Morocco in the world

Our trip

From 1 to 11 April 2001 included.

Paris - Marrakech - Ouarzazate - Erfoud - Zagora - Ouarzazate - Paris on a Royal Air Maroc regular flight.

Marrakech: Hotel Pacha (212) 44431327. Fair, but nothing to write home about. The cold meal that had been booked in advance for the first night was not served. Ordinary continental breakfast.

Ouarzazate: Hotel Belere (212) 44882803. Very good. Very good buffet.

Erfoud: Hotel Salam. Very good. Very good buffet.

Zagora: Hotel Tinsouline (212) 44847225. Good. Belly dancing for the tourists.

Ouarzazate: Hotel Riad Salam (212) 44883335. My favourite hotel. Arab musical band and folklore dances. Large rooms. Good buffet but the desserts were always the same. Very helpful staff.

We had thought we would be cold at high elevations but we were wrong. Temperatures were often higher than 30C and sometimes reached 35C. Be careful about sunburns.

Food: Never drink tap water, only mineral water. Don't brush your teeth with tap water. In spite of these precautions, 4 of us were taken ill at various degrees because of food poisoning (fever, body ache, headache and diarrhoea). Nothing dangerous but we were glad we had taken some medicine with us, especially against "Montezuma's revenge". The food was all right, even good in the hotels or restaurants by the side of the roads, but don't stop just anywhere. In the end, we got tired of eating "tagines".

Driving: You've got to drive carefully, especially in towns and villages. Nobody takes care of those white lines or give-way signs and I saw tens of people overtaking at the top of a hill or on a bend. Lorries, bikes, donkeys and women move about on the roads and are all overloaded. Coaches and 4-wheel drive cars go like hell and pelt you with stones. Fortunately, roads are good but mind the ruts and large stones of the dirt tracks whose rugged surface will be an ordeal for your car. The dust is a nuisance and all donkeys are grey in the dark, just like dromedaries or any vehicle without lights. In this 2200 km long trip, I saw a lorry which had overturned in the ditch and a driver run over a cyclist. As the former apparently looked responsible for the death of the latter, he was all but lynched by the village people.

If you intend to go and see the Erg Chebbi sand dunes at Merzouga, hire an official guide at the hotel because the road is dangerous at night. We were able to negotiate and leave at 4 in the morning with an Italian group and did without the guide on the return trip to have enough time to spend near the dunes. It cost us 250 Dirhams. Contrary to what you can read everywhere, the scenery isn't much more beautiful at sunrise than what it is one hour later and I didn't think the risks we took going down the slopes at full throttle were worth it.

Erg Chebbi (Photo by Bruno Voguet)

On the whole, people were very nice but very clingy. You can't stop anywhere for a photo without being pestered. Imagine what it is like when you stay on the same spot for half-an-hour, trying to do some birdwatching. Lock your doors and don't leave anything that might tempt anybody, bearing in mind that everybody is tempted by anything there. It is said you shouldn't encourage begging, but how can you remain unmoved by a young girl dressed in rags and asking for a dirham, a sweet or a ball-point pen? I sometimes felt I should have brought heaps of clothes with me to distribute. As for photographing people, of course, ask for permission. People react in various ways: some accept readily, others accept if they get paid, some women run away or hide behind their veils and other people become aggressive when you just try to frame before taking a picture of a landscape.

Credit cards are far from being welcome everywhere. At petrol stations, very often you won't be able to get an imprint of your credit card because the machine is out of order and getting your small change back is frequently a problem, especially if you're having a drink at the hotel. After waiting for a quarter of an hour, you decide to leave it as a tip. More often than not, prices are not indicated except on menus and petrol stations. Haggling soon becomes tiring if you're in a hurry and you're never sure you haven't been fleeced. In Ouarzazate, it is better to go to the co-operative store facing the Tourist Kasbah where prices are indicated and you don't have to do any horse (or camel) trading. The salesmen are civil servants and don't bother you too much. Moreover, you're sure that your silver is silver and not just any silvery metal and you will back the local craftsmen. Your items will be made in Morocco and not "made in Taiwan". I have nothing against Taiwanese, but what's the use of going to Morocco and buy their paste jewellery?

The "Rent-a-Car" agent got us to sign a document without our seeing the car before. We noted down a few reservations, just in case. According to him, there was "no problem". Actually my left rear-view mirror was broken, just like the windscreen and the back left door did not open. I won't mention scratches or rubber parts which were hanging loose here and there. Everybody had their own problems. The agent demanded a guarantee deposit in cash but we adamantly refused and he had to accept a credit card imprint. We picked up the car with a full tank and we had to return it with an empty one. As there are no petrol stations all along the 180 km of the Tichka Pass, I played it safe and returned the car with a half full tank. I suppose that this is what is expected from you.

Splendid. Morocco looks like Arizona with more palm trees and fewer cactuses. Of course, there is less water and houses are different, just like the wildlife.

Two hours ahead of the time in France.

Resting in an oasis (Photo by Bruno Voguet)

Bird species observed:

I didn't see personally the species marked * and my comments are all but scientific. They are only personal impressions.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus About twenty at the Lake of Ouarzazate.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo About ten at the Lake of Ouarzazate.
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2 individuals in a colony right in Ouarzazate.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Several birds in a colony right in Ouarzazate.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides One bird in the Draa Valley at Tamnougalt.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Fairly common. Ouarzazate and dry riverbeds.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Some at the Lake of Ouarzazate.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Several nests on buildings in different villages.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 2 at the Lake of Ouarzazate and 2 in flight at Aid Benhaddou.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 4 at the Lake of Ouarzazate.
Black Kite Milvus migrans A few birds at the Lake of Ouarzazate.
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus A male "dune"-hopping at Merzouga.
Western Marsh Harrier * Circus aeruginosus Between Erfoud and Zagora.
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus cirtensis A few in the Tichka Pass.
Bonelli's Eagle * Hieraaetus fasciatus Rare. One individual at Aid Benhaddou.
Booted Eagle Aquila pennata Several in the Tichka Pass. One individual in Erfoud and one in the dark phase at Aid Benhaddou.
Short-toed Snake-Eagle Circaetus gallicus Rare. One bird west of Erfoud.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus One bird at the Lake of Ouarzazate.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common almost everywhere.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni A few birds.
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides One bird (two?) near the Tagdilt track.
Barbary Partridge * Alectoris barbara One bird in the Draa Valley.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 3 individuals in the Draa Valley.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus One individual in the Draa Valley and one in Aid Benhaddou.
Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor A few here and there along dirt tracks and dry river beds.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Fairly common in dry river beds. Draa Valley and Aid Benhaddou.
Dunlin Calidris alpina Tamnougalt (Draa Valley).
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii 2 individuals in Aid Benhaddou.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 4 in Aid Benhaddou.
Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos One individual in the Draa Valley.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 2 in the Draa Valley and 2 in Aid Benhaddou.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax 2 in Aid Benhaddou.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 2 or 3 birds in the Draa Valley and Aid Benhaddou.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis 120 between 8 and 9 a.m. in Aid Benhaddou.
Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus Merzouga dunes. 37 individuals, identified thanks to their calls by a group of Swedes.
Rock Dove Columba livia Dades Gorges. No account taken of birds seen in towns.
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus Wherever there are trees.
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Common in towns and villages although not indicated in some guide books.
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur Fairly common.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis In palm groves.
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus One individual near Ait Ourir in the Tichka Pass.
Common Swift Apus apus Anywhere.
Pallid Swift * Apus pallidus Rare.
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops One bird in the Draa Valley.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis One bird in the Draa Valley.
European Bee-Eater Merops apiaster Very common in villages.
Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater Merops persicus Much scarcer. Near palm groves, especially in the Draa Valley.
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla One migrating in Merzouga. No rectrices.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Fairly common along dirt tracks.
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae Some individuals along dirt tracks. I identified them when they sang.
Short-toed Lark * Calandrella brachydactyla Lake of Ouarzazate.
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti Fairly common along dirt tracks.

Bar-tailed Lark

Ammomanes cinctura Along dirt tracks. Maybe less common?
Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha Tagdilt track. Rare.
Greater Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes Some along dirt tracks.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Fairly rare. Ouarzazate and Ad Benhaddou.
Eurasian Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris Dades Gorges. Nests in Ad Benhaddou.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common.
Red-rumped Swallow * Hirundo daurica Rare. Draa Valley.
Northern House Martin Delichon urbicum Some.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris 2 or 3 birds along dirt tracks.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Fairly common.
63Yellow WagtailMotacilla flava iberiaeFairly Common.
Grey Wagtail * Motacilla cinerea At Benhaddou.
Winter Wren * Troglodytes troglodytes Tizi n'Tichka.
Garden Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus Very common.
European Robin * Erithacus rubecula One bird seen.
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Common along river beds.
Rufous Scrub-Robin * Cercotrichas galactotes Near Erfoud.
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus One male migrating in Merzouga.
Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri One male in the Tichka Pass, along the road leading to Talhouet.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe oenanthe and O.o. seebohmi Fairly common.
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti Along dirt tracks.
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica Common.
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens halophila Very rare. One bird along a dirt track north of the Lake of Ouarzazate.
White-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga Near Amerzgane, along the roads west of Erfoud. Pretty common in some places.
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura Some birds in the Tichka Pass, in the direction of Talhouet, in the Dades Gorges and in Aid Benhaddou.
Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta Pretty rare. Tagdilt track.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra 2 individuals on the Tagdilt track.
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius One bird in the Tichka Pass, in the direction of Talhouet and maybe another in the Dades Gorges.
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula Where there are deciduous trees.
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans Some birds in Merzouga and in the Tichka Pass.
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis One bird in Merzouga.
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Dades Gorges. A few birds in various places.
Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida A few in the Draa Valley and Zagora.
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli 2 or 3 in Merzouga.
Wood Warbler * Phylloscopus sibilatrix One bird in Merzouga.
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 2 or 3 in Merzouga.
Spotted Flycatcher * Muscicapa striata Rare. One bird in the Atlas.
European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Ouarzazate. One bird.
Great Tit Parus major Singing in the Tichka Pass.
Coal Tit Parus ater Singing in the Tichka Pass.
North-African Tit Cyanistes caeruleus ultramarina In the Tizi-n-tichka Pass..
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Rare.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator Common in many places.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Some in various places.
Fulvous Chatterer Turdoides fulvus West of Erfoud. Some birds near villages. A brood of 4 with adults in N'kob.
Common Magpie Pica pica Where there are trees.
Red-billed Chough * Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax One bird in the Tichka Pass.
Common Raven Corvus corax Pretty rare. In the Tichka Pass.
Rown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis Some in Merzouga and between Erfoud and the Draa Valley.
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Very few, seen in Marrakech.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common around houses.
Spanish Sparrow * Passer hispaniolensis Rare.
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia Some in the Tichka Pass in the direction of Talhouet.
Desert Sparrow Passer simplex Some in Merzouga.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs africana Tizi-n-tichka.
Eurasian Linnet * Carduelis cannabina Rare?
European Godlfinch Carduelis carduelis Where there are trees.
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris A few in wooded areas.
European Serin Serinus serinus A few in wooded areas.
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra 2 individuals in the Tizi-n-tichka Pass.
Trumpeter Finch Rhodopechys githagineus Some along the Tagdilt track, often near the water.
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana One bird at N'kob.
House Bunting Emberiza striolata sahari Fairly common around and even in houses.

Other animal species :

We also saw Dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius), a hare sp, a big rodent with a tail like a rat's and a rufous body, a kind of squirrel with a rufous body and a grey head striped with black, 3 Psammodroma algyre, a few Trapelus mutabilis, 3 House Geckoes (Hemidactylus turcicus), many Mauremys leprosa at the Lake of Ouarzazate and huge black beetles in the Merzouga dunes, one of which had a spiky abdomen.

Home page
My Trips