“The earth is a peacock and its glorious tail Morocco”
. . (Ancient Moorish Proverb)
Only a short hop from Europe, Morocco is the most exciting biking and 4WD venue that's within relatively easy access of the UK and western Europe. The roads are generally good quality and great fun, there's not much traffic, and the scenary is awe-inspiring. Time seems to have passed Morocco by, with many cultural practices unchanged since the middle ages. Accommodation and food are good value, a twin room is typically £10 to £30 (€12 to €36) per night. There is a wealth of well-documented tracks (pistes), the weather is generally sunny and it's a brilliant combination of safe, exciting and inexpensive.
Basically you need to get through France and Spain, then take a ferry to northern Morocco.
Your options in getting to Algeciras are to either ride through France and Spain (1,400 miles from Calais, 1,250 from Cherbourg), or to take one of the overnight ferries to northern Spain which means you then have 700 miles to ride to Algeciras. Brittany Ferries has overnight ferries from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao. Other threads on this site will help you with routes though France and Spain and ferry choices.
Where to go, what to do?
People seem to think Morocco is mainly desert, but in the springtime many parts are greener than Spain. Morocco has four main mountain ranges; from north to south these are the Rif Mountains, then the Middle Atlas, the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas in the furthest south. There's a dozen summits over 4000m and more than 400 peaks over 3000m. The best bike roads in the mountains are the Atlas ranges, the roads in the Rif are often less well surfaced.
To the east of the Middle Atlas and the south of the High/Anti Atlas lie the hamadas—stony semi-arid 'desert' with excellent pistes (tracks for 4WD cars and bikes). There's a small area of sand near Erfoud and another near Zagora.
The coastal plain to the west of the country is generally flat and uninteresting, however the coastline itself is often pretty.
When to go?
Morocco is an all-year-round destination, however in the winter the smaller mountain roads can sometimes be closed with snow, and the summer months (mid-June to end August) are normally extremely hot. My personal preference is for April/May--the country is incredibly green and the days are much longer than September/October. Easter is a peak period especially due to the huge numbers of Spanish visitors during the ten day 'Santa Semana' celebrations which run 15-24 Apr 2011, 30 Mar-8 Apr 2012, 22-31 Mar 2013).
Ramadan is the month of fast in which muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. It's a moveable feast and runs
- 1 to 29 Aug 2011,
- 20 Jul to 18 Aug 2012,
- 9 Jul to 7 Aug 2013).
Ramadan finishes with a three day national festival called Eid el-Fitr. During this time most cafes other than in tourist places like Marrakech are closed and it changes the nature of Moroccan life. If this is your first visit it may be best to avoid it.
Daylight saving time and weather forecasts
For the last twelve years, Morocco remained on GMT throughout the winter AND the summer, so in summer time was two hours behind Spanish time. This changed in 2008 with the introduction of a short period of summer time (see later post). You can get sunrise/set times as well as expected temperatures for a variety of Moroccan locations at weather.co.uk (choose a town, then climate statistics). See also http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/Morocco.htm
Although it’s an Islamic country, the Moroccan business week is Monday to Friday, with Saturday and Sunday as the weekend. The western Gregorian calendar is used rather than the Islamic Hijra (i.e. 2011, not 1432). Placenames on signposts are written both in arabic and western scripts. Distances are measured in kilometres.