Southern Morocco / Western Sahara

I make my way South along the Moroccan coast, stopping at a couple of beach side cities that are heavily focused on fishing, and no so much on surfing (though surfing is growing for sure). The landscape quickly changes to arid, rocky desert, completely void of features. Away from the coast the temperatures are scorching, often over 110F before 10am.

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Camping on the ocean wall in Sidi Ifni

Western Sahara is not currently a separate country as I had originally thought – it’s a disputed territory, with the UN officially listing it as “non self-governing” – currently it’s under the control of Morocco, who want to keep it theirs. This means there is no “border” – I’m technically still in Morocco.

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Western Sahara appears endless, with hundreds and hundreds of miles like this

The entire region is heavily patrolled by the Moroccan military and on the highway I pass through checkpoint after checkpoint where I hand over a “Fiche”. This is a document I have prepared in French with all of my details and the details of the Jeep – passport number, date of birth, registration number, etc. which makes the whole process go smoothly. The checkpoints are always polite and friendly, and to be honest it’s nice to know there is so much military presence patrolling the highway and area in general.

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Buying gas at the conveniently-named stations – it’s easy to remember where I am!

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The cities in Southern Morocco are impressive

Distances are vast as I follow the ocean, skirting the edge of the Sahara desert, often driving hundreds of miles between towns. A town is often little more than a military checkpoint, a few concrete buildings and a gas station if I’m lucky.

I start to see UN Vehicles getting around, something I’ve never seen before.

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The road snakes between the sand dunes and ocean in The Western Sahara

Everyone has warned me of gasoline shortages in this region, so I’ve filled my Titan fuel tank to the brim. This is not a forgiving place to get stranded.

In multiple places sand dunes have drifted onto and over the highway, and I’m constantly on the lookout for large groups of wild camels wandering across the highway. I can’t quite figure out if they’re completely wild roaming free, or if they have “owners” who are somewhere out of sight. The sun and heat are scorching during the day and temperatures drop rapidly at night in the open desert.

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Camels on the road are a constant concern

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Southern Morocco turns very desert like, very fast

It’s a harsh, unforgiving landscape, and it’s also supremely beautiful.

From ancient cities to mountains, sand dunes to oases, canyons to waterfalls, the list of beautiful things to see and do across Morocco has been virtually endless. Moroccans are outrageously friendly, and it’s a fairly cheap country to travel in. Given all of that, Morocco rates right up there as one of my all-time favourite countries for Overlanding.
I could happily stay here three more months.

That being said, it’s now time to lay down some miles.

Mauritania and further South are calling. simple smile

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Time to lay down some serious miles

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Country number one, you have been amazing Morocco!


9 Responses

  1. Birrgit says:

    What are you using to draw your track? A sharpie, tape…?
    Thanks for letting us be a part of your journey, I love your pictures and descriptions.
    Greetings from Northern Sweden!

  2. T&J says:

    Hi Dan;
    Your writing and pic’s brings back memories!
    Look forward to your next episode.
    Take care, news is that there are ” UN concerns” re. certain developments in in Western Sahara
    hamba kahle & totsiens

  3. Ron says:

    You should visit Ouadane when you go through Mauritania. And if you see Ouadane’s most beautiful woman, take a picture!

  4. Matt Sully says:

    Dan, Looking at you posts is amazing, we will be driving down through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal nxt year, so looking forward to it, you describe it as it is, very refreshing and it is all bang up-to-date. That’s great too, I wish you well on your travels. We will be doing the drive in a Fiat Punto which is 2 wheel drive do you think it will make it along the mine field ok? Thanks Matt

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Matt,

      Great to hear that my posts are useful! Thanks.
      Yeah, you’ll be OK – it will be tough with the low clearance but you’ll make it. Watch what they guys said about driving the little VW through there:

      All the best!

      • Matt Sully says:

        Dan, thanks for the info from the post. Can I ask the distances between the gas stations? As this maybe an issue with a standard fuel tank in the Fiat Punto. I get around 300 – 400 miles before I need to fill up.

        • Dan Grec says:

          Hey Matt,

          It’s never that far – not even 250 miles, and the roads are great so you can cruise and get good mileage.
          Fill up as much as you can just before the Mauritania border (it’s cheaper in Southern Morocco too), then fill up every chance you get in Mauritania – shortages are very common there.
          Have fun!

  5. Ferenc says:

    I was under the same impression too, that Western-Sahara is a separate country. I met overlanders who had stickers on their car with each country’s flag they were planning to visit during their trip. An angry police guy made them remove the sticker at one of the several check points.

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