M6 isn’t a chemical formula or a new make of car, as you might think, but the nickname of Mohammed VI, as the king of Morocco likes to be called. But let’s start at the beginning …
It only takes 300 minutes to get from the lively centre of Basel to Camp Lodge Agafay in Nzala CAMP LODGE AGAFAY Basel Mulhouse to Marrakesh in three hours! That was truly easy to achieve with EASYJET , except for the long queue at passport control upon arrival. I haven’t checked, but it seemed like three planes arrived at the same time and then it can take a while. The hand-over of the hired car was fast and easy again.
It was nearly dark when we left behind the bright floodlights of the airport in our 4WD Duster, and the right road (the R212) was located quickly as well. “Terres des Etoiles” is an Eco Lodge erected in the desert region Agafay. It’s situated on a slight elevation and afforded us the first views of the High Atlas. Dinner started with mint tea, sweetened of course, and fragrant Moroccan dishes like Mamm with warm dates, caramalised onions, olives and freshly baked bread.
From Imlil to Agadir
After a good night’s rest in a Berber tent, we took a couple of small, often hard to find roads to Amizmiz and via Asni to Imlil the next morning (after mint tea, naturally). We had reservations in Kasbah du Toubkai and were pleasantly surprised to be checked into the tower room with its own roof terrace and view of the 4164m high Toubkal. KASBAH DU TOUBKAL
The hotel boasts a dignified atmosphere, candle light in the restaurant, a hamam, a wild herb and rose garden. The valley itself is made fertile by snow melt, and the fruit, olives and especially the beautiful old walnut trees are a feast for the eyes. Imlil lives on tourism, so be prepared for hustle and bustle, haggling and higher prices. Countless operators offer a wide range of excursions, including hiking up the Toubkal (4165m).
The first leg of the R203 from Imlil to Tizin Test 2091m is truly impressive and light on traffic (at least during our journey in November 2016). Tight serpentine curves, potholes and seemingly abandoned little villages mark this tour. Since the distance from Imlil to Agadir is 320 km, we started out early, after all there’s also the beautiful mosque of Tin Mal to visit. MOSCHEE TIN MAL
The mosque is only a few metres beside the road and there’s always someone on site to open the otherwise closed building for visitors. A donation is obligatory, as it is awe inspiring to wander through the old chambers thinking of the 12th century. At the highest point of the Tizin Pass is a little café with a beautiful view. It’s run by two men who are exerting themselves to make you experience true hospitality !
This 3 km long beach and the hotel by the same name are teeming with surfers, merchants and racketeers of every kind. It’s ideal for an early morning run but spoiled by plastic garbage, like most parts of the coast. The PARADISE PLAGE HOTEL presents itself as a surf, yoga and spa resort, but beware:
We spent two nights there and there was no quiet place to be found, neither at breakfast nor dinner. Approximately 85% of all guests were families, and thus the cool surf and yoga location looked less like the beautiful pictures on the website and more like a giant kindergarten. Unfortunately the weekly surf party was on as well, and we had to complain about it at midnight. To cut a long story short, the hotel doesn’t deliver what it promises, neither in its gastronomy, nor its other offers.
In the early hours of the morning we drove to Essouira, along the coastal road that winds through undulating country full of argan trees. Morocco is famous for this wonderful oil, which is perfect for cooking and as well as cosmetic products. Small villages break the monotony of the landscape, and we leave the coast to drive east to Marrakesh. There we reach the airport after 330km and return our rental car. I’m relieved not to have to drive anymore and enjoy the lack of responsibility as I lean against the window of the taxi that’s driving us to our hotel at the centre of the Medina in Marrakesh.
Marrakesh (the red city) and Riad le Close des Arts
Morocco offers a treasure trove for everyone interested in architecture, history or culture, and the more you get into a subject matter, the more exciting this “time travel” back into the North African kingdom becomes. An excellent place to start your discoveries, and a place of relaxation at the same time is the Riad le Close des Arts. RIAD LE CLOSE DES ARTS
The tastefully restored hotel impresses you right from the start with its authenticity, warmth and unbelievable quiet in the midst of this old trading metropolis. A small but not insignificant detail about this accommodation has to be mentioned: due to the old building style of a riad, all rooms are very poorly sound proofed. The smallest sounds travel like waves and can easily create an unpleasant effect if you’re not careful. With ‘one’ word, you hear everything !
I sipped a delicious cup of coffee at the roof terrace in the early morning, as the town began to awaken. Life streamed like blood through the countless little streets and intersections of Medina. The liveliness, the impulsiveness and activities on the markets didn’t require the help of strong coffee to feel intense; they evoked a very real presence of past times.
Architecture, history and beautiful photography are combined by the Maison de la Photographie. To find it is as much of a pleasure as to collect old black-and-white photographs. Maison de la photographie
If you go into the teeming souks afterwards, you will soon wish to find another quiet oasis. Dar Chefria in the heart of the souk isn’t easy to find, but very rewarding. DAR CHÉRIFA
The Dar Cherifa offers an authentic, quiet atmosphere you will find easy to identify with. It also has good food, strong Moroccan coffee and offers the relaxation necessary for the last leg back to our own Riad.
The variety of museums, galleries, restaurants and old crafts in Marrakesh is as large and broad as the offerings on the markets. You wonder who is buying all these things, as the production is visibly on-going while the stalls are already so heavily laden, and reminiscent of ancient resplendence.
MUSEE DE MOUASSINE offers regularly concerts in the evenings, which are as rewarding as the house’s architecture. The museum also invites you to go on a journey through time on its various levels. Surrounded by historic walls and the sounds of the old Berbs, you easily feel transported backwards.
In the midst of the souk, this traditional, historic looking building features old structures which have lovingly been restored. The music is lively and turned our last evening in Morocco once more into a moving opportunity to connect deeply with the culture of the North African desert state.
The ballooning is a real highlight
It is five in the morning when we silently closed the doors and left Riad. At that time of the day even Marrakech is quiet and the narrow alleys from yesterday appear like small empty highways. The pick up service was perfect and after a 30 min. drive we found ourselves in a remote desert landscape. The smell of fresh coffee boosts us and in front of us Michel and his team is getting the balloon ready for take off . MARO MONTGOLFIERE
For the hole of Morocco the just allowed three companies to run there business and Michel continues to talk about all the difficulties and how painstaking there way was (and is) to fulfil his dream of flying his balloon in Morocco.
But now the balloon stands free and with each burst of propane gas we get more and more amazed. Totally astonished of the balloons dimension we all jump in the huge basket which fits 20 people ! We are just 10 so there is lots of space to move around while we get airborne and Michel burst for one more time gas in the balloon.
Fast, noiseless and incredible elegant we rise up to 850 m in a couple of minutes while the world beneath us begins to shrink. With each meter we rise the gestures of the clients are changing, mine as well. It is this mystification we once had as kids which now comes back and fascinate us again. The surrounding is barren and so the view remarkable uprisings are even more dominant and the small villages appear lost in this huge desert like landscape, just a sone’s throw away from Marrakech.
Morocco seen critically or to whom belongs Morocco ?
I quote from the DUMON travel handbook from Morocco (3 rd issue 2015)
Moumen Diouris book, was published in 1992, is a eminent book full of facts and data. It proves the inner view of the moroccan national economy. The base line of the author is: That the, in 1924 established and 1980 from Hassan the II acquired holding company Omnium Nord African (ONA) is used for the interconnection of key industries to fill up the private coffers of the king. The ONA is meanwhile the biggest private enterprise group in Afrika !
With his private fortune of two billion Euros the „Roi des pauvres“ (english: king of the poor) is without any doubt the richest king worldwide. M6 ist the biggest landowner in Morocco and also the biggest producer of groceries but is of course – tax exempt ! King MOHAMMED (M6)
Inschallah, Morocco November 2016