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2019 Morocco: The Door of Africa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by GF-kam, Dec 14, 2019.

  1. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. DAY 4: Boumalne Dades to Erfoud

    We're all looking forward to a rest day in Erfoud. We finally get to Erfoud after four straight long days. I actually managed to shoot more photos today. Once over the Atlas Mountains we enter the beautiful open desert landscape. We're getting closer to the famous Merzouga desert and dunes.
    49168501923_f46b8556d0_o.jpg

    Morocco is a diverse landscape. But, I agree with those who believe the beauty of Morocco is in the south.
    49168502558_8722e0f20e_o.jpg

    The open desert landscape and distance mountain range is breathtaking. I am a happy camper now.
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    The local colors and crafts.
    49168669531_6438022865_o.jpg


    Our lunch stop. Hung out with local family who runs this little cafe / inn. I think you'll like Moroccan food. The tagine are served piping hot. In fact bubbling. Have some tagine, bread, and mint tea....and you're good to go for another 200 km.
    49168688686_370e25bd0f_o.jpg


    I'm finally feeling like a Amazigh ( Berber ).
    49168689086_055cbca419_o.jpg



    Our hotel for next two nights. Nice! The Kasbah Hotel Xaluca is the same place KTM launched the new KTM 790 Adventure with Chris Birch and other luminaries. Also where team rally KTM hangs out. Beautiful 4 star resort for about $80 / night.
    49168362828_aaa6534a1a_o.jpg
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    Now that's a dagger. About 6 ft. tall.
    49168844391_df193e1786_o.jpg
    #21
  2. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    Looks like a very interesting place to travel. I liked the video of the Amazigh.
    #22
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  3. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    More pics of our lodging and trip to Erfoud.

    Vegetable tagine with green olives and eggs cracked in. Local currency is Dirham. About 10 Dirham to 1 Euro. In general everything is very affordable compared to traveling through EU , U.S., or other western countries. Morocco is more line with places like Mexico and India. Dollar goes a long way.
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    Lazy afternoon.
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    More pics of our Hotel Xaluca.
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    Calorie busting buffet.
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    As I mentioned earlier a lot of the KTM and bike / rally type events take place around area and at this hotel. You'll probably recognize our hotel in this KTM 790 Adventure launch video:


    At the resort, I unknowingly rubbed elbows with Paris Dakar Rally spaniard Jodi Arcarons. 17 time Dakar Rally racer and 6 time podium holder. I am a fan boy.
    9qk5cz-705x445.jpg

    I guess you call that quicksand. Jordi Arcarons at the 1992 Dakar Rally.
    jordi_arcarons_1992.jpg


    Spain has a long history in top rally and moto GP racers. So, the Spaniards are very courteous to motorcycle riders. No issues riding around Spain.
    #23
  4. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    Temps were a bit cool in evening to swim. But perfect for daytime riding with all gear. The season is winding down in Morocco by late November. Absolutely perfect weather. Having seen the Atlas Mountains, I am glad I travelled through Morocco in November rather than spring. I would imagine the chance of encountering snowpack and cold winter weather is much higher in the spring. I've seen a couple ride reports with inmates riding in 2-3 inches of snow.
    49169072617_6851b07700_k.jpg


    Bet you didn't know Morocco has skiing in the winter:
    https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/morocco-atlas-mountain-ski-trek/index.html

    http---cdn.cnn.com-cnnnext-dam-assets-161109144936-atlas-mountain-ski-14.jpg


    The place we stayed at in Erfoud had a fleet of rally dirt bikes. I am not 100% sure if the bike rental shop was affiliated with the hotel or Jodi Arcarons. I did run into a 65 year old German adventure rider who was learning how to ride in the desert at speeds of 100 - 120 km/h ( 60-75 MPH ).
    49168363038_e03be0bba2_k.jpg
    #24
  5. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    DAY 5: Rest day #1. Erfoud

    Spent the morning sleeping in a bit. I think I got up at 7:30 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. Woohoo ! Cleaned some gear, had breakfast, and had a few siestas. In the afternoon, a bunch of us decided to ride out to the Merzouga desert and rent a quad or buggy. Turned out to be an unbelievable day.

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    Sand dunes as far as the eye can see. 49168358588_1d71f9ced3_o.jpg

    We all experienced a magical time standing on the peaks of the dunes as the sunset.
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    .
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    Firs time I tried a quad ATV. My buddy was suffering sand PTSD from our last Baja trip, so he switched to a buggy ( RZR knockoff ).
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    The sand is very fine. Much finer than beach sand. I have a vial of that sand sitting on my bookshelf forever.
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    #25
  6. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. Merzouga desert.

    I'll let the photos speak for themselves. I don't think you could take a bad picture during dusk with the new auto focus smart phones. Hopefully I can get some of my videos uploaded later.
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    #26
  7. PPleven

    PPleven Adventurer

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    How I can enter Melilla or Ceuta from Europe with my own motorcycle?

    Can I travel between these two spanish towns through Morocco? For example: If I enter Ceuta with ferry, can I pass the border checkpoints and go to Mellila, where I will back in Europe wit ferry again?
    #27
  8. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    I am not 100% sure. I was with a fixer ( guide ). I am sure you need your usual paperwork for bike. Items like Title / proof of bike ownership under your name, Registration / valid plates and registration, proof of Insurance, and some kind of temporary import permit. You need to check with Morocco consulate or one of the local bike rental shops near southern Spain.

    I know when traveling for U.S.A. you need a valid passport. Expiration at least good for 6 months. U.S. citizen doesn't need a visa for traveling to Morocco; I am sure there is a time limit. You need an international motorcycle driver's license. Looks like a booklet with your photo. The international license / permit is in dozens of languages. I know they will routinely check your passport as follows:

    From Algeciras , Spain:

    - Coming from Spain, they be a passport check before boarding ferry.
    - I think you pickup a slip of paper at ferry or on ferry. Bring a pen. You have to fill out some information off your passport: passport number, expiration date, occupation, name.
    - Passport check on ferry as your cross Gibraltar.
    - When you get off the ferry in Tanger Port Med, your passport will be check again.

    Coming back from Ceuta, Spain for Malaga:

    - You have a very busy and long border crossing. The first entrance is Morocco exit. You will need passport. 50 meters on others side you have Spain border crossing. They will check passport again and ask some questions.
    - Once in Ceuta, I cannot remember is anyone checked our passport. I guess once you're in Ceuta, you are in Spain.

    My advice is, you need to check with Moroccan embassy or consulate. I would hate to get to border and find out you need some special form.

    Some additional info I found online:

    " Remember that Morocco has a very complicated border entry process. You will need to have all the motorcycle documents in your name. If the motorcycle is not registered in your name you will need a notarized authorization from the owner. Make sure your motorcycle insurance is valid in Morocco. Good news is insurance can usually be bought at the border. "

    Looks like you will need a temporary permit to import bike into Morocco:
    http://www.morocco-knowledgebase.net/forum/showthread.php?t=73

    Some additional information from Lonely Planet:
    https://www.lonelyplanet.com/morocco/transport/getting-around/car-and-motorcycle

    Depending on your length of stay, you may want to find out if Morocco has a dealership and parts source for your type and brand of bike. I am not even sure if Morocco has a BMW dealership. Maybe one KTM dealer in one of the big northern cities. Want to make sure you change oil and new set of tires somewhere in southern Spain.

    Good luck. Have fun. Post some pics .
    #28
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  9. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    Video footage of our afternoon exploring the Merzouga desert and sand dunes. Amazing place. A first for sure. Closest I'll ever get to Dakar Rally. A must visit. The Merzouga dunes are about one hour from Erfoud. Very close to the Algeria border. If you look at Google Maps satellite view, you can see the region with dunes. I suppose nothing compared to the vast area of desert in Algeria, Mauritania, and Libya. The Sahara.


    Best viewed on big screen with earbuds cranked up ;-)





    .
    Google Map view showing Merzouga location.
    Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 2.52.48 PM.png



    Some trivia from Wikipedia:

    " The Sahara (/səˈhɑːrə/, /səˈhærə/; Arabic: الصحراء الكبرى‎, aṣ-ṣaḥrāʼ al-kubrá, 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert located on the African continent. It is the largest hot desert in the world, and the third largest desert overall after Antarctica and the Arctic.[1] Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi)[2] is comparable to the area of China or the United States.[3] The name 'Sahara' is derived from a dialectal Arabic word for "desert", ṣaḥra (صحرا /ˈsˤaħra/).[4][5][6][7] "

    Vast region.

    576px-Sahara_satellite_hires.jpg
    #29
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  10. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    Some thoughts, suggestions, and reminders.

    The people in Morocco seem very nice, helpful, and I always felt safe. The Kingdom of Morocco has a significant network of paved roads throughout the country. The cities in the north like Rabat , Marrakesh, Ifran, Fez, and Finideq look modern. The country seems to have prioritized infrastructure and tourism.

    I found Google Translate very handy. Far better than traveling with conventional phrase book. Just make sure you have Spanish, Arabic, French, and English loaded on Google Translate. Fantastic app. You can speak into into your smartphone in any langue, or write, or take a photo to translate.

    The Dirham is a closed currency; really worth something only in country. Don't try to bring Dirhams outside of Morocco. Won't be worth anything. I doubt any bank will exchange it. About 20 Dirham to Euro. When you travel around the countryside, not a lot of places take credit cards. Probably because they don't have internet connection of credit card machines. So, have some Dirhams for incidentals. You probably don't need more than a few days worth of Dirhams. Most hotels will exchange Euros or U.S. Dollars to Dirham. You'll find banks and ATM in bigger cities.

    Drones are not allowed in Morocco. I also don't believe satellite phones are allowed. Two way communication / SOS devices like DeLorme InReach are probably OK. I left mine home this trip. I did buy a SIM card. It worked for data, but I could never figure out the voice. Next time I will just active my Verizon phone for international traveling . Coverage in country seems good. Most hotels and Auberge have WiFi.

    Power outlets are similar to Spain and other parts of Europe. The big two prong type C, 220 v. plug.
    https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.o...u/when-travelling/travel-adaptor-for-morocco/

    Bring a universal power adapter that has a C type 220 v. plug.

    I also travel with a small 110/220 v. USB charging station.

    Most hotels have bottled water in room or in mini bar. Most restaurants and cafe also have bottled water, sodas, and Zero Coke ( sans sucra ).

    Morocco is not a dry country like Saudi Arabia. Although, Morocco is a muslim country alcohol is sold in restaurants, hotels, and I think liquor stores. Most hotels are auberge ( inns ) have a small bar and serve drinks. Morocco even produces some local wine. Taxes and prices are a bit high on liquor. I wouldn't worry about lugging bottles from EU.

    Keep to cooked foods and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are OK as long as they are peeled. You'll be fine is most hotels and auberges that cater to foreigners.
    #30
  11. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    DAY 6: Erfoud to Fez

    After an early breakfast, we leave our beautiful lodging in an oasis for the imperial city of Fez. Today we cross the Middle Atlas mountains on our way to Fez. We will see the Cedar National Forest and experience riding in a high plateau.

    The Merzouga sand dunes are in that little are called Erg Chebbi. Just southeast of Erfoud. The yellow highlighted + signs is the Algerian border.

    We head north for remainder of trip. So, the southerly winter sun will be behind us after 11 a.m. or so.
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    Our route from Erfoud to Fez. Ifrane is a city settled by the colonial French. So the architecture looks like an alpine European city.
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    Some more trivia about the city of Irfane. https://idir-amouddou.blogspot.com/2016/02/ifrane-switzerland-of-morocco.html

    Lunch stop somewhere along way.
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    Up at a national park in the Cedar forest. Between Azrou and Ifran.
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    Alpine monkeys. Barbary macaques of Azrou. The climb the tall cedar trees. They seemed happy.
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    Sheep grazing on the high plains plateau. Didn't see much cattle during trip. Mostly sheep and goats. The area reminds me of some of the high plains in Rockies. Beautiful. Another example of how diverse Morocco is. From the Sahara, to the Atlas Mountains, to the Cedar Forest in one day.
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    Look at the size of those cedar tree logs on that truck. Gives you a sense how big and tall the cedar trees are. Feels and looks like somewhere in Mongolia. Maybe my next trip.
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    We are rewarded with this view when we check into our next lodging. Beautiful place overlooking the old city of Fez. You might be able to see the wall that surrounds the medina. Traffic wasn't too bad rolling into Fez.
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    Looking out over Fez.
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    Hotel patio looking out towards the Fez medina. Casablanca is one of the more readily available local Moroccan beer.
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    #31
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  12. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    DAY 7: Rest day. Touring Fez Medina

    Spent the next day exploring one of the most famous imperial cities of Morocco called Fez. A day of exploring the maze of narrow streets / alleys in the medina. The alleys were made no wider than the width of a cart or horse. Walking around the medina was visually rich. Felt like I was back in time.

    Early morning overlooking Fez. Like clockwork, the sound of morning prayer wakes me up. At least I got to take some good pics of sunrise over Fez.
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    Sunrise over Fez. If you look closely past the boulevard below, you can see the ancient wall that goes around the old medina.
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    Sunrise shot from hotel overlooking Fez. Beautiful vantage point. Just below me and to my left was a park. In the evening the locals would congregate and watch over the medina as the sun would set.
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    Another shot of Fez near dusk.
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    I recollect this was a dusk shot of Fez. In part because of the cars parked below near park. Other is, the burning dump pile smoke that appears like fog.
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    Typical bazaar area of the medina.

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    Pan shot of the tannery inside the medina. Something out a movie. They still use the tannery to this day. All kinds of leather goods from bags to motorcycle jackets are made in the adjacent buildings.
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    Tannery.
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    The local residents who live in the medina never have to leave. I think you can find virtually everything.
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    #32
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  13. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. DAY 7: Fez medina

    Happy camper waiting for lunch. I was in a basic alley and just stepped through a basic door and passageway. Next think I know, I am in this luxurious restaurant. Very typical of how homes, riads, and businesses. Nothing more than a wall and door on the outside facade. The beautiful gardens, homes, and courtyards are all on the inside. Very moorish in architecture and design.
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    Nice place compared to some of the roadside cafes and tea houses. Fit for a royal.
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    You can find several of these beautiful restaurants in the old medina.
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    Refreshing desert. The food was fantastic. Especially the small little appetizer dishes before the main tagine and kebab.
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    #33
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  14. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. DAY 7: Fez

    First night at Fez. Dinner.
    IMG_1345.jpg


    Some more pics of walking around Fez medina.
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    Alleys are so narrow that everything has to be delivered by mule, carts, or hand.
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    Olives.
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    Olives being being packed in brine. Everything in the medina is done the way it was done hundreds of years ago. The history of the Fez medina https://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/blog/fez-medina-morocco.html
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    . 49168314048_248c3efbdf_o.jpg


    This place was a government sanctioned mosaic craft store. Kind of a co-op. Slowly by slowly the knowledge and craftsmanship is fading as the younger generation pursues other interests.
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    #34
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  15. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. DAY 7: Fez medina

    These craftsman can chip a 6" X 6" inch piece of colored mosaic into any shape with this crude instrument that basically has a ax sharp edge. They cut the mosaic in a manner to leave a bevel on it. This enables the next artisan to fit the pieces of mosaic shaped without a gap.
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    You can see how the star shaped cut pieces are beveled.
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    .
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    So all the little pieces of mosaic and formed in pattens that ultimately make everything from tables to fountains, etc. Each peace has to be cut by hand and assembled like a complex puzzle.
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    The same mosaic pattern carved and painted into a door make from wood.
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    Time for some handwoven carpets. Bring some extra $$$. Everything gets shipped via DHL.
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    #35
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  16. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. DAY 7: Fez medina

    Tannery.
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    Painted Moroccan pottery waiting to go into the glazing oven.
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    As is the case with the rest of the word, cheaper Chinese made products are making their way into the bazaars and stores.
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    The streets and alleys in the old medina were very clean.
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    .
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    #36
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  17. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    cont. DAY 7: Fez medina

    This young man is taking some tanned hides to the leather craftsman.
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    I am not even sure they allow motorized bikes through the narrow alleys of the old medina.
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    .
    49168789056_27bd4937c2_o.jpg

    One of the entrances to the old medina. Sadly commercial interests are buying out the generationally old shop keepers and residence.
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    I really wanted to ship one of these beautiful tangines back home. But, not at the prices of the government co-op. The local going rate should be in the 20-30 Euro ( 200-300 Dirham ). The opening offer at this store was $750 USD. I am sure something got lost in translation. No my name isn't Paul Allen.
    49168799501_1cd2df1d8b_o.jpg

    This craftsman has the complicated task of assembling the small cut pieces of the mosaic upside down to create a larger pattern for table tops. Once he finishes laying the pieces upside down, he pours a strong epoxy to hold the pieces together. You can see some of the finished table tops in background.
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    From door to one of the palaces in Fez.
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    .
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    #37
  18. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    Thanks for the detailed photos of life in Morocco and the history links. I'm glad some are learning the old ways. Too much is lost in all the countries of the world.
    #38
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  19. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    DAY 8: Fez to Ceuta ( Spain )

    Today we head out of Fez and continue north towards Ceuta. Ceuta is a small Spanish territory on Morocco side. No bigger than a port. So, we have a border crossing to deal with today. Also first encounter with rain during entire trip. I am at that point in the trip where I start reflecting back. That means the trip is approaching the end.

    Next destination Ceuta.
    49174494491_5ced6b2810_o.jpg

    Leaving our hotel in Fez. A little overcast. We don't encounter rain till lunchtime. Our last big push.
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    Stopped at this place for gas and lunch. The rain is coming down now. Pretty steady. 49168848326_f0dccd99a6_o.jpg

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    Another descent cafe. Look for the gas and cafe combos. As mentioned earlier these are usually good places to eat.
    49169073922_25c48fdf9c_o.jpg

    The kitchen is usually a separate building. This place has plenty of tagine ready for big group.
    49169074252_98cd646e8c_o.jpg

    My apologies for any vegetarians for posting this pic.
    49168367198_89b87e3180_o.jpg
    #39
    powderzone and Ginger Beard like this.
  20. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2013
    Oddometer:
    1,200
    Location:
    Great Falls, Virginia
    A quick reminder to those who follow professional rally races around the globe. We have two big events coming up in January. Somewhat competing events on calendar. The 2020 Dakar Rally, which starts on January 5th, has been moved from South American to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Someone sold out. The second rally is the 2020 Africa Eco Race which traces the original Paris Dakar closely. Also on January 5th. Five of the stages will be held in Morocco. I personally plan to watch Lyndon Poskitt and his media crew. I've been a big fan since he raced his first Dakar Rally and his the Races 2 Places journey.

    Lyndon Poskitt's Episode 1 for Africa Eco Race.
    https://enduro21.com/index.php/rall...team-races-to-places-ep-1-with-lyndon-poskitt







    2020 Africa Eco Race route and stages. I am sure all subject to change. Pretty cool to think I just came from the port in Tanger and Morocco.
    1572506700_d6ac18fb-a489-423b-b5b2-eda61c51b708.jpg
    #40