Morocco's Atlantic Coast - Tarfaya to Assilah via Sidi Ifni, Essaouira, Casablanca and Azemmour

After discovering the emptiness and solitude of the Western Sahara, we were yearning for more civilisation, but were dreading the built-up areas and motorhomers en masse (the Moroccan Atlantic Coast is a prime campervanners location in the Winter).

Yes, it was built up and yes, it wasn’t the fantastic landscapes we’d been spoilt with in the Middle and High Atlases, but we found some weird and wonderful stories, beautiful quieter corners  and vibrant towns and cities.

First up, Tarfaya, a small town with an air of desolation – a town on the edge. Even though construction works are going on, there is a permeate feel that it has been abandoned. Once a hangout place for Antoine de St-Exupery and his pilots, the only remaining sign of the former is a small under-funded community-based museum. No glamorous displays, but framed posters about his time running the first airmail routes between France and Morocco with Aéropostale adorn the walls.


The small museum dedicated to Antoine de St-Exupery and the Aéropostale.



Tarfaya's sea front, a building site.

One of the framed poster displays.


Some of the many translations of "Le Petit Prince".




A passenger/car ferry wreck and a doomed literally-built-in-the-sea hotel pertained to this air of desolation and bygone roaring 20s. It might have never been on the map though, it may be a coastal town in waiting – waiting for its saviour, the person who will bring it out of the brink.

The shipwreck.

A doomed hotel...
On the way out, we still find some arid landscapes.

After Tarfaya, we drove all the way to Naila Lagoon and beyond.



Wild sea and treacherous cliff...

... With a huge hole in the middle.



And quieter surroundings.




On the second day, we still drive past some small villages reminiscent to the East.

Wild countryside.

Enjoying the drive!

Picturesque and quiet lunch spot before visiting Sidi Ifni.

The never-ending pebble beach at Sidi Ifni.

One of the many beautiful white & blue art deco buildings adorning the streets of this old Spanish enclave (Sidi Ifni).

Unfortunately, the huge campsites weren't as pretty as the buildings... We decided pretty quickly we'd wild camp again.

The nice promenade up to the centre.

Unfortunately, many of the nice building fronts are in need of repair...

... Or abandoned.

What a shame... The Twist definitely seem to have been left.

The old theatre/cinema/concert hall.

Could someone bring it back to life?

The busy fish market.

The not so picturesque back streets back to the van.

The sunset at one of the surfing beaches along the coast.

The prettiest surf spot we found en route to Essaouira.

After three nights “off roading” it, it was clear that finding nice wild camping spots was that little bit more difficult. Sidi Ifni may have been very pretty, but its huge campsites weren't so inviting. The famous surf spots were too built up. It took time to adjust. We had nearly come to one of these standstill – we were in need of the full lot – electricity, water, toilet emptying, showers and washing. Jamie had been complaining on and off of an earache too. We needed to base ourselves for a few days . Get off the road and recharge our batteries. Camping Esprit Nature (click on the link to read our review) was our solution. 18km from Essaouira, run by friendly French owners Séverine and Patrice, in the middle of olive tree fields and farmlands. A boutique-looking campsite in Morocco – it was too good to resist.


The entrance to Esprit Nature's campsite.



Parked and settled (Izzy The Motorhome's the first campervan on the left)!

The pretty path leading to the reception/shop (Séverine and Patrice's house too).

The pretty swimming pool! I did manage to have a dip in - I was the first one to go in, I was told people start going in around April time!

Camping at Esprit Nature lived up to our expectation and more! It was a truly wonderful find. Probably too far from Essaouira to be fully packed, we enjoyed our four nights in peaceful surroundings. Unfortunately, our stay wasn’t all that quiet. Jamie’s earache didn’t pass as we’d hoped. On our second day, paracetamols couldn’t mutter the now unbearable pain and barely brought him to sleep on our third night. A doctor had to be called. Séverine made it happen – a brief discussion about our problem and here she was calling and texting her practitioner, in Essaouira and arranging transport with the local taxi driver. We couldn’t have hoped for better help and support.


Dr Toufelaz was a young private doctor consulting in his own residence. Sat in his lounge-cum-consultation-room, we were witnessing how the young Moroccan middle classes lived. Comfy black leather sofas, modern paintings, huge HD plasma screen with the latest home surround sound system and built in DVD player – it was a Morocco we hadn’t seen before. We talked in both French and English, fortunately Jamie was able to communicate and explain the horrendous pain it’d been having. A few questions and look at the infected ear, Dr Toufelaz knew what the problem was and what to prescribe; infected cist in Jamie’s ear – disinfectant/anti-inflammatory/painkillers were needed. Jamie took some straight away.

Both the relief of having had a diagnosis and taking some medications worked their magic or just that little so that Jamie was well enough to wanting to walk around Essaouira – Morocco’s windy city. Promenading along its sandy beach, its old fishermen’s port adorned with lines of wooden blue boats and its souqs, we liked the atmosphere. It felt cool and down to earth. We stayed until dark and rung our taxi back. 


The long stretch of sand leading to the centre of Essaouira.

Whilst locals and tourists are taking a stroll along the beach, amateur footballers enjoy a few games.



Locals and Moroccan visitors themselves admire the rows of wooden blue fishermen boats packed in the port.
The boats in the morning mist.



The old Fort and one of the Bastions leading to the old centre of Essaouira.



Hungry seagulls circling low around the men's catch of the day!

Essaouira's main square with many restaurants and cafés already offering ice creams!

Once passed the main square, narrow streets and small alleyways are the norm.

We enjoyed some succulent vegan food at Shyadma's Vegan Food (third sign from the left, part of it's hidden behind a post).



The old city walls and canons.

And the sea view behind them.





In the big souq, not as picturesque as the small streets.

Ruined buildings behind the market leads back to some more pretty narrow streets...

A nice little square.

A pretty "coiffeur" (hairdresser).

The next day, Jamie was well enough to go on a short bike ride around the area. We packed our lunches and went to explore one of the slowly growing trends in Morocco – a Fromagerie, "La Fromagerie Kalamak". Making cheese is becoming more and more popular across the country. Local communities, farmers and cooperatives in Morocco are learning the methods and starting to make their own produce. Abderrazzak Kouhbbane’s one of the few who has decided to give it a go. With his family, they produce both cow and goat’s cheeses of different tastes and strengths which they sell to individuals and serve at their garden restaurant. After degustation, we left with two cheeses and free samples – well packed for a few weeks ration!




Jamie checking our cycling route.

Abderrazzak Kouhbbane showing us a few of his cheeses.

Time to cycle back to Esprit Nature.

Leaving Esprit Nature was sad, but we thought it’d been time. We needed to move on and continue our journey closer back up to Western Europe.




A few camels can still be seen.

The fumes of big factories, we can tell we are getting closer to Casablanca, the economic hub.

Rough and wild landscapes can still be found in-between.

But next up was Oualidia (click on the link to read our brief review of our stay there, 7th bullet under Morocco), a small lagoon where we wild camped for the night . We had been driving for a while and looking for a nice spot near the lagoon. We spotted a track down to the water off the main road. Unsure, we drove down the steep track leading to an oyster’s factory/distribution centre, “La Princesse des Huîtres”.  It seemed shut at first glance, but moments later a camionnette drove down and parked next to the building. I sheepishly asked if we could stay and was welcomed with a “Oui, Madame, bien sur, pas de problèmes!” The man was the manager and happy to let us camp for as long as we wanted. We only stayed for the night and explored the lagoon and the small town on foot in the morning. It was beautiful.



The view of Oualidia lagoon from La Princesse des Huîtres”.

Further along the lagoon, an abandoned fishing factory.

In the small beach town of Oualidia, named after its lagoon.

Oualidia's beach.

As we’d woken up early, we went on to visit Azemmour in the afternoon. What a feast for the eye! The huge colourful and wonderful graffitis adorning the walls of the old town are worth the detour. More like frescoes than graffitis – it was not vandalism, but a celebration of Azemmour and its artists in many different styles, forms and colours. Just look at our pictures...


Behind the old gate, Azemmour's medina hides many frescoes...



Jamie's looking at our route, the medina's a bit of a labyrinth.



A more "typical-style" graffiti?

A humoristic touch.

Some of the beautiful tribes figures adorning the walls.

More colourful & childish ones.

Et voilà! These were some of the last we saw.

After the tranquillity of Oualidia and Azemmour, Casablanca was a shock. We’d expected it though and had been our plan to visit for a while. The interminable drive continuing on until dark took its toll; tired and hungry, I couldn’t focus and just wanted to stop anywhere rather than finding somewhere safe and practical (close enough to the centre). After stopping in one of the many Casablancan suburbs, Jamie found out about “La Grande Mosquée” (Hassan II Mosque)and its aire/small car park (Click on the link to read our brief review of our stay there, 8th bullet under Morocco). Forget the grump, I had to admit that it was a great find – right in the centre of Casablanca, metres away from one of the biggest and nicest mosque in the world with a 24hr guardian – it was the perfect and safest location in the city at the very small cost of 30dirhams!

Parked, paid and settled, we went on a walk around the mosque and the souqs as the evening was drawing in. It’d been busy, we could still sense the buzz of it. Few stalls were packing up. It was lovely to walk back arms in arms through the narrow streets and big avenues of a city we didn’t know, but had heard and read a lot about, Casablanca.



Hassan II Mosque.

A huge site.

The busy streets inside the medina.

Lost in all the bustle!

We went back in in the morning before leaving the city.

Walking through some of the poorer areas leading to the city centre.

A remnant of the 20s and 30s, one of the many art deco buildings left in the city.

One of the main tram thoroughfare adorned with whitewashed colonial buildings.



Back in time?







A pigeons' invasion?




The last town we stopped at was Assilah. Probably the best place in Morocco to ease us back to Europe. We had loved our time to discover such a beautiful culture and people, but we were yearning for little things such as chocolate and biscuits; sad isn’t it! But also bigger things, a clean city/town/village where recycling’s available – that’s where Assilah came into the picture. It was as clean as or even cleaner than some places in Spain/France/ or England.




Beautiful sand beach at Medhiya.

The beautiful view from the top of town.

Evening stroll in Assilah.

The medina's narrow and pristine streets.

Assilah's graffitis are not as plenty and as good as Azemmour, but some were worth it.

As usual, thanks to Jamie and help with Google Maps and/or Maps With Me, he's directing us.

Not enough shoes, are there?!

Quieter corners.

Walking back along the old city walls.



Back along the sea front, our campsite's not too far away.

Yes, Morocco has its problems such as poverty, urban planning, environment and territorial divisions to name a few, but it is a safe and welcoming country for all. Whether travelling on your own or with your family, your experiences will be different, but you will be met with the same smiles and honesty across North and South, East and West. Jamie and I loved it and hope you will too. Take the plunge... Do it!

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