Marrakesh al medina tun Ain Kebina tun.
Marrakesh is a great city at the foot of the High Atlas, which gave the name to the whole country. A city of
a thousand and one nights.
Legend has it that during the construction of the great mosque, a bloody war was fought in Morocco.
A lot of blood spilled, which forever colored the city walls a rusty color. Street traders, jugglers and snake charmers will do anything to get a few dirhams or cents from the newcomers. Fairies and trained monkeys easily cope with tourists and draw a few pennies from even the most savvy travellers.
At night, Jamaa Square is a real eye of the cyclone; here, absolutely everything happens. Wrapped in smoke from nearby restaurants and countless mutton grills, it is extremely easy to fall into the vortex of the square. Once you enter the square you are guaranteed to leave with a trinket, be it a wooden camel, a woolen hat or a prophecy lamp of some sort – not always good. You have to see it with your own eyes, at least once in your life. It’s the highest quality of chaos you can find anywhere. However, this is not the only face of Morocco. Our Morocco starts where the snow-covered peaks of the Atlas begin and this marks the beginning of another cycling adventure.
High Atlas, as the Berbers say, is the mountain of the mountains, one of the highest mountain massifs in Africa. A real pre-Saharan wall. When the Atlas mountains are mentioned, many people think about Toubkal (elevation of 4,167 m) and smile because they think they know the Atlas. Some have even trekked there. However, it is not only the peaks that intrigue us, but also the deep valleys and settlements with names difficult to pronounce. This is where you will see the real Atlas; sometimes you will be able to hear it and even taste it. This is where the dust tastes best.
Heading towards the Sahara on the Moroccan route there are places as wonderful as the valley leading from the town of Telouet to Aït Benhaddou.
The local highlanders, the Berbers, have mastered coexistence with nature. Here, along with the wind in abandoned kazbach you can hear the whispering of the Moroccan genie and feel the slowing down of time.
Mhamid el Ghazlan – the last inhabited village before the desert – is not very clean and has small houses which are not always plastered. Here you encounter laughing kids riding on rickety, hand-made contraptions having the time of their lives. The village is teeming with extremely friendly people who are waiting for you with open arms and are proud of where and how they live. It is a truly authentic place full of clean energy. We have many friends here, but two of them – Mohamed and Hassan – invited us into their world and exposed us to a new way of life which has stayed with us until today.
The town is at the end of the world, but for us it is the beginning of the world. From this place the real desert begins and the jokes end, and the way further into the depths is no longer for everyone.
The Sahara desert’s concentration of inhabitants can be compared to a population smaller than Krakow’s in an area the size of the United States. It is also just over three hours by plane from Krakow, barely beyond our backyard. The Canary Islands owe the Sahara their beautiful sandy beaches and the inhabitants of Florida their amazing red sunsets. We owe her unrestricted cycling freedom. According to a Berber legend, God created the Sahara to walk on it alone and not be disturbed by people. It is called the garden of Allah. Here it is easier to find petrol or diesel than it is to find water, but the freedom provided by a bicycle cannot be replaced by the speed and comfort of any off-road vehicle. On a bicycle, one can venture into the depths of the Sahara in a way no other mode of transport can. Although the desert heat can be exhausting, this journey is completely justifiable and gratifying because it takes us to depths that have not yet been reached by human civilization and allows us to experience things that humans rarely have access to.
Spend some time in the Sahara and you will bear witness to a plethora of phenomena that will leave you baffled. Among the endless ocean of sand, one can suddenly encounter hectares of green arugula. At nights the Saharan sky reveals its purity with an abundance of stars which illuminate the sky and cause many star-gazing related neck pains. Of course none of this comes without a price tag. The desert tax here comes in the form of sweat, tears and sometimes even blood.
There is even a place where one desert meets another and it is here at Legzira beach, which stretches hundreds of kilometers towards Mauritania, where the Sahara kisses the Atlantic.
There are plenty of unforgettable stories that you can dream about for a lifetime – a night with fishermen surrounded by thousands of scorpions, or time spent with Yassin – an ultra positive surfer and our argan producer. Our hangout spot, a restaurant in Foum Zguid, not only filled our stomachs with some of the finest fries in the world, but also left us with no shortage of memories, with its effusive owner, Ibrahim, and his welcoming smile upon our arrival. Not to forget the the crew from Agdz and their date home-brew or the military base, where poor-as-church mice Moroccan soldiers shared with us honey, oil and juice, while our panniers were empty and the water bottles were bone-dry.
That is why I am urging you to experience your Morocco, and it will be the greatest adventure of your life.