Marrakech Express Part II

Story by Emily Roberts// Photos by Emily Roberts, Ricardo Serpa, Carlos Martins & Chris Hollands
April 25 2023

Experiencing the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, and wondering “have I been sold into marriage for five kilograms of salt?”

In our March issue, Emily Roberts embarked on a journey via Aventura Motorcycle Tours from Malaga, Spain, across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco. The ride took her down the Atlantic Coast to Essaouira where she turned inland to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains. While in Marrakech, Emily was forced to endure a Henna tattoo at a local market, and pay for it. She left Marrakech underwhelmed, with only a stomach bug and a temporary tattoo to remember the place by.

Something’s Rotten in Marrakech

One thing to keep in mind while riding in countries like Morocco is the smells are unlike anything else: mostly good, but some very bad. As we left the city I caught wind of heavy sewage, burning garbage and something rotting; this along with my newly acquired stomach bug, had me questioning how quickly I could stop the bike and get my helmet off should the need arise.

Sitting at 2,260 metres in altitude, the Tizi n’Tichka Pass is the highest mountain pass in all of North Africa. The summit offered a spectacular view of mountains covered in tan and muted blues and greens.

As we descended at each corner of the road, as if to watch for bad drivers, was a dog basking in the sun; there were at least 50 of them in the small stretch of road as we rode down from the summit.

A Salty Bride Price

We followed the road to Teoulet, and the previous Pasha’s kasbah. What looked to be a ruin and ready to crumble revealed to have an immaculate interior, with beautiful tilework and an incredibly detailed plastered ceiling. “One kilo of salt for her hand in marriage,” the kasbah guide said to Ricardo, I quickly piped up and said, “I’m worth at least five!” We all laughed as the local then agreed that five kilos would be acceptable. My laugh then turned to a nervous giggle, wondering if he was serious.

We began moving away from the Atlas Mountains toward the Merzouga Desert. There was a grand shift in views and along with it, culture. We left the tight and busy roads lined with stray dogs and clay houses and traded it for more rural areas with small markets, and people selling knitted goods for the coming winter.
The roads seemed to get stretched by both ends; what once was nothing but twisted and kinked soon became straighter and flatter. In Alnif we stopped at a place called Café Saghro, owned by a lovely local named Mohamed, a geologist and a guide for many international geological treks. He explained the history and significance of the area and showed us some fossils of the first multi-celled organisms that crawled earth.

Into the Desert

As we approached the town of Merzouga and saw nothing but dry…

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