The Atlantic Coast Walk and Marrakech

Imi n'Tala to Sidi Kaouki

Here we are at the seaside - a very windswept Sidi Kaouki on a desolate part of the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The wind is the attraction here rather than the the beauty of its beaches, which explains the kite surfers and sailboarders powering along just offshore. The long row of wind turbines turned slowly in confirmation. We arrived at our guesthouse a while ago and I have just had a swim in the pool, which seemed far more attractive than the uneven surf of the beach. Tomorrow we will be doing a negative-ion filled walk along the wild Atlantic coast.

A grove of argan trees

Wind farm near Sidi Kaouki

Atlantic sunset

The route here involved driving back along the winding mountain roads from Imi n'Tala to Amizmiz town, then crossing the increasingly flat landscape towards the coast. Just before the coast, we crossed the argan forests that grow in this region and whose nuts produce a high-value oil that is apparently a good remedy for many ills, as well as adding to culinary flavours. We stopped briefly at a "co-operative feminine" to see the extraction process and (of course) have a chance to buy some argan products. Then, it was on to Sidi Kaouki.

West Atlantic Coast Walk (16 km - 160m ascent - 160m descent)

Our last hike in Morocco was a coastal walk from near Sidi Kaouki to the resort town of Essaouira, 15km to the north. It was just a 10 minute trip by bus from our guesthouse to the white-housed village of Oussane to begin.

Panorama over the windswept beach at Sidi Kaouki

The sky was clear and a strong cool breeze was blowing as we wandered past the white-washed walls of the scattered village houses (so very different to the compact mud-brick villages of the mountains). Nearby, the hum of row upon row of wind turbines drifted across a scrubby landscape.They would be our company for the next hour, as we followed a stony track along the edge of the windfarm.

Wind turbines turning in the ocean breeze

The track gradually moved away from the ocean, as it climbed up to the heights of Cap Sim, a limestone promontory bulging into the Atlantic swells. From the top, we could see the sea beyond the foredunes to the west and the white buildings of Essaouira in the distance to the north.

The lighthouse at Cap Sim

Finally, we left the hum of the turbines behind and, for a while, we descended along the stony course of an old trading route. Apparently, it was used by Arab slavers to bring slaves up from West Africa to the port of Mogador (built by the Portuguese on the current site of Essaioura) for transport to Brazil in the 16th century.

The houses of Ouassane

On the old cobbled trading road

Touches of home - a grove of eucalypts

Leaving the old road, Ibrahim led us through the trackless sand dunes towards the coast. The dense green shrubbery of the back dunes provided shelter from the winds and the walking was hot. With the occasional groves of eucalypts, parts of it reminded us of home. Slowly though, the vegetation became sparser and more wind-battered as we crossed the fore dunes to reach the ocean.

Some wild camels in the dunes

Arriving at the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean

The wild Atlantic coastline

There, before us lay the wild Atlantic, its waters brown with the turbulence of the pounding waves. To the north and south a long line of dunes stretched as far as the eye could see. We dropped on to the firm tan low-tide sand and headed north, into the face of a strengthening wind. On the seaward side a low rock platform followed the beach, keeping the breaking waves at a distance. On the landward side, several groups of quadbike riders roared by, breaking the illusion of being on an isolated beach.

Camels arriving from Ouassane

The caravan heads northwards

It was not long before we were caught up by a pair of loping camels and their driver - our lunch from Sidi Kaouki had arrived. We sat with our backs to the wind and ate it, watching the Atlantic gulls struggling into the wind or trying to stand upright once they had landed.

Looking back at the dunes of Cap Sim

After lunch, with the wind whistling about our ears, we pushed on, shirts and shorts flapping and bodies tilted forward, as sheets of dry sand whipped across the surface of the beach. It was now gusting at over 30 knots - with all those negative ions being blown in from the sea, this had to be good for us. With the wind and the waves and no more quad bikes, it was actually an enjoyable walk.

The sandy highway to Essaioura

Rounding a large dune, we left the series of rock platforms behind. The waves were now pounding directly on to the wide sandy strip of Tagharte Beach and, ahead, the bobbing kites of the kite surfers danced above the waves - welcome to Essaouira, windsport capital of Morocco.

Watching the windswept waves at Tagharte Beach

The kites of kite-surfers bobbing in the wind

For us, the walk ended as we reached the long concrete promenade at the back of the beach and headed inland a block or two to the shelter of our hotel and its garden pool. It had been an exhilerating and very different final walk to the rest of our treks in Morocco.


The following day, we had a city tour - checking out the fishing port and the walled medina of the town, learning about the foundation of modern Essaioura in 1760 by the then Moroccan king, as well as visiting the ramparts of the Skala de la Kasbah, with its many canons facing seaward, wandering through the markets and, of course, being directed to artisanal workshops making inlaid timber furniture and silver jewellery.

Gateway to the Essaioura medina

Typical alleyway in old Essaioura

Defences against invasion by sea

Corner tower of the old Portuguese fort

The fishing fleet at Essaioura

It was interesting, but I am almost medina'd out. I think I preferred our delicious lunch of calamare and sole at a beachfront cafe, watching the kite surfers strut their stuff. I know that the first beer we had had in a fortnight certainly made the meal. The photos here give an idea of the city.

View along the esplanade

Walls of the old medina

Shopping street in the medina

A colourful (if modern) courtyard

The rocky coastline north of Essaioura

Walls of Essaioura


Finally, it was Marrakech - a 3 hour drive from cool and windy Essaioura saw us arrive in hot and still Marrakech, the tourist capital of Morocco.

While driving through a small town, we had the good fortune to stumble across a Fantasia ceremony, a celebration of horsemanship dating back to the 8th century - where teams of tribesmen in traditional costumes on their beautiful Berber horses compete for the honour of the best synchronised riding / shooting display. It was well worth the stop.

Tribesmen preparing for a synchronised charge

The whole trip seemed to be slowing down at this stage, as we arrived around midday and had therest of the day off (spent pleasantly around the pool). The following day, we had a morning tour and the rest of the day off (spent pleasantly around the pool).

!2th century minaret of Koutoubia Mosque

Examples of Islamic architecture

The tour of Marrakech, led by the informative Hassan, took us to several of the cultural highlights of the city - the Koutoubia mosque, with its 12th century minaret, the intricately carved rooms that contain the tombs of the Saadian dynasty who ruled here in the 16th century, the Bahia Palace, built by the Grand Vizier in the 19th century.

Our transport for a Marrakech tour arrives

The latter contained much ornate plaster and beautifully carved cedar timbers. However, it was also overrun with tourists and I suspect it was while trying to view one more delicately carved wall, as people about me jostled to get their selfies in front of it, that I finally felt moroccoed out.

In the Saadian tombs

Spices on sale in the soukh

A covered walkway in the soukh

Some beautiful ceiling mosaics

Wandering through the marrakech medina

Courtyard of the 19th century Bahia Palace


We completed our tour with a stroll through the narrow alleys of the soukhs in the medina, where it seems you aren't trying if you don't play bullfighter with one of the many motor bikes or scooters that compete with pedestrians for the limited space. Emerging in the famed Jemaa-el-Fnaa Square (snake charmer, anyone?), it was time to finish with tourist Morocco - my thoughts had turned back to the beauty of the desert and the majestic peaks of the High Atlas.

A tiny part of Jemaa-el-Fnaa Square

The time had come to head back to Freiburg and catch up with the grandchildren.

The 2019 Morocco walking expeditioners