Although well travelled by tourists, Morocco remains a country where secret places abound. The desert is vast, as are the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and here, far from the cities and cultural centers, one can finds places removed from the camera-wielding crowds. Admittedly, many Berber desert towns are popular with tourists; they’re reached via the modern-day equivalent to the camel: the air-conditioned bus. But travellers equipped with their own four-wheel drive can move beyond the more traversed watering holes. The deep desert beckons.
The road that leads to the desert town of Erfoud passes through the Rif Mountains before descending towards Er-Rachidia, a former Foreign Legion outpost that sits on the edge of the desert plain. It passes through the gritty fossil-selling town of Midelt and then on to the remarkable Gorges du Ziz, the road spiralling down among abandoned ksours (fortified Berber villages).
Erfoud has become something of a destination in recent years due to its proximity to the magnificent sand dunes of Merzouga. But it still feels like a frontier town, its economy based on fossilized trilobites and aquifers. From here, you can drive across the open desert to Rissani, a former slave market and now center of the huge oasis around it: the Tafilalet.
Rissani has a tumbledown market and scores of shops selling fossils and gems. Traders from the deep desert show up here, bringing pieces of meteors for sale. It’s an interesting stop for a night, but beyond it the roads peter out and a four wheel drive is necessary to reach the places that are even more remote.
There are two enigmatic mountains that reward the adventurous. One is Hmor Lgdad, “the red-cheeked one” in Arabic, and Jbel Issomour, a place famous for its prized trilobites, which are sold all over the world.
Insider Tip: It is very highly recommended that you only make the trip to Jbel Issomour with a guide. The easiest way to do this is to stop in Rissani and find a fossil seller or guide to take you…
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