30 Days in Morocco

Eric Lamar
6 min readJan 3, 2024


From the mountains to the sea

I may have gotten the “Morocco bug” from reading about the Atlas Mountains helped along by the exotic sound of cities like Marakech and Casablanca.

Morocco is now part of the Arab world though the pre-Arab population, known as Berbers, remain an important part of the culture. It’s former name is Mauritania.

It was also once part of the Roman Empire and in later times was controlled by the French; french is still widely spoken there today.


And it’s now known that the country was occupied by our early ancestors some 300,000 years ago, their bones have been found at a world-famous site called Jebel Irhoud.

Jebel Irhoud Homo Sapiens

To travel east from Casablanca is to go back in time and place. Even in Marakech it’s not uncommon to see mule-drawn carts amidst the traffic.

Looking west towards the Atlas Mountains from Marakech.

By the time you reach the mountains, mules are being used as pack animals and not just on mountain trails.

Loaded and ready to go

The bags are loaded off the mule and then it takes about three people to lift them into place.

Berber, also known as Amazigh or Tamazight is the language of the east.

In mid-November it was the end of the tourist season so outside of Marakech other visitors were few and far between and in the M’Goun valley, where we trekked first, it was only the locals.

The trees were a delightful surprise — in the valleys there are bright yellow poplars and stately walnuts. Higher up it’s pine and then magnificent (and ancient) junipers.

Apple growing is big too, the harvest is crated up and stored in the cool open air until the price is right to take them to market.

The days could be long on the trail — six to eight hours of some serious ups and downs before camp was reached. We were a team of four or five comprised of a guide, a cook, one or two mule drivers and me.

Hamza, Ibrihim and Abdul and our all important mule

A typical day would start at 8AM with a hot breakfast and then off on the trail only to be passed by the mules and the team in short order. They would stop up ahead and cook lunch. After lunch it was off again (and being passed again) arriving at camp around four or five.

Breakfast in a herders hut

Many nights were above 7,000 feet and one was at 9,500 so the setting sun brought on a chill and the nights could be frosty though not frigid with brilliant stars as ample consolation.

On the trail

Summit day on M’Goun peak was a 4AM start with the first 3.5 hours a steady uphill climb in darkness. We reached a saddle at about 13,000 feet just as the sun was rising. The final 90 minutes was along a ridge line with spectacular views all around.

Sunrise near the summit

And then the descent — or scramble is a better word. Quarter mile pitches of 50 to 60 degree downslopes in loose scree where you would dig your heel in and slide till you stopped. Followed by a three hour walk down a river valley, 15 miles total for the day.

Down, down, down

After the trek, I was back in Marakech and then onward, via the train to Rabat, the Moroccan capital, located on the Atlantic coast. If Marakech is the Las Vegas of the country, Rabat is much quieter and more to my liking.


The train trip was about four hours stopping at regional cities as we traveled northwest. No “quiet car” is needed as people seem to be much more sedate than on your typical Amtrak train.

The medina, or old city, in Marakech is a dense warren of tourist shops where getting lost is a certainty. In contrast, the medina in Rabat and especially in Sale, the town next door, felt authentic, a place where locals lived, shopped and worked. You could still get quite lost; then you walked till you saw a car or truck, a sure sign you were reaching the periphery.

Marakech medina

Grocery stores are uncommon. You shop at the stall selling what you need: fruit, bread, meat, fish, etc. Bread is usually baked in a round loaf, about an inch and a half thick and denser than ours. A traditional Berber meal is eaten from a large common plate or dish with the bread used as a mini-pocket to gather up the food.

The food cooked on the trek by Mustapha was delicious and fresh and I had several impromptu meals in the medinas which were amazing and not more than ten dollars.

Fresh calamari and eggplant — $5, please.

Getting around was a cinch. In addition to the train, I used city buses, a state-of-the-art tram system in Rabat as well as the occasional taxi and even their version of Uber. Buses are about 50 cents and the drivers make change! Taxis were more expensive as the drivers would refuse to use the meter and quote you a price, usually seven to ten dollars, modest enough by our standards.

Cell service was good, there would even be sporadic signals in the Atlas Mountains. I could always tell when there was service as Hamza, my guide, would slow to a crawl up ahead as he checked his messages. People didn’t seem to text much. They would use the voice feature and send recorded messages. If you were to sneak a peak at a phone you would see a screen of these messages received or sent.

I found people to be both friendly and polite when you did speak with them. You would walk down a village street and be taken no notice of unless you said “bonjour” which would be returned with the other person asking how you were.

Children and teens were likely to be more spontaneously friendly, curious and inquisitive, always a delight. They would often say “merhaba” meaning welcome, not as in after a “thank you”, but you are welcome here. Sweet.

Kids in a village

It was a superb month away in a new place with adventure always on the horizon.