Saturday, 13 September 2014


A bit of a mixed bag/blog entry this month……but hey, that’s the idea.
We are more interested in getting people to visit fabulous Morocco than to just promote ourselves……With 12 scheduled tours covering most of Morocco next year and over half are already FULL [with very limited places remaining on the rest] we are doing OK thanks. However, just a few lines about Desert Detours wouldn’t go amiss……then some interesting “Moroccan” topics.

After what has felt like an age [despite having run a number of Andalusia Tours during high summer] we are now heading back into Morocco, on the “Amazigh” tour. In fact various Moroccan tours are now listed and running every month until next May, then just a couple of months off due to the heat, before we return for the Autumn/Winter schedule.

Having said that many dates are now FULLY BOOKED we still have just a few places remaining on the “Premium” versions of our “Classic” and “Discovery” tours……If you missed earlier information on these particular tours remember that the Premium tours are basically SMALL group tours of around 5/6 vehicles only, generally lead my myself!!!!

Back to this year……You are too late for the final “Amazigh” tour of 2014, we’re on our way now! Both the larger and smaller group tours [12 and 5 vehicle Premium groups respectively] for October are now FULL.

However, if you are  quick…..Due to a couple of cancellations we can now offer ONE vehicle place on the November and One place on the December tours this year, sorry, that’s all we now have available for 2014…..But we start 2015 with just TWO places left on the JANUARY tour. For the rest of 2015 or any of the aforementioned call or email. For 2015 dates read the 2014 schedule on our web-site allowing just a day or so for calendar adjustments. I will get an up-to-date section posted online as soon as I find the time…….


Last month I introduced our new member of the team, 5 month old Jimmy, a cross Something-Labrador…we think! A rescue from the local “Kill-Pound”. His attachment and bonding too me is such that leaving him behind is not an option. Chipped, checked, poked and prodded Jimmy now awaits his final veterinary test results.

Unfortunately these will not be ready until our actual day of departure on the September tour, talk about “down to the wire”…… Positive results are vital for the essential stamps in his passport that will authorise his legal passage between Spain and Morocco.  In the meantime he waits, packed and excited, looking out of the office window, over the sierra, towards distant Morocco.    


We are still looking for a late model long wheel base/high roof van, that we can convert and adapt ourselves, to add to our ever expanding fleet. Must be a left hand drive and a Merc Sprinter or VW would be ideal ……The proverbial “Rocking Horse Poo” springs to mind when searching down here in Southern Spain. IF you hear of one in the UK let us know etc. etc…….


With the combination of holidays and excellent weather, thousands of Moroccans will have been heading for the forests, mountains or beaches. As you read this blog entry Desert Detours clients will be visiting Morocco during rather cooler conditions and without the crowds.

Chefchaouen, situated in the Rif Mountains is high enough to have a cooler climate, but was still hot enough for hundreds to spend each day playing in or beside the local river, Ras El Ma, famed for its crystal clear and icy water.

The other favourite spot for visitors is the town square Uta Al-Hammam, with its restaurants, cafes and Kasbah museum and garden. While a majority of the visitors are Moroccan, Chefchaouen is also popular with foreign tourists, particularly the Spanish. As they soon discover, the town is ridiculously photogenic and can be easily reached in less than one day’s drive from mainland Europe.

Surrounded by the Rif Mountains a cluster of white-washed buildings march up the hillside between two peaks. This is an ideal place to hang out for a couple of days when travelling between Fes and Tangier.

The medina's narrow streets are a vision in various shades of blue. A carryover from when it was a primarily a Jewish quarter, dried pigments are available in the shops, and decorative doors and walls are painted in hues that range from indigo to powder blue and turquoise. Residents are clearly proud of their lovely neighbourhood, as this is quite possibly the cleanest medina in Morocco.

Today the medina has a large Berber population, easily identifiable by their unique clothing, the men in woollen earth-tone djellabas and women in colourful straw hats with red and white striped skirts.
Besides its charming medina, Chefchaouen is known for its marijuana, or, as it's locally called, kiff production. There are plenty of cannabis fields in the hills just outside of town, and while smoking marijuana is illegal though widely tolerated, purchasing it is not recommended.

You can walk right from the old town, past the riverbank where residents are doing laundry, in the Rif Mountains. For a pleasant day hike, head up the graded path past cannabis fields, grazing sheep, and panoramic views of Chefchaouen to the tiny village of El Kalaa.


Rare is the visitor who does not depart Morocco without at least one pair of slippers ….. The Moroccan traditional leather slipper is one of the most important components of traditional Moroccan dress.  Made from soft and pliable Moroccan leather it can be decorated with whole range of beautiful colours, finished plain or covered in embroidery or “Bling”…….. The combinations are endless.
The manufacture of Moroccan slippers, traditionally called “babouche,” is a continuous process that begins with the collection and sorting of the raw animal skins (goat skin, cow skin, and camel skin). Then follows the cleaning, drying and dying until the leather reaches the right level of softness to be more useful for what is called “l’Balgha.”
The ancient imperial city of Fez has perhaps one of the largest centers for slipper traders and craftsmen where the crafting of an exemplary Balgha depends on the quality of the raw materials being used and the tools being utilized in the process.

There are two different kinds of l’Balgha: the traditional Moroccan slippers that pass through the established tanneries during the crafting process, and the modern Moroccan slippers which are produced by machines. Clearly there is a difference and the purchaser needs to be aware….. Modern versions will typically cost…well let’s just say “No Money”, while the hand fashioned version can be quite expensive. The traditional method of hand crafting an artisanal product still sells the most, and is the most popular because it fits the purchasers’ needs.

A variety of cultures and civilizations have visited or passed through Morocco over the centuries and they have all left a special impact on traditional Moroccan dress. They all seemingly played a role in the establishment of the elegant Moroccan Fassi slippers, which are one of the most recognizable components of the Moroccan cultural and traditional apparel. The sale of the Moroccan traditional leather slippers is evenly spread out amongst all the Moroccan cities, such as Marrakesh and Meknes, but Fez remains the leader with its big area dedicated to selling slippers called in Moroccan Darija “Souk Essabat,” the shoe market, located in one of the biggest and oldest traditional shopping centers in the country, “Kayseriat al’Kifah.” The latter is located at the heart of old Medina between the Moulay Idriss mausoleum and the grand Mosque of Qarawiyyin.

Do they last and are they comfortable? The cheap “Tourist” slippers will probably last for the duration of your visit to Morocco, as long as you do not linger long or wear them in the wet! The “Traditional” version will last “Forever”. I buy two pairs [plain, black and brown] every 18 months or so and rarely wear anything else both at home and on tour.    


The list of past blockbusters [and a few fails!] filmed in Morocco is endless, check it out on Google yourself and be surprised.
After Mission Impossible V, yet another American blockbuster has started shooting. The next film from Zack Snyder, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice will start filming in Morocco about now……. In fact we are checking out where the secret outdoor locations are with the hope of giving our clients a sneaky preview……  A statement released by Warner Bros reported a shooting in Africa, without elaborating. The information was confirmed by the Moroccan producer and director, Nassim Abassi, who said on Twitter that the shooting of the film, directed by Zack Snyder, will be shot from the 1st September to the 13th of December.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is stated to be released on March 25, 2016 in the U.S and on April 29, 2016 in the UK. The film will star Jason Momoa, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Godot and Henry Cavill.

Film production in Ouarzazate continues to make a strong recovery with not least a positive impact on the local economy, particularly in the tourism sector which shows an increase of around 19% this year. Film production operators, who took note with satisfaction this recovery, are now concerned with means which can ensure the continuity of the film industry momentum.

Abderrazak Zitouni, the President of the Ouarzazate Film Commission, said that film production recorded a significant recovery in Morocco generally and in Ouarzazate in particular, whose film sets host about 75% of foreign films shot in the Kingdom. An important amount of Hollywood and international films were shot in film studios in Ouarzazate, such as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Lawrence of Arabia, Alexander the Great, Asterix and Obelix, Spy Game and others. This makes the city one of the most prominent destinations for film production in the world.

………….and literally as I write this blog [my various Arabic/Moroccan news feeds are online 24/7]…………. A section of a major motorway in the south of Morocco is to be closed for several days in order to allow filming of a sequence for a major movie.

The motorway between Marrakech and Agadir will be closed in the area around the Agadir/Tamansourt interchange from 6 am on August 30th to midnight on September 12th. There is no official disclosure of the name of the movie being shot but much speculation.  The best bet is probably Mission Impossible 5 whose shooting dates in Morocco appear to coincide with the road closure. The film is directed by Christopher McQuarrie and its cast includes Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner.

Signage will be put in place showing motorists the alternative route available. Those travelling from Agadir to Casablanca will exit at the Tamansourt junction and re-join at the Marrakech Palmeraie station…………..


Photographer Abdullah Azizi has produced a series of extraordinary photographs of the annual migration of the Amazigh [Berber] Ait Atta nomads.
Every spring the nomadic Saghro in South Eastern Morocco, leave their pastures with their herds of goats, sheep and camels, and their entire families.

The caravan sets out to cross the plain of Dades and climbs the southern slopes of the Atlas over 3.000m to the the Izourar lake and highlands.

Ait Atta are a group of Amazigh population of Morocco from the Sahara. Jbel Saghro is their original stronghold.

They spread around in the valleys of Tafilalet, Ziz, Dades and Draa.

During our “Classic” and “Amazigh” Moroccan Tours we are often privileged to witness this incredible migration first hand………….

TIP OR NOT?...........

Many tourists are under the assumption that it’s not necessary to tip in Morocco. Unfortunately, it is quite common for Westerners to leave no gratuity for the service men and women who have assisted them.

While tipping in Morocco is not exactly mandatory, leaving gratuity for a cab driver or service worker demonstrates respect and generosity for the service that was offered. Think of it as a tangible, “Thank you.” To not say thank you would be rude, particularly if a service worker worked hard to assist you.
Unskilled workers make approximately 5 dirhams per hour without the benefits of social security. Gratuity helps men and women who work in service­-related fields supplement their income. At the end of the day, a few extra dirhams earned from tips can truly make a difference for someone who is working to support a family.
As a general guideline, if you’re enjoying a drink at a cafe, it’s polite to leave 1 or 2 dirhams per customer, particularly in touristic restaurants. While the practice is not compulsory, leaving gratuity does show respect.

If you are accepting a service, it’s respectful to demonstrate gratitude. In Morocco, sometimes this gratitude takes the form of a simple thank you; other times, this takes the form of gratuity. While there are no hard and fast rules about tipping, a few dirhams will generally suffice. So, if you are a tourist, the next time you enjoy coffee at a cafe, be sure to say thank you.


Morocco's Legzira beach is ranked among the best beaches in the world.

The beach, located about ten kilometers from Sidi Ifni, has been described as a "site where winds and waves have sculpted arches and tunnels in the red cliffs, making the coast a paradise for surfers in search of adventure."

The beach, with natural sea-worn rock archways, is overlooked on the hills above by an old Spanish fort. The hills create thermal currents which attract hang-gliding and paragliding enthusiasts.

“Development” will inevitably catch-up soon, so don’t leave it too long for a visit.

SOMETHING FISHY GOING ON………. One of the exceptional features of our “Amazigh” tours is the number of times we overnight at spectacular and little visited beach locations.

This year the “Amazigh” coincides with the "National Day of the Sardine". We will soon see whatever that may mean but what we do know is that we will be enjoying the unique experience of Sardines, taken directly from the net to the BBQ on a Moroccan-Mediterranean beach!........Mmmmmm.

If the exclusive experience appeals call asap for details of one of the last two remaining places on next years “Amazigh”……. but in the meantime you could get a feel and try “Chermoula Sardines”, a simple dish we will be enjoying “live”.  2 kg fresh sardines, double filleted or "butterflied"
1 cup of  Chermoula (see recipe below)
1/2 cup flour
vegetable oil for frying
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes.

Place the sardine fillets skin-side down and spread the Chermoula generously over the fish. Some people also place another sardine on top, skin side up. When sardines are all covered in Chermoula set them aside to marinate [in the fridge is the best place.]

When you are ready to cook, coat the sardines with a sprinkling of flour and cook over the BBQ. OR cook in the vegetable oil in a pan set on medium to high. Do make sure you have enough oil in the pan to cover the entire surface.

Cook in batches until golden [four to five minutes on each side], and then place on paper towels to absorb excess oil before transferring to a serving plate.

Fried stuffed sardines can be served hot or at room temperature
For the Chermoula

Chermoula can be used as a great dipping sauce for flatbread, but is traditionally used as a marinade…..It’s superb on fish but fine on any other meat - or even vegetarian tagines…………To make one cup:
1 well washed bunch of fresh coriander.
3 large cloves of garlic peeled and squashed.
1 teaspoon each of ground cumin coriander and paprika.
1 small red chilli [remove the seeds!]
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
Juice of 1 large lemon.
1/4 cup of olive oil.

Blend to a rough textured paste with a food processor or mortar and pestle.
For a marinade - add 1/2 a tablespoon of tomato paste, 3 extra tablespoons of olive oil, 2 generous pinches of good quality saffron and 1/3 of a cup of water. After coating fish or chicken in the marinade, assemble in tagine and pour remainder over entire dish.

While you have that think of us …… Moonlight sky, the sound of gently breaking waves, drifting smoke of the BBQ, glass of wine………….. CHEERS ........