6 months Expedition

Alice

Flowing the Draa

Alice Morrison realizes here her dream: to join the Atlantic Ocean by following the course of the water on the wire of the wadi Drâa starting from the mountains of the Atlas and until Foum Draa near the town of Tan-Tan , where the waters of the river mix with the salty waters of the ocean after their long and exhausting crossing from the Atlas mountains, along the oases and fortified villages of the valley of the same name, the Drâa valley, and through the endless expanses of sand of the Sahara Desert. A route of almost 1,364 km that Alice will experience step by step and which will require 78 days of walking at the pace of the camels’ pace and with the benevolent and efficient support of the team of Desert and Mountain Morocco, Brahim the head of team, Brahim guide and cook and Addi the assistant camel driver as well as five camels. Jean-Pierre Datcharry will join the caravan during its various supply stages, in places steeped in history such as rock carvings, the tomb of Sidi Naji and finally on arrival at the dunes of wadi Chbika plunging into the ocean . An incredible adventure in deep Morocco, one where Nature imposes on the human who crosses it respect, humility and admiration.

Departure

  • Departure

    Khetarat de Skoura et Lac d’Ouarzazate

    The departure of the caravan is from the palm grove of Skoura, a vast expanse of palm trees 50 km from Ouarzazate and renowned for hosting many kasbahs in the ground. It is for Jean-Pierre the opportunity to make Alice discover the traditional irrigation system specific to oases, an underground aqueduct dug from the sides of the Atlas mountains several kilometers away. This ancestral network, still known in Arabic under the name of Foggara or Qanats in Persian, drains underground the water necessary for the irrigation of the oasis and is controlled by wells drilled at regular intervals. These looks form on the ground small mounds of earth in the middle of which opens the well which allows to follow the good flow of the precious drink without which crops could not take place in the gardens of this lush palm grove.
    The first stop of the caravan is on the banks of Lake Ouarzazate which brings together the waters of several rivers downstream including the Oued Dadès and Oued Imini; both have their source in the high snow-capped peaks of the Atlas mountains, such as that of Tizi-N’Tichka east of the Jebel Toubkal or that of M’Goun at altitudes between 3,000 to 4,000 m.
    From this magnificent lake which offers visitors a panorama of tranquility, the Drâa wadi finds all its strength to set out again in the valley which bears its name, to do its irrigation service for the many villages which adjoin it, to flow until to the dunes of the Sahara to be more discreet throughout its crossing, almost invisible under the sandy soil, until its future encounter with the major waters of the ocean.

  • Tamnougalte

    Tamnougalte is an isolated palm oasis in the Anti-Atlas mountains on the banks of the Drâa wadi and where a large fortified village, called a ksar, extends, probably built in the 18th century. The village shelters in its heart an imposing kasbah formerly inhabited by the caïds in charge of the governance of the surrounding territories, region formerly known as Mezguita and which then functioned as a true Berber-speaking emirate. The name of Tamnougalte means “meeting point”. The site was once a garrison at the time of the Saadian dynasties between the 16th century and the 17th century. The great French explorer Charles de Foucauld visited the site in 1884 and stayed there for a while. This young 24-year-old French officer had indeed left France a year earlier on behalf of the Geographical Society and with the intention of discovering southern Morocco, then still very little known. His journey began in June 1883 with a rabbi and lasted a year. Throughout the journey, he notes in a tiny notebook remarks and sketches. Charles de Foucauld is the first European to explore the High Atlas.

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The team

Brahim Ahalfi

Brahim Ahalfi

Caravan leader

Chef camel driver and Saharian guide. Son of a High Atlas shepherd, Brahim knows perfectly the harsh life subject to extreme weather conditions, those of cold winter nights, scorching summer days or severe thunderstorms that overflow the wadis. Brahim has had the privilege of studying up to the BAC level and a few years of Islamic studies. The call of the desert, he joined the Desert and Mountain Morocco team more than 20 years ago. He loves his camels and knows perfectly the Saharan territory in which he has already ventured a lot just like elsewhere in Morocco, crossing the Nador desert several times, in Guerguarate on the border of Morocco with Mauritania, but also in a large part of Mauritania.

Addi Ben Youssef

Addi Ben Youssef

Chamelier

Camel driver, he knows camels and the desert because he is above all a child of the desert. He loves the desert just as he likes the peaks of the High Atlas in the Saghro mountains, he likes the plains of Drâa where he lived the nomadic life with his family and their herds. He loves his country more than anything.

Brahim Boutkhoum

Brahim Boutkhoum

Guide and cook

He is a guide and at the same time he is the best cook on the Desert and Mountain Morocco team. He participated in this crossing which he has already made several times before.

High Drâa

  • High Draa

    Oasis and valley

    Tamnougalte then opens onto the upper Drâa valley with the succession of its fortified villages, from its palm groves to the green gardens where women still work, accompanied by their children.

    High Draa

  • Gravures Foum Chenna

    Tinzouline

    A few kilometers west of the village of Tinzouline, in the province of Zagora, is the site of Foum Chenna which hosts rock carvings brought back to the Libyco-Berber period. It is possible to admire nearly 800 engravings which represent domestic animals (goats, dogs, dromedaries …), wild animals (ostriches, mouflons, felines …), horsemen armed with shields and spears, scenes of combat, and ostrich hunting scenes. To these images are added Libyco-Berber inscriptions which in fact represent the largest concentration of inscriptions known to date among all the Moroccan rock sites. These engravings are superimposed on other older ones with black patina lines merging with that of the rock.

    Gravures Foum Chenna

le petit fromage

The Désert et Montagne Maroc team made a special tent dedicated to Alice’s expedition. Its characteristic cube shape prompted the team to give it the nickname “little cheese”. It provides the traveler with a place of calm conducive to rest and concentration.

  • Tamgroute

    Souk and pottery

    Alice’s caravan arrives at the village of Tamgroute located 15 km from Zagora, douar to the Berber and Arab population, and renowned since the 18th century for its pottery workshops, among the oldest in Morocco. The craftsmen who pass on their know-how from generation to generation make here a typically rural pottery whose specificity is to be covered with a green enamel. This green enamel comes from the alloy of manganese, copper oxide and barley flour. This dough covering the pottery just before cooking is the secret of this color. This pottery also exists in earthy tones when the copper oxide is removed from the alloy.
    The passage to Tamgroute is also for the crew en route to the ocean the opportunity to stock up on vegetables and fruit, and thus live the colorful atmosphere of the weekly souk.

  • Zaouïa Naciria

    The library

    Tamgroute brings together several ksour, fortified villages, with the best known of them the Zaouïa Naciria which houses an old library provided with works of Arab-Muslim culture such as scientific books, works of mathematics, astronomy or pharmacopoeia, literary or more generally religious books, including Korans illuminated with indigo, saffron and henna and written on gazelle skin supports. Some manuscripts date back to the 11th century, notably from the famous golden age of Andalusia. A book of Pythagoras translated into Arabic 500 years ago remains another of these jewels gathered in this place his knowledge put in place in the 17th century by Mohammed Abu Nasr today venerated as a saint in Islam. It is said that he would have collected all these books during his numerous pilgrimages to Mecca.

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Alice

Alice Morrison is of Scottish nationality. She has certainly studied Arabic and communication, but most of her time is spent living her passion for adventure, discovery and meeting. After crossing Africa by bike from Egypt to Cape Town, Alice takes part in the Sand Marathon which takes place every year in Morocco, as well as in other races such as the Atlas and another in the Himalayas. For 5 years, she has made her love of Morocco a reality by living between Essaouira and Imlil. In January 2019, she decided to walk to the Atlantic Ocean from Skoura near Ouarzazate, along the course of the Drâa. His challenge project will be to experience a new expedition from Ouad Chbika to Guerarat.

the great Desert

  • Oulad Driss

    First dunes and the salt Draa

    The desert makes its appearance with its first dunes, where the plains begin to cover themselves with sand. At the edge of the douar called Ouled Driss, which means “the son of Driss”, a small fortified village dating from the 17th century at the gates of M’Hamid El Ghizlane, the expedition sinks towards the Sahara. A new rhythm is required. The day is as clocked on the wire of the stages by the simple gestures and become essential in these places: the awakening at sunrise, the camp which is folded up on the back of the essential camels, the walk at their sides until the next halt before the end of the day, the unloading of the burden from the back of the camels to let them rest, the camp which unfolds again and finally the time for tea, that of the rest of the bodies and that of the peace of souls.

  • Sidi Najji

     

    Desert marabou.

    Lost in the desert, the tomb of the marabout Sidi Naji has become a true place of pilgrimage for the nomads. Legend has it that this holy man had as much devotion as the desert had grains of sand. His tomb has the distinction of being large, which has generated over time mythical stories about the existence of a distant time when giants populated these countries. Transit pilgrims have the habit of leaving offerings on the edge of the tomb in the hope of receiving in return the blessing of Sidi Naji.

  • Erg Chgaga

    Big dunes of Chgaga

    An erg is the name in Arabic to signify a desert of dunes. Like a sea of sand dotted with its waves of dunes, that of Chgaga is almost 50 km from the town of M’Hamid El Ghizlane and spans a length of about 40 km and 15 km in width, which which makes it the largest and wildest place in Morocco. There begins the formidable encounter with the kingdom of the deepest sobriety. Where there is nothing but the sky of a scorching blue and the sand color of a radical gold. Where everything is clear, in a fullness of light. Where everything is seen because here, and thanks to this great emptiness, the eye has all the space to see only the details, the rare plant which emerges from the sand, the insect as lost but which nevertheless lives its life , the singularity of the crest of a dune. A new joy is expressed, the joy of finally being able to concentrate on the minute details of the living.

  • Jbel Medouar

    The desert suddenly gives way to a sea of black stones polished by the millennia from which here and there rise volcanic streaks which then offer the walker a magnificent panorama of the surrounding desert. There are still wild donkeys, sometimes gazelles, a rare life that resists the harshness of nature.

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Jean-pierre Datcharry

Depuis 40 ans, Jean Pierre parcourt le Maroc, entre l’océan Atlantique, l’Atlas et le désert du Sahara. Il a ainsi mis à jour des itinéraires de randonnées pédestres loins des sentiers classiques, des parcours chargés d’histoire et de rencontres, vers la découverte du Maroc profond dans ses villages et ses vallées ou encore vers la rencontre des nomades. Il a osé suivre les traces des caravanes chamelières d’autrefois qui reliaient la Méditerranée à l’Atlantique puis jusqu’à la Mauritanie. Au fil des années, il a créé l’agence Désert et Montagne Maroc et propose à des voyageurs une expérience inoubliable à la rencontre de ce Maroc authentique, un moment de vie empli de sérénité où la nature sauvage règne et s’impose.

arrival at Oued Chbika

  • Oued Chbika

    Monuments with antennas

    Une fois arrivée dans la région de l’oued Chibka, le monde du désert enfin rencontre celui de la mer, les majestueuses vagues de sable se préparent à s’évanouir dans leurs reflets bleutés. Mais en cet endroit de l’expédition, dans la province de Tan-Tan, et juste avant son terme, les paysages encore désertiques abritent une des plus belles traces de la période préislamique, à savoir un site manifestement à usage cérémoniel qui réunit plusieurs dizaines de tumulus ou tombeaux et des monuments composées de pierres réunis sur le sol en forme d’antenne ou d’ailes. Personne ne sait le sens exact de ces configurations qui ne s’observent bien que depuis le ciel mais leur dimension sacrée ne fait aucune doute. Il y a plus de 7000 ans ici, une civilisation aujourd’hui disparue et totalement méconnue se dressait vivante et s’adressait au ciel.

  • Oued Chbika

     

    Tanoutfi

    Along the way, the caravan, like all the other caravans, has stopped near a reservoir of water filled with rain, which is more frequent here during the year as the ocean shore approaches. Referred to as “Tanutfi” because of their small size, these tanks were recently reinforced with cement by the public authorities, which gives them greater strength. The team fills the cans and other gourds. The camels drink in their turn, and the march resumes.

  • Oued Chbika

    Dunes

    The expedition finally reaches the sandy beaches at the bottom of the cliffs. It is the meeting with the Atlantic and its infinite horizon. The fishing boats are ready to replace the caravans. Alice and her companions are at the end of their long adventure. Accompanied by their camels, they still walk in the sand dunes, sometimes still as imposing and slender towards the distance, but already the scents are no longer the same, the iodine gradually fills the air which breathes with delight welcome, after these weeks of aridity, all these days spent walking on dry soil.

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Sahara Expedition

Oued Chbika to Smara

On November 26, 2019, Alice finds the same camel team of Desert and Mountain Morocco (Brahim, Brahim, Addi and 6 camels), and continues her crossing of the Sahara from the wadi Chbika, then inside the desert on the wake of the Saharan tribes.

The crossing of this flat desert takes place on the “lands of the Rguibat”, whose different footprints across the Kingdom form innumerable fractions of tribes from the Draa to Tantan, and beyond to the south to Niger.

Emotion to glimpse some rock engravings on the edge of the Sakia El Hamra, dated from 12000 to 1000 years representing elephants, giraffes, a chariot, antelopes, which we were happy to discover that the Moroccan State takes great care for the protection of this Saharan heritage.

Alice followed in the footsteps of Michel Vieuchange who had reached Smara in 1931 on a perilous journey.

The arrival and welcome of the caravan in the mythical city of Smara in the heart of the Sahara was moving, as well as bivouacking at the foot of the old stone walls of ksar and Zaouïa built by the Sheikh Malainin.

Alice’s caravan continues the adventure and takes the historic Sakia El Hamra, then heads south through the desert to Dakhla, to reach the Marocco-Mauritanian border at the end of February 2020.

The great Desert

Leaving Oued Chbika for 53 days, Alice’s caravan crossed a huge desert, of earth, white and pink sand, due south.

We are proud of the team, of the 2 guides L’Hô and Brahim who led and joined Bir Anzarane in the heart of the desert after 30 days of walking without supplies and only a few water points, and crossed some Sahrawi nomads with their herds hundreds of camels.

Surprise for Alice of the furtive encounter with 2 fennecs, of the flight of owls under our feet, and of having followed for a few minutes the fresh and rare traces in the dunes of a Hyena family.

Joy in the starry sky before dawn to discover the Southern Cross on the horizon, group of mythical stars of the caravanners of the ancient great kafilas who crossed the desert, and who walked at night to avoid the great heat.

Jean-Pierre joined the caravan for a few days, to bring the last supplies.

Emotions for the team at the sight of the turquoise bay of Dakhla, after 2 months of crossing in this great desert.

The caravan now runs along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, white sand beaches, plateaus sculpted by the winds.

It takes about 25 days to walk to reach the Marocco-Mauritanian border and the southern end of this great Saharan crossing.

Sahara experience

Part of Oued Chbika for 80 days, Alice’s caravan crossed due south a huge desert, of earth, white and pink sand to reach Bir Anzarane in the heart of the desert after 30 days of walking without supplies and only a few points of water. Full west the caravan joined the turquoise bay of Dakhla, after 2 months of crossing in the desert. The caravan ran along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, white sand beaches, sandy plateaus sculpted by the winds to reach the Morocco – Mauritanian border and the southern end of this great Saharan crossing, totaling 1,740 km after 80 days of Saharan crossing. Emotions for the team and Alice to arrive at the southern end of Morocco and to have touched the border, after having walked from Ouarzazate 3,104 km in 158 days of walking. We are proud of the team of Desert and Mountain Morocco, the 3 L’hô guides and the 2 Brahim who took turns to guide this camel caravan on the long course on the road of the old caravans! The adventure continues, a 3rd stage is planned soon with Alice and the team of Desert and Mountain Morocco. Connect with the caravan from Nador (Shores of the Mediterranean) the desert plateaus of Matarka then the end of the Middle and High Atlas to reach Ouarzazate. This 3rd major stage will allow Alice to have crossed all of Morocco on foot through its desert and Sahara from North to South.