the trans-Saharan trade routes. Located in the Ouarzazate province, the city is known for its beautiful kasbahs. The kasbahs, which are built of brick or clay, are regularly damaged during the rainy season, and most of the city's residents now live in modern houses on the other side of the river. However, some families still live within the ksar. Due to the well-preserved buildings and urban structure, Aït ben Haddou has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. The city is very popular as a film location, and several well-known films have been filmed here in whole or in part, such as e.g. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "Jewel of the Nile" (1985), "The Mummy" (1999), "Gladiator" (2000) and "Alexander" (2004).

Day 3 - Saturday March 30. 2019

Aït ben Haddou - Merzouga

This day we were to travel further into the Sahara desert. We started at the same time as the day before. So wake-up at 06:30, breakfast at 07:00 and departure at 08:00. Just before I was about to go to breakfast, a realy heavy rainfall came, but it stopped as quickly as it started. Around the time for travel, we were all gathered and ready to leave.

Ouarzazate. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 30/3 2019).

We drove off again through Aït ben Haddou and continued for about 3 miles until we reached the town of Ouarzazate. This is the actual film town with many studios where many films are shot every year. The city is relatively new and was almost founded on the production of Lawrence of Arabia. We stopped at the kasbah in town, but without going inside this time. The Kasbah was built by the same man as the one we had seen the day before and was very similar to this one. Also, there was rain in the air, so we only took a few photos outside. We then got back into the bus and continued our journey.

Ouarzazate is a city on the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco. The city was a stopping point on the road to Morocco for a long time. Under the French, a military garrison was established in the city, which increased the city's importance and which also secured it as an administrative center for the entire area. Today, the area is known for its kasbahs - which are a city built of brick and clay with a wall around it. In addition, Ouarzazate is known as Morocco's Hollywood where many of the major film companies have built studios and where many famous films have been filmed in whole or in part in the area. Here I can mention "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "The man who would be king" (1975), The last temptation of Christ" (1988), "Kundun" (1997), "The Mummy" (1999), "Kingdom of Heaven" (2005), "The hills have eyes" (2006) and "Salmon fishing in Yemen (2011). Parts of "Games of Thrones" were also filmed in the area.

We continued on til we drove into the valley of the roses. We stopped at the souvenir shop where there was a video of the production. Damascus roses were grown in the valley, from which they produced creams and rose water from the petals. In the shop they also had various other souvenirs such as masks, stones and fossils. However, I don't think any of us bought any of the products or souvenirs. We drove on for a short while until we came to a lookout point with some large rocks on top of a small hill. From here we could see beyond the entire Rosenes valley. And the boulders on the top almost looked like a rose as they lay. We didn't stay up there very long as it was very windy and the wind was cold and sour.

The Toudra gorge. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 30/3 2019).

We continued our journey eastwards, but after a while had to stop at a police checkpoint. We eventually got through and continued on the road. A while later we had to take a small side road for a good distance as they were doing road work. And the side road was in noticeably worse condition. Eventually we got back on the road and arrived at the larger town of Tinghir. We continued through the city and began a small climb in the mountains, we had now entered the Middle Atlas Mountains. Here we stopped at a lookout point over Tinghir for a photo stop. We then continued into the Toudra gorge. Here we got off the bus and walked through the narrowest part of the gorge. The walls here were precipitous, but the gorge was wide. Here, too, we could feel the wind picking up. After calmly walking through the narrowest part of the gorge, we got back into the bus and drove back towards Tinghir. But before we got that far we stopped to have lunch at a restaurant called Les Roches.

After the lunch, it was time to continue our journey. We drove back to Tinghir where we had a stop at a carpet factory at the request of the ladies in the group. But the only one who shopped was Geir... After finishing the trade, we continued to drive on.

Basically, we had now finished the day's programme, but had a toilet stop in Dikhalt. Here, those who wanted could also buy a shawl/towel to protect themselves from the sand for the next few days. And as usual, Geir couldn't resist buying.

We continued on and also had a stop at some underground water channels that were on the side of the road. Here we looked down from above, before we entered down below the ground and into one of the canals that were no longer in use. Originally, the canal was excavated tunnels from the 12th and 13th century to lead water from the mountains to the oases in the desert. Over 500 such channels had been built and around fifty were still in use to this day.

We then drove the last stretch to the hotel La Belle Etoile in the Merzouga area. Now we were far out in the desert and not far from the border with Algeria. We were to stay here for the next two nights. We got our rooms and once inside the room there was a half-dead cockroach by the toilet door. I showered and got ready, and then it was time for some "medicine". In the shower I had seen a mosquito, so here it was best to be careful! We weren't sure if we would get "medicine" served, but yeah, it worked out. We then had dinner together as usual, but today it was a pre-ordered menu and not a buffet. When we had our dessert there was also music for the food performed by four Bedouins. But we soon withdrew as some of us had to get up early the next day. I, who was not going out to ride a camel the next morning, spent some time finishing today's chapter before going to bed. And when I was getting ready to go to bed, a couple more cockroaches darted across the floor of the room. I hoped they would stay in the shades for the rest of the night.

The lodge outside of Merzouga. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 31/3 2019).

Merzouga is a village in southeast Morocco about 50 km from the border with Algeria. Nearby is the Erg Chebbi dune area. In addition, the area has a natural underground water reservoir which is one of Morocco's largest.

Day 4 - Sunday March 31. 2019


Today, someone in the group was going to get up early to have a dromedary ride to see the sunrise. Due to my bad back, I don't want to chance on those types of activities. But both my two traveling companions joined. They were supposed to be woken up at six thirty, but with some confusion they were woken up an hour earlier. Presumably it was due to the transition from winter time to summer time for many European countries. Eventually they got away and rode towards the dunes. Although Geir was about to fall off, they had all managed to stay on the dromedary's back. They had caught the sunrise, though there were some clouds after the night's rain. And of course there would have been the opportunity to shop, which several of them had done. When they returned, a little earlier than expected, the rest of us had gotten up and were ready for breakfast. We thereny had breakfast together, arranged our rooms afterwards and then we were ready for the day's excursion.

Sahara desert at Merzouga. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 31/3 2019).

We drove out into the desert in three land rovers. A bit all around with many stops here and there on various ridges so that we had a bit of a view over the areas. Most of the area was stone desert, but some parts were also sand desert. One of the places we stopped was an oasis, where we did a little walk through it. They also showed us a simpler and shallower water canal into the oasis from the nearby ridges. While we could walk upright in the canal we had seen yesterday, it was not possible in this canal which was the closest thing to a pipe. Inside the oasis, many parcels were divided up, where different families each had their own parcel. In the parcels, they thus had the opportunity to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit as they wished. It looked a bit like an allotment garden as we are familiar with at home. We had a stop at Lake Hazi where there were quite a few birds, including flamingos, storks and ducks. This lake now had water, but in the dry season it would dry up. In addition, we visited the village of Khamlia where we took part in a concert with the local group Pigeons de Sable, Groupe Zaid. They sang and played traditional music and dance from this area. We visited a hill near the border with Algeria, where the French colonial power had had a fortress and soldiers stationed. Part of the buildings that were on the neighboring hill were still in use by the military in Morocco. We ended the program on the trip by having lunch with a Bedouin family. The lunch was good and with a little spice - at least some of it. The three guys who drove us around probably also had a bit of fun with us, driving calmly sometimes and almost rallying other times.

Bedouins are nomadic Arabs. They speak Arabic and other language dialects and are Muslims. The term Bedouin itself has come into Norwegian from French bédouin, again from Arabic badawī, "desert dweller", that is, "nomadic inhabitants of the desert". The Bedouin's territories stretch across large sandy deserts in North Africa to the rocky sands of the Middle East. They are traditionally divided into tribes (or clans) and share a common culture of herding, camels and goats. The Bedouin's traditional way of life with goats, sheep and camels is a way of life that is making a strong decline. The formation of states and fixed borders has made it more and more difficult for the Bedouins to move freely across the traditional routes. More and more people are giving up their nomadic existence and becoming permanent residents. The vast majority of Bedouins have submitted to Islam. The traditional family consists of a male head of the family, often with one or more wives and their joint children. The clan can include many people, and branches to the rest of the family follow the male lines. They live in tents, which are divided into a male and a female part. The diet mostly consists of bread, meat and dairy products, which the livestock can contribute. The products are also sold at the markets, to provide money for grain and like. Traditionally, the Bedouins also make what they need of carpets and clothing, and the surplus is sold in the markets. The Bedouins have always been regarded as very hospitable, which is based on their way of life and traditions. A desert wanderer can therefore always count on getting shelter and food, but Bedouin tradition limits this obligation to a maximum of 3 days.
In Morocco, there are also some Berbers among the Bedouins. Several of these groups also have links to the Tuaregs of the Sahara who are also Berbers. Among these there are several groups that ran the great caravan routes through the Sahara.

Hazi Lake. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 31/3 2019).

Once back at the hotel, we had the rest of the day free. During the drive I had started to get a little pain in my neck with a subsequent headache. Therefore I went to the room and lay down on the bed for an hour. But now the stings and headache had gotten really bad, so all I had to do was get up again. I walked around the room a bit and sat on the sofa for a bit, and then it started to subside. That way I could go out in the sun a bit and relax a bit together with some of the Swedes who were already sitting there when I came out. We sat and chatted and I had a "medicine". Eventually Kristen also came and he too had a "medicine". After sitting there for an hour, some of the Swedes began to withdraw, and then I did too. In the room I sat down and wrote today's chapter in the diary.

A little before dinner, we three guys gathered for a "medicine". We sat there relaxing and enjoying our "medicine" in the open air as the sun was setting. Then it eventually started to get a bit chilly so we pulled into the restaurant. Eventually the whole group had arrived and we had our common dinner as usual, this evening too there was a three-course dinner and some musicians appeared when we had our dessert. We guys had an extra "medicine" and thus we were among the very last to leave. Back in the room I wrote a little in the diary and then I went to bed.

Day 5 - Monday April 1. 2019

Merzouga - N'Kob

In the garden of the mausoleum of Ali Cherif. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 1/4 2019).

Then it was time to say goodbye to the visit to the Sahara and move back towards the Atlas Mountains, this time towards the Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas. We had plenty of time in the morning, so departure was not until 09:00. With that, we could use plenty of time and catch the sunrise, if we wanted, or sleep a little longer. When the time was ready, we got into the bus and drove away.

We drove southwest until we reached the town of Rissani. Here we made a stop at the mausoleum of Ali Cherif, the founder of today's royal dynasty, who came from this city. We walked around a bit, but were not allowed to enter the actual mausoleum as we were not Muslims.

We then stopped at the market in the town. The big market day was actually on Sunday, but in the attached bazaar there were still a good number of shops open. We strolled around the bazaar for fifteen minutes and then returned to the bus. A couple of us were a little late, so we almost stayed behind, but the other participants were told that someone was missing.

Rissani is a city in eastern Morocco. The city was formerly one of the stopping points for the desert caravans and thus became a strategically important city. In the city there is also the mausoleum of Ali Cherif who was the founder of the Alaouite dynasty in Morocco which still reigns. In the early years of the dynasty, the city was also the capital. Ali Cherif was appointed sultan over the area in 1631. With their son Al-Rashid as successor, they united Morocco into one kingdom. Today's King Mohammed VI is a direct descendant of Ali Cherif (as the 11th generation).

Fossils from the area around the Tahiti museum. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 1/4 2019).

We continued our journey a short distance outside Rissani where we took a detour to the Tahiti museum. This was a museum of fossils. Here we had a tour where we were shown many types of fossils that had been found in the Atlas Mountains and the surrounding areas. And finally, of course, we had the opportunity to do some shopping...

We then continued through the stone desert towards the Middle Atlas to Alnif, where we had lunch and relaxed a bit. We then went on to N'Kob where we were to spend the night. The hotel turned out to be a conglomerate of rooms on different levels. The rooms were mostly large, but a couple got typical "girls' rooms". I even ended up in the cellar!

After checking into our rooms, we had the rest of the day at our disposal. After orienting ourselves at the hotel, the guys gathered and had a beer. Then I relaxed a bit and updated this diary. I then surfed the internet a bit at the same time as I could send the first travel letter of the trip. When it was getting close to noon, I went down to my room and took a shower. Then we met the lads again for another beer, we didn't ask for any "medicine", as we reckoned it wasn't worth the effort. The shock was great when Anders and Kristen got ok beer, while Geir and I got frozen beer. These boxes had been in the freezer for a long time! Eventually the rest of the group also arrived and we went to the table for dinner. We sat and chatted for a bit and then we each went to our rooms. In the room I made the bed – for the very first time in a hotel! I then finished writing today's chapter in the diary and then crawled into bed.

Day 6 - Tuesday April 2. 2019

N'Kob - Foum Zguid

From the desert. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 1/4 2019).

After sleeping in the cellar that night, it was time to continue the travel. We had breakfast and were ready to leave at 09:00. At the last minute, the last bill was paid and the last key delivered. And then we left.

We had been driving for quite some time through the desert landscape when we drove through a small town that was probably called Toughaaimaar. It was clearly market day here this day. Thus we made a stop. We strolled around the market and saw what kind of goods they offered. Mostly it was fruit and vegetables, but you could also buy meat, spices, clothes, tools and doors and windows. We took pictures, but not everyone wanted to be photographed, and then we just had to drop it.

After 20-30 minutes we got into the bus and drove on. We were now in the Draa valley, and made a stop at a lookout point above the valley to take pictures. We then drove on to Zagoura where we were going to have lunch. We were early and thus had time to take a short walk in the area around the lunch place. However, the walk was not that long. Besides, it was getting hot. The previous days had been cool and almost cold, but this day it was sunny and 28 degrees. We arrived back at the lunch restaurant, which was in a hotel called Riad Lamane. Although we had made some time on our walk, we were still early. So we walked around the hotel and sat and waited. Finally the time had come and we were served our lunch.

After eating more than we should, it was time to move on. It was still the stone desert we drove through with an oasis of sand and water, and with the Atlas Mountains getting closer and closer. We made one last stop on the way at some watermelon parcels. Here we took a little look at how to grow watermelons. On the parcel we visited, no one was busy, but the watermelons looked big and nice. Not long before they could be harvested.

From the market in Toughaaimaar. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 2/4 2019).

We then drove to today's accommodation a few kilometers before the village of Foum Zguid, which was called Bab Rimal. Here, too, we were early, and had to wait half an hour to get the keys. We found our rooms and got our suitcases in place, and then we three guys gathered in the bar and had a beer, - and then a "medicine". Back in the room I relaxed a bit and then took a shower. Then there was another gathering in the bar for a new "medicine" before dinner. Then we had dinner, which this evening was a buffet. And then the day ended with a final "medicine", before we retired to our rooms. In the room I wrote today's chapter of the diary, and then it was time to get to bed.

Day 7 - Wednesday April 3. 2019

Foum Zguid - Oudas Taima

This day we got up a little earlier than usual, namely 07:00, with departure at 08:30. We had breakfast together, packed and got ready, and then we were ready to leave for Taroudannt. After taking a few last pictures, we got into the bus and left.

Lush around the Draa river through the Draa valley. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 2/4 2019).

After quite a while we stopped and had a leg stretch by some acacia trees in the desert. Ali explained to us the difference between the different types of acacia trees. Here it was predominantly African acacia and some umbrella acacias. (Later we would also see yellow acacia.) We then continued to the town of Tissint where we made a stop at a small waterfall. Even if the waterfall wasn't that big, it's a bit strange to find a waterfall in the desert...

We drove on and arrived at the town of Tata. Here we stopped again, and had a short walk in parts of the city. Besides, we also had something to drink at a sidewalk restaurant. In Tata, we also took a picture of the sign with "52 days to Timbuktu". We drove on, but only to a little outside the city, where we stopped at Oasis dar Ouanou, where we were going to have lunch. We were a little early, and sat and relaxed a bit in the garden, before we went in and got our food.

Trade with the help of caravans across the Sahara has probably taken place since the 7th century. The trade has then been between the countries in North Africa - i.e. Morocco, Tunisia and northern parts of Algeria - and the countries in West Africa south of the Sahara - i.e. Ghana, Mauritania and Mali. (The three latter kingdoms were much larger in extent at the time than the countries that bear these names today.) Dromedaries were used as pack animals and locally known people such as Berbers and Tuaregs as drivers of the caravans. A major center for the caravans was the city of Timbuktu in present-day Mali. The goods consisted of gold and slaves sent north, and salt and slave soldiers south. But of course there were also other goods such as kola nuts, glass beads, etc.

After lunch we drove on towards Anti Atlas. We had a stop at an oasis to take some photos, and a little later we also stopped at an almond tree. Here we could see what almonds look like before they became almonds as we know them. We had now started to drive into some ridges with winding roads and a drop off on one side. Gradually we got through these and arrived at Ighrem. Here we made another stop, and did a walk through the town.

The waterfall at Tissint. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 3/4 2019).

After Ighrem there was a new ridge that we drove over. And now there was vegetation on the field and not so much stone desert anymore. The vegetation now consisted of Argan trees. We stopped at one of these and looked at the fruits. We drove on, but not many meters before we saw goats up in a tree. Thus we had stop to take pictures of the goats.

We drove on and eventually arrived at the town of Taroudannt, which was today's destination - we thought. Here we drove into the city, which had a fairly large restored city wall. Inside the city we stopped and had another walk through parts of the old center of the city. On the way we also got a taste of an almond cake. After the walk, we got back on the bus and drove to a small town outside Taroudannt called Oudas Taima, where we were to spend the night at Le domaine Villate Limoune. Just before we arrived at the hotel, we thanked our bus driver for accompanying us. The last day to Marrakech was to go on winding and slightly worse roads, so we were to drive in jeeps next day.

Taroudannt is a town in southeast Morocco, but on the desert side of the Atlas Mountains. The city was the capital of Morocco in the early 16th century. The city is surrounded by a fortress wall and is today best known for its markets. Much of the goods sold at the markets are made locally.

Once at the hotel it was already early evening, and after getting our suitcases it was just time to go to dinner. It was a three-course dinner à la carte with a small menu where we could choose from a few dishes. After dinner, some of the group ended the evening together with something to drink, for the three of us it of course was "medicine". Then we went our separate ways. I was tired and just went straight to bed. Good night!

Local transport. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 3/4 2019).

Day 8 - Thursday April 4. 2019

Oudas Taima - Marrakesh

This day we were to drive in cars back to Marrakech over the High Atlas. We were woken up at 07:00, got ready, had breakfast, and then we were ready for departure at 08:30. We got into the cars with the three of us into the same one. Then we were on our way.

We had been driving for about 90 minutes, where both Geir and I had dozed off a bit in the back seat, before we had the first stop of the day. It was at a cafe by a petrol station in Tissint Fiaber, where we bought something to drink. It had rained in the morning, and now we had caught up with it. A real downpour came down as we arrived and sat there.

After having a toilet stop and getting us something to drink, we continued. The next stop was at a disused cafe at around 1,800 meters above sea level. Here there was a nice view of the mountain landscape, even though the clouds were on the peaks themselves. We drove on and then stopped at a place called La Belle Vue at about 2100 m. From here it must have been a fantastic view, but when we arrived it had started to rain and the view was just straight out into an ocean of fog!

Goats in an argan tree. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 3/4 2019).

The Atlas Mountains are Africa's longest mountain range and stretch through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The mountain ranges are the dividing line between the coastline of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean in the north and the Sahara desert in the south. The highest peak is Toubkal in Morocco with its 4167 meters. The population in the mountain range is primarily Berber. Much of the flora and fauna is unique to the area, but the most vulnerable species are in sharp decline. There are also plenty of natural resources in the mountain range.

The way up had wound around the mountains so there had been countless bends. And with the fog in addition, there were some in the group who had experienced car sickness. One person in particular had a hard time. It did not make matters any better that the quality of the road had also become noticeably worse. We drove further uphill until, just after La belle Vue, we got over Tizi n'Test at about 2100 m above sea level, which was the highest point on the road. We then started driving down on the west side of the mountains towards Marrakech.

We had a stop at a lookout point to take some photos. On the way on, we had to stop several times, so that the sick person could get some air and get back inside. At the same time, it gave the other of us good opportunities to take some pictures here and there. And the drivers who had driven from Marrakech at 04:00 in the morning probably also benefited from a break every now and then.

We stopped on the road at an old mosque in Tinmel. The mosque was no longer in use and it was unfortunately in disrepair as no one wanted to restore it. We had a little stretch by walking around a bit and looking around inside the mosque. After driving a little further we arrived at our lunch place for the day, which was almost at the home of a Berber family.

Lush in the valleys of the Atlas Mountains. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 4/4 2019).

After the meal, we drove on with a short stop at Lake Ouirgane. Then we also had a stop at some kind of potter's workshop, although it was just the shop. Here there was also the possibility of a visit to the toilet. Now we had started to descend on flatter ground and the road went straight ahead with some gentle bends. In other words, we had made our way over and down from the mountain. Then all that was left was to drive into Marrakech and the hotel.

Once there, we checked into the hotel - Red Hotel. It was the same hotel were we had stayed the first night. By now we were all tired after the long drive and retired to our rooms. However, we didn't have more than a couple of hours at our disposal before it was time for dinner. But first I had a shower and freshened up a bit and then the three of us gathered in the bar of the neighboring Opera Hotel where we had our traditional "medicine". We then gathered with the rest of the group in the lobby of the Red Hotel and were ready to leave for dinner at 19:30. We were driven to a point inside the old city of Marrakech - the Medina. From there we had to walk the last bit to the restaurant Dar Kallij where we were to have the last group dinner of the journey. This had previously been a residential building, a riad, but had now been converted into a restaurant. We were shown up to the terrace at the top of the house and into a tent, where we had an aperitif before the meal. Then it was to go back down all the stairs to the restaurant itself where we had our dinner. And while we ate our dessert there was also a performance by a belly dancer.

After dinner we walked back through the narrow alleys to the bus and were then driven back to the hotel. It was now quite late, and it had been a long day, so the only thing left to do was to get into the bed.

Day 9 - Friday April 5. 2019

Dense fog on top of the Atlas Mountains. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 4/4 2019).


Today was the last day with any official programme, as we were to have a city tour of Marrakech. We were woken up at 07:30, had breakfast at 08:00 and were then ready for departure at 09:00. We got into the bus and were driven to the great Koutoubia mosque. Here we strolled through the garden and down to the mosque itself. We now also had a local guide who was to guide us on this city tour. During the short walk, we were informed about the mosque's history.

After the mosque, we got back on the bus and were driven to the Bahia Palace. At least almost. We had to walk the final bit to the palace. Here we had a tour of the palace and were explained the palace's function and what the individual rooms had been used for. And also a bit about life when the palace was put into use.

After the palace we walked around the narrow streets and alleys of the Medina. There was a lot to look at. At one of the places we got a presentation of various spices and oils - both for cooking and as cosmetics. There was also time for shopping some of the spices. After walking around the parts that more or less were a bazaar, we finally ended up in the large square Mhamid. Here we had a quarter of an hour that each individual could use to look around or do a bit of shopping or whatever they wanted to do. Most people were a bit tired after all the walking and took it easy, the three of us sat down in a cafe and had something to drink.

When the time was right, the whole group gathered again and walked a little further to the Dar Nejjarine restaurant where we were going to have lunch. Here we ate the food on the terrace, even though it was a bit windy. We had a view over the roofs of the low houses in the city and also over to the Atlas Mountains with snow on the highest peaks. After lunch we got into the bus and drove back to the hotel.

Now it was the end of the official program and thus we had the afternoon at our own disposal. Now rain was expected, so the three of us and one more of the group took it easy in the rooms and agreed to meet again at 18:00. For my own part, I took a good siesta and then I finished yesterday's chapter in the diary and finally a shower.

Mosque in Tinmel. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 4/4 2019).

The four of us gathered at the reception. It was raining outside, sometimes heavily, so the pool bar was rejected as a place to take "medicine". Instead we went into the sister hotel Opera Plaza and sat in the bar there for our 'medicine'. It was also time for an extra "medicine"... Then the small group was expanded to five before we chose one of the restaurants in the hotel as a dinner venue - Bella Italia. After the meal we went back to our hotel and each went to our room. It was getting late, so I chose to just go to bed.

Marrakech is a city in southwest Morocco, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. The city has over 1 million inhabitants, and is the provincial capital of the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region. The name Marrakech is amzigh (probably mur n akuch), and means "Land of God".
Marrakech is Morocco's fourth largest city, after Casablanca, Rabat and Fez. The city has Morocco's largest traditional market (souk) and the large square Djemaa el Fna is said to be the busiest in Africa. Like many other Moroccan cities, Marrakech has an old town, the medina, connected to the modern district of Gueliz.
Marrakech was founded by the Almoravid prince Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar in 1070–1072, to replace Aghmat as capital. Over the centuries, the city has been the capital and center for trade, princes, imams and scientists.
The city has a rail connection to Casablanca. South-west of Gueliz is the international airport Menara.
In 1985, the medina in Marrakech was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The reason was the old town's large number of buildings and facilities from its historic golden age. Among the city's cultural-historical buildings and sights that gave rise to World Heritage status are the Saadi Dynasty mausoleum, the Koutoubia Mosque and the Bin Yousuf madrassa. In addition, there are several other mosques, madrassas, zaouias (religious schools, somewhat similar to madrassas), synagogues, the Shrob ou shouf fountain, the Almoravide koubba from 1117, the tombs of the city's seven holy men, the El Badi Palace, the Bahia Palace, the tanneries, the market stalls, the city wall and the city gates.
Among the city's newer sights is the Majorelle Garden, which was begun by the French painter Jacques Majorelle in 1924.

The garden of the Bahia Palace. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 5/4 2019).

Day 10 - Saturday April 6. 2019


Then we had reached the final full day in Morocco and Marrakech. We had it at our disposal. I got up at 7:30, got ready and then went down to have breakfast a little before eight. We all sat there and had breakfast at the same time, including the guide Ali, who was to return home to Egypt that day. As a thank you for the job, he received a small book as a gift from the group. We then exchanged a few e-mail addresses and then we thanked them for guiding us.

After breakfast, I finished writing yesterday's chapter in the diary and then the three boys and Swedish Anders were ready for a walk. We calmly walked down to the center with the Koutoubia mosque and the Jamaa el Fna square. Here we sat down at a restaurant for a short break and had something to drink. We then walked around the edge of the square and partly into the narrow shopping streets/alleys called souks. However, no further than that we had good control on the way back to the square. It was easy to get lost in the alleys. After walking the entire circuit and buying a t-shirt on the way, we stopped at a new restaurant for a short break and something to drink.

After the drink it was time for lunch and we were caught up at Naim food. Here we sat on the terrace after climbing some narrow stairs. The food wasn't exactly something to brag about, but it was, after all, something to eat. After lunch we agreed to walk back to the hotel. On the way back we stopped by Cyber Parc Arsat Moulay Abdeslam. It was much quieter here than along the road on the outside and, moreover, the surface was softer than the asphalt. After walking a bit inside the park, we came out on the road again by the city wall. A little further up the street we took a break at an ice cream bar - Dino - where we each had our variation of Italian ice cream. We then continued back to the hotel.

Walking around in the Medina. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 5/4 2019).

Once back in the room I sat down and listened to a football match from England with my team Hereford FC. The match ended 2-2 against Stockport, a good result for us.

A little while later there was a gathering in the bar by the pool, where the four of us had our "medicine". It was a bit sour when the wind picked up a bit, so after a "medicine" we pulled into the sister hotel's bar and had another "medicine" there. Then we also got a visit from Gunvor, who joined us for dinner afterwards, just like the night before. We had picked out a restaurant and finally found it, not too far from our hotel, in a small restaurant area outside the city center. Here we went to the Rotisserie de la Paix restaurant and had our last dinner of the trip in Marrakesh and Morocco. This time a proper piece of meat, either entrecôte or fillet. It tasted excellent. After dinner we walked the short way back to the hotel and then the final day was gone.

Day 11 - Sunday April 7. 2019

Marrakesh - Frankfurt - Oslo

I got up at 07:30, had a shower and then went down to the breakfast restaurant and had breakfast at 08:00 with the guys. We relaxed and chatted a bit, also with the others in the group. Then it was back to the room. Here I updated the diary. And then it was time to start packing to go home.

When the time came, everyone gathered with their suitcases in the lobby. We boarded the bus that was supposed to take us to the airport bus, only to be stopped shortly after take off as one of us had forgotten to settle the bill. Once that was sorted, we could continue to the airport. We made our way into the departure hall and joined the check-in queue. It took time, but eventually everyone had checked in. Then a line of different checks, whether it was a security check or a passport check. It took time as well, but eventually we got through. Once inside we made it to the gate and then onto the plane. Soon after, we were on our way to Frankfurt.

Atlas mountains from Marrakech. (Photo: Terje Pettersen-Dahl, 5/4 2019).

On board the plane we were served food. A small problem was that the drinks did not arrive until quite some time after the food had been served and eaten. After that, we mostly sat and half-asleep until we arrived in Frankfurt. In Frankfurt there was a new round of passport control and security checks. Then it was to find the next gate for the flight to Oslo. Although we had plenty of time, it also took time to get through. After a short wait, we were ready to board. The flight to Oslo was like the previous flight, only shorter. We arrived in Oslo at a quarter past eleven in the evening. I said goodbye to the guys after we had received our suitcases, and then it was time to wait for the airport bus, which didn't leave until a quarter past midnight. From the airport bus, I then had to walk the last bit home, as the scheduled bus did not run that late in the evening. Once inside the apartment, I just put down my suitcase and bag, got ready in the bathroom and then went to bed.

Thus another great holiday had come to an end.