Wednesday, 25 February 2015


With our 2015 Moroccan schedules well up and running we are as usual off to a great start. In fact if you want to join one of our remaining Spring/Summer tours you have just one choice left…….. Only TWO vehicle places remain on our APRIL Classic Tour………Yes, just TWO vehicle places remain on the April Tour and that’s it before we return for our “Autumn/Winter” season  that runs every month from September ‘till December…….and some of those dates are already FULL.

We often get asked…….Yes dogs are welcome on any of our Moroccan tours. In fact my own [Jimmy] is such a regular that he “speaks” more Arabic than English! …….
With the long range weather forecasts showing perfect conditions, low-cost everything and diesel fuel currently at 8.35 dh [59p] and even lower in the south at 39p ltr and our tour costs unchanged at 2014 rates is there a better time to visit Morocco?
Summer sees us touring Andalusia, but you can find out more about that elsewhere.

Many who have joined one of our tours will know that we are generally able to lay our hands on some very interesting and palatable wines……. particularly the home-brewed found in the lowlands of the High Atlas Mountains, but thats another story.

In fact Moroccans consumed approximately 70 million liters of the homemade alcoholic beverage known as Mahya [water of life] in 2014.
According to an investigation carried out by La Vie Eco, this liquor is manufactured by around twenty distilleries based in Casablanca, El Jadida, Essaouira and other small cities. The producers are legally authorized and are regularly paying their taxes but according to the Association of Grape Producers in Morocco, most distillers do not meet market standards in the production and marketing of spirits.

At least 40 brands, manufactured in a traditional manner, are sold at prices ranging from 60 to 90 dirhams [per liter depending on the concentration of alcohol]  The low prices of these kinds of alcohol make them a better choice for consumers compared to the high prices of imported beverages or beverages manufactured by professionals.
Locally known as “Mahya,” [water of life], the homemade spirit is a clear, colorless alcohol produced by means of fermenting and distilling of fruits. The liquor is distributed by “Guerraba,” a Moroccan term for alcohol sellers in the black market.

Like I said, we know a man who etc etc etc……….

This wonderful photograph by Achraf Ben Haida shows a Moroccan woman taking part in a tbourida of "fantasia". During a moussem or festival with a fantasia, it is still uncommon to see women riders. Originally, the fantasia was the preserve of men and grew from a fighting technique developed by the Arabs to surprise the enemy. This technique was, for example, used by Arab troops to conquer Spain in the 8th century.
Dental tourism is not a big thing in Morocco, despite the high number of highly qualified dentists, many of whom have trained in France. The cost of good dentistry is remarkably inexpensive by European standards and many surgeries have all the modern equipment one would expect - but there are problems.
On the other side of the ledger there are some dubious practitioners. According to the National Order of Dentists, Morocco is home to over 3,300 fake dentists, 1,800 of which are illegal even as only dental technicians. The Order of Dentists has asked the authorities to take urgent measures to deal with the fakes, claiming they are endangering "the image of the Moroccan dentistry.  

When checks were run by representatives of the Ministries of Interior and Health on illegal dentistry, it found conditions of "deplorable hygiene and sterilisation equipment" putting patients at risk of being contaminated with serious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis or even AIDS .

In some cases, drugs and pharmaceuticals were found in these "offices" that should have been "exclusively" for dentists. These fake dentists specifically target the neighbourhoods where the population does not necessarily know the difference between a real and a fake dentist.
Then there is the problem of rural dentistry. Just imagine, living with your family in an isolated fishing village or remote mountain area with no dentists, a high sugar diet, no toothbrushes and no fluoride tooth paste. You don't need to be a dentist to imagine the consequences, but the dental neglect has shocked experienced dentists from overseas.

A group of English dentists has been working over the last five years to alleviate the problem and though they admit it is only a small contribution to a large problem, they are making a profound difference to those they assist. The Dental Mavericks charity aims at providing dental care in remote areas of the world.

To celebrate 5 years of service in Morocco Dental Mavericks is running a Mount Toubkal Fundraiser to assist in building a dental room and dental chair for their Teeth For Life Programme in Khizana - It runs from May 9th to May 12th 2015. To find out more about how you can donate or assist, visit their website

Take a look at these interesting videos about Morocco.  The first mostly features the coast around Essaouira and the town [port] itself……shame about the choice of background music! 
There is an old Moroccan proverb that says “Morocco is a cold country with  a hot sun”. Well we found that to be true on our very recent Feb tour. Generally the weather was perfect, particularly in the desert region, but we did have some snow….did I say some? That should have been “a lot”……… although it had minimal effect on our journey it added a new dimension to an already spectacular scenery.
Again shame about the background music.
Just a few photos taken on the last tour………With no comment.



Monday, 9 February 2015



If you are joining one of our early 2015 Moroccan Tours, or perhaps heading that way solo there's even more good news.

The price of oil products in Morocco, namely diesel oil and premium gasoline, has as of 1st Feb fallen yet again. The price of diesel oil has dropped another 15 cents per litre, settling at around 7.88 MAD/litre, while the price of premium gasoline fell by 7 cents per litre to reach 8.91 MAD/litre.  I think that in real money it converts at .... 0.70 euro [52.44 pound] litre for diesel and 0.82 [61.43 pound] per litre for unleaded.

For many the highlight of our tours would be the nights spent at the Dunes of Erg Chebbie, Merzouga. Many think they have visited the Dunes, few have……. Most Motorhome Owners park in the few distant campsites and then either trek or hire a 4x4 to reach the dunes. Desert Detours are the ONLY organization to actually stay and camp at the dunes, reached by a web of firm piste type tracks.  This month, to continue with our video tour of Morocco, take a look. As we say, simply stunning………. Better still why not join us!


……..That goes something like “Morocco is a cold country with hot sun”.

I have to be honest and say that I can’t remember the weather being as miserable as it is now. As I write this parts of the UK are carpeted in snow while most of it freezes. At our yard/office/home atop of a sierra in the south of Spain the overloaded log-burners are boldly fight back the abysmal chill. Most of Northern Europe it would seem is both cold and wet. Little wonder then that many Motorhome owners have the maps out, unplugging the umbilical and heading for warmer climates…….they hope!
Morocco continues to be the preferred destination for winter sun seekers, snowbirds I think they’re affectionately called, who are also looking for a change in culture and customs.
Morocco suffered the worst rain on record late November cutting off much of the south through damaged info-structure. Repairs have been swift so any travelers should now suffer nothing more than minor delays due to road and construction work. Fortunately both our

November and December tours “Straddled” the terrible weather enjoying instead the expected warm climate, as have our January client group who have just returned to mainland Europe.
If you are heading to Morocco during February do just take a few precautions and seek advice before heading into the more remote regions…… although I know most “Snowbirds” tend to hang along the southern coastal areas.

Stung and mindful of their lack of response and preparation to an earlier severe weather snap the Moroccan authorities are taking no chances this time to a sudden onset of extreme cold in the central and high regions and have mobilised resources …….. Around 5,000 people, including physicians, nurses and state and local authority’s agents have been marshalled as part of this operation.

On Sunday two field hospitals staffed by the Royal Armed Forces have been set up in the central provinces of Azilal (M'semir rural commune) and Tinghir (Ouaouizeght rural commune). In addition, the Health Ministry established a mobile hospital in the province of Midelt (Boumia rural commune). Nine helicopters, seven belonging to the Royal Gendarmerie and two from the Health Ministry have been placed on standby to support intervention teams in emergency evacuations and for airlifting foodstuffs to landlocked villages.

The Interior Ministry has also deployed 757 ambulances provided by the Health Ministry, the civil rescue department and local authorities, it said, adding that 142 health centres will be operational to receive patients from cold wave-struck villages. From the visiting Motorhomers point of view I would suggest there is little to worry about, leave that to your “Tour Operator/Leader” [whoever they are] who should be well aware of local and onward conditions as well as alternatives routes and agendas. If you are solo….ask!

As staff, back in the warm office, posts this blog entry our February Tour Group will be well on their way heading towards even warmer desert region…….a report next issue if necessary.          


It’s not really a problem, in fact its rather fun if like Desert Detours you are a multi-national organization with cross-culture-staff……..given all the various celebrations over the Christmas, New Year, Three Kings and Eid Al Mawlid Annabawi [Mohamed’s Birthday]……… the latest being the Amazigh [Berber] New Year.

Well it’s not the latest holiday to be celebrated actually, but being Morocco and Muslin there is the usual confusion attached. Whilst some say that the celebration [Amazigh New Year 2965] will be on January 24th Hamid Chabat, Secretary General of the Istiqlal, an opposition party, has reportedly proclaimed January 13, which marks the Amazigh New Year, a paid holiday for the workers of the Istiqlal Party………..Although this day has not yet been recognized as a national holiday, Moroccan Amazigh never miss this occasion to celebrate and exchange wishes and prayers during this day.  

Unlike the Christian and Islamic calendar, the Amazigh calendar does not correlate with any religious event, but triggers off of an historic event: the anniversary of the victory of the Amazigh leader Shashank I in the reign of Ramses II over the Pharaohs, and the unification of Libya with Egypt and the Levant. Since that time [measured as 950 BC in the Christian calendar], the Amazigh people have celebrated annually the triumph of Shashank, the founder of the 22nd Family in the reign of Ramses II.
The Amazigh New Year's Eve corresponds also to the eve of the Agricultural Year in North Africa, a calendar adopted by farmers to determine when they can cultivate their fields according to defined periods.
Although perhaps not as widely celebrated as it should be the celebrations, when you can find them, provide an opportunity for those seeking knowledge and understanding of the Berber culture and to discover traditional live Amazigh music and dance, from different regions of North Africa, and features an exhibition table demonstrating the close relations of the Amazigh community from its home land, Tamazgha, Morocco.

Under different names, Yennayer is celebrated by both Arab and Amazigh speaking communities. The Arab speaking community in old cities referred to this traditional event as “Haguza” or “Aam Alfilahi” (the Agrarian year). The Amazigh people, especially those who live in the south east of Morocco, call it “Id Suggas” [night of the year]. “Id Suggas” is a very traditional festivity on the Eve of the Amazigh New Year. Confused? ...... Spare a thought for our staff on-the-ground in Morocco who will be sorting out the confusion, but of course we at Desert Detours will know where and when it’s at and will find a location where the group can enjoying both feast and entertainment while over there during our January Tour.

The Moroccan city of Essaouira is listed among the top 20 destinations for 2015 in a recent “Daily Telegraph” travel feature.

Those who have toured with Desert Detours will know that Essaouira is my favorite Moroccan town more than that it have an ancestral family connection…….but there’s yet another long story!

The paper says that Essaouira, known for its Gnaoua festival, retains the sort of laid-back charm that lured the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens in the Sixties. I would say explore the alleyways, byways and hidden market areas, browse the art and craft shops and just “people watch” on the terrace of one of the excellent cafes in the main square…….. Of course a meal in one of the many outstanding restaurants is a must.

Unfortunately the availability of formal camping is very much in question. As I write the only campsite, already much reduced in size, is in imminent danger of closing completely.   
On researching this short piece I noted that a new direct EasyJet route will open access to Essaouira from Luton starting May 1, 2015. Now there’s a perfect short break option……Romantic even!
Some would say that the vast amount of funds being made available for the upgrade of the infamous Moroccan taxi could be better spent on much needed social projects….however.
The Moroccan government has just announced that it will allocate 3.6 Billion Dhm to a program aimed at “supporting the renewal of grand taxis”. The Program of the renewal of grand taxis, which is optional, will grant Dhm to 80,000 to Grand Taxi owners enabling them to replace their old taxis.
There are approximately 55,000 grand taxis, also known as white taxis, offering transportation services all over Morocco. Casablanca alone has about 6,500.
Most of the taxis are the Mercedes 240 Diesel model and are more than 30 years old. These are well past their “expiration date,” but are still roaming the streets of Morocco, uncomfortably carrying six passengers plus the driver at one time. I have seen as many as 14 persons in a vehicle……honestly!
A similar program that was devoted to the smaller “Petit” taxis in 2010 and benefited around 6,000 owners………Not that you would notice.
A stroll down any city street or village for that matter in Morocco and you can’t fail to notice the number of Pharmacies/Chemists……….almost as many as Mobile phone shops and Banks!!
Wherever they are located you will find that almost without exception they are well lit, well stocked and managed by extremely knowledgeable and helpful staff. In the larger premises you are able to find almost any “Branded” drug you could wish for at a fraction of European prices. Medicines and drugs normally available on prescription only in Europe can be purchased over the counter …………….
The health ministry announced on Friday the lowering of the prices of 98 drugs as part of its policy of reducing medicine price to make it more accessible to citizens and alleviate the expenses of health insurance.

After decreasing the prices of nearly 1,600 drugs in 2014, the ministry will lower in 2015 the prices of a further 98 drugs, said a statement by the ministry.

This drop concerns drugs for chronic diseases as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma, some neurological diseases, some inflammatory and infectious diseases, some cancers and benign prostatic hypertrophy, it said.
The point of this little piece is obvious. If you are on some sort of expensive drug and need to top-up while visiting Morocco or feel the need to perhaps stock-up it has just got even cheaper ……………..
Most people in Morocco have a diet that is protein heavy with vegetables being a second thought
It doesn’t have to be the case and many Moroccans are now enjoying the abundance of fresh vegetable produce as never before……Potatoes, carrots, shallots, turnips and tomatoes simmer along with fresh herbs, spices and preserved lemon. Eggs cracked into the pot poach right in the stew.
Give this simple dish a try vegetable Tagine with Poached Eggs and Herbs.
Total Time: 40 minutes and serves: 4
½ tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tablespoon sweet paprika
½ tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups canned diced tomatoes, with juice
6 tablespoons tomato purée
Cup tomato paste
9 small potatoes, cut into 3-by-1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots cut into 3-by-1-inch pieces
2 medium turnips cut into 3-by-1-inch pieces
4 small shallots, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1½ tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 cups water
¼ cup diced preserved lemon peel
4 eggs
Finely chopped chives, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Half of lemon
1. In a small bowl combine salt, paprika, coriander, cumin, white pepper and Aleppo pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a lidded large pot over high heat. Sauté garlic, canned tomatoes and tomato purée and paste with spice mixture until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
2. Add potatoes, carrots, turnips, shallots, half of parsley, cilantro and 2 cups water to pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables soften and sauce thickens, 20 minutes. Stir in preserved lemon, cover pot and simmer until flavors meld, about 7 minutes.
3. Crack eggs over top of stew, spacing them out evenly across the surface. Reduce heat to medium, cover pot and poach eggs until whites set but yolks remain runny, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, chives, salt and pepper.
4. To serve, ladle stew into 4 serving bowls and top each with a poached egg. Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
How simple was that……………….
Marrakech, as a global tourist destination, needs no definition or presentation. It attracts people from all over the world who want to see the many beautiful tourist attractions and sites around the city, especially the wonderful Jemaah al Fna square, which brings together millions of people from different cultures, civilizations, and origins every year.
However, Marrakech also has great appeal by virtue of being surrounded by beautiful towns and villages, where life becomes simple, natural and joyful. Outside of Marrakech lie the villages of Oukaïmeden, Cité Fadma, Ourika, and Moulay Brahim, which attract numerous visitors from abroad and from other Moroccan cities.
To start with, Oukaïmeden is a ski resort in the Atlas Mountains to the south east of Marrakech, at an altitude of between 2,600 and 3,270 meters. It is located about 70 km from the center of Marrakech, off the road through the Ourika Valley. The high mountains of Oukaïmeden can be seen from everywhere in Marrakech, covered with thick white snow, which remains on the mountain caps until July. During a visit, all sorts of snow games and sports are available. Visitors cannot help but enjoy their time there, throwing snow balls, building snowmen and snow animals, and skiing amid the high snow-capped mountains.
The traditional houses of the local inhabitants, who are very hospitable, are scattered on the other side of the high mountains. Although the local people cope with the cold and sometimes harsh living conditions, they find life worth living as one can see by the beaming smiles on their faces.
A taxi from Marrakech to Oukaïmeden costs around 10 Euros. It is wise to avoid the weekend traffic jams. Other means of transportation include buses, minibuses, rental cars, and motorcycles. Once at Oukaïmeden, visitors can choose to go from one place to another by mule for about 2 Euros. Hotels, restaurants, and cafés are all available here featuring fine living accommodations and good traditional food and drink.
Besides Oukaïmeden, the villages of Cité Fadma, Moulay Brahim, and the Valley of Ourika fascinate visitors who look forward to living, if just for a moment, the simple life.
Cité Fadma is located about 30 km from Marrakech in Ourika Valley. In Cité Fadma, visitors can climb the mountain, and walk barefoot, to reach its seven waterfalls. On the way up, visitors pass by several traditional restaurants, where they can bargain with owners over the price of lunch or a snack. In Ourika Valley, Berber carpet weavers exhibit their traditional colorful carpets in an open space. Visitors who head to Cité Fadma or Oukaïmeden stop frequently at Ourika Valley, to see the weaving in process and possibly to purchase a carpet, and to take pictures.