Morocco test trip

The departure to Egypt is repeatedly postponed due to necessary work on the vehicle (suspension, front axle). Our MAN will be ready in March 2019. If we were to ship to Egypt now, we would enter the hottest period in Sudan and then the rainy season in Ethiopia, which lasts around four months (June to September). We therefore spontaneously decide to include a test trip through Morocco and postpone our departure so that we arrive in Ethiopia after the rainy season, around October 2019.

With GNV from Genoa to Tangier

GNV – Grandi Navi Veloci, or “big fast ships”.

The check-in on March 27 in Genoa is short and sweet. The crossing with GNV from Genoa to Tangier takes 2 days. The cabin is sufficiently clean, the choice of meals in the restaurant takes some getting used to and the quality of the food – well, you would expect a bit more from an “Italian ship”.

The North

Morocco welcomes us with rain and fog and it stays that way for the first week of our stay. We meet friends from Switzerland in Martil. Together we drive to Assilah, the small country town by the ocean with a pimped-out medina.

Assilah is known for its murals. These are usually painted by Moroccan artists on the occasion of the annual cultural festival in August and remain on the walls of the houses for one to two years.

The two “unknowns”: Martin and Anna from Switzerland


Our test trip covers a good 2500 km. Focal points include: Driving experience with the truck, carrying out minor assembly work, testing the washing machine and tire inflation system, driving in sand and on rough roads (setting the correct air pressure), etc.


We stay for four days at the “Bellevue” campsite, which is located just north of Meknes. Unfortunately, our longing for sun and warmth is not fulfilled. It rains often and in torrents and is cold. During these days, another 30 cm of snow falls on the Middle Atlas, but it quickly melts away again.

More luck than sense: I drive through the entrance gate to the campsite in the spirit of “I’ll manage somehow” – later I measure the clearance height with a laser. Oops, that was close – the clearance height is only 5 cm higher than our vehicle. If you want to know exactly: 3.85m.

Reinstall the reading light after fitting the loudspeaker boxes. The 4 kg “Candy” washing machine runs and washes wonderfully. Despite the overcast sky, the solar cells produce enough energy to run the washing machine without any major loss of power. Only the water consumption of 40 liters is registered – and the fact that the waste water tank is soon full after two machines.

The sunset finally heralds the long-awaited change in the weather.

Meknes inspires us. We feel completely safe and are hardly ever harassed. It is a pleasure to stroll through the market hall and the souk. The oranges are incredibly sweet and the vegetables are fresh from the garden. Colorful pastries and olives attract our eyes and tempt us to buy – without remorse!

Towards evening, the “Place Lahdime” comes to life. A constant coming and going. Many places rent out miniature cars for the children, which they can drive themselves or which are driven by a supervisor.

The mightiest gate in the old city wall, the “Bab Mansour”, is impressive.

Middle Atlas

The Middle Atlas is now free of snow again. It is very cool at night. The N13, which leads via Midelt over to Errachidia, is mostly in good condition, but only just under 2 trucks wide. The first stage of driver training is therefore: crossing trucks without demolishing the wing mirror. You also have to watch out for frayed roadsides.

Barbary apes live above Azrou. Dealers offer food for sale. But we’re not going along with that. But the forest impresses with its mighty Atlas cedars and justifies a stop.

A little later, the little road to “Lac Aguelmame Sidi Ali” branches off to the left. Here, at 2100 m above sea level, it is relatively quiet.

We approach the Great Atlas, which we cross at the edge. This is also the start of the beautiful descent through the Ziz Gorge to Errachidia.

After Errachidia kilometer long oasis in the bed of the Ziz River. Unbelievable. Despite this unmanageable number of date palms, Morocco has to import dates. King Mohammed VI has therefore launched a project to generously create more date oases.


The graceful dune landscape in Merzouga gives you a little Sahara feeling – but only a little. While it gets around 30° during the day (finally), the cooler evenings are a hive of activity. It’s not the groups of tourists riding camels into the sunset that disturb us, but the rattling motocross bikes, the roaring engines of the quad bikes and the 4x4s driving up to the crests of the dunes. They take away any idyllic atmosphere from the evening.

We stay at the beautiful “Haven La Chance” campsite, which is located right next to the sand dunes and enjoy the warmth. The water pressure for filling the water tanks is minimal, so it takes a whole hour to fill our tanks.

Our “outdoor kitchen” is simple. The storage compartment flap serves as a support and the 230V socket built into it supplies the power for the induction hob from Silit (WMF). It is quick to set up, easy to use and takes up little space.


For navigation, we tested the Android app “OSMand+” . We bought the low-cost paid version, plus the OSM (Open Street Map) map of Morocco, including terrain shading and elevation curves. The app runs on a Panasonic Tough Pad Tablet FZ-A2 (bought second-hand) and works to our satisfaction. Routes can be created directly in the OSMand app, even complex routes. But unfortunately I have not found a way to save them. GPX data can also be read in and the route can be recorded. As a backup solution, we still have two smartphones at our disposal, which are equipped with the same apps and maps. However, the tablet’s larger screen is much more convenient.

In addition, we navigate with a Garmin navigation device, on which we have also loaded OSM maps. The two devices complement each other well. We use Garmin BaseCamp on the laptop for route planning.

Basically, navigation with OSMand+ works well. Unofficial slopes are defined as routes in the map material. The “Pedestrian” option must be set in OSMand+ for the app to navigate correctly. Then, of course, the expected arrival and travel times are no longer correct.

For real off-road driving, i.e. when there are no tracks or paths in the map material, OSMand+ is not up to the task – or I haven’t found the right settings yet. I would like to have a suitable app for this case. Unfortunately, Mapout is only available for Apple IOS.

Along the Algerian border

It takes us three days to cover the 250 km distance from Merzouga to Zagora. Driving on the slopes is fascinating and we are amazed at how well the MAN masters everything. Spending the night far away from civilization is one of the most beautiful things there is. The dreaded sandy passages through the riverbed of the Ziz at Ramla are half as tragic. The main thing is not to drift southwards.

A satellite view of the landscape as it passes through.

Our first overnight stop is in front of the small oasis of Ramlia, behind a sand dune.

After Ramlia, the dreaded riverbed of the “Oued Daoura” has to be crossed. The sand is fine (Fech Fech) and deep in places. If you are lucky enough to follow one of the many “good” lanes, crossing is no problem. It is important to keep to the west and not drift to the south-west.

Simply deflate the tires properly, switch on the all-wheel drive and “drive through” at medium speed in the appropriate gear and at a constant speed, but not too fast. One of our South African 4×4 trainers said at the time: “We don’t drive in the sand, we drive on the sand.

We lowered the air pressure at the front and rear from 7 and 6.5 bar to 3 bar and that was easily enough. Speed between 30 and 40 km/h, sometimes a little slower.

Second overnight stay on a plain, about 25 km from the Algerian border.

The third day takes us through a beautiful desert landscape, first over compacted sand, but then over unpleasant, rough stone tracks. Air pressure 4 to 5 bar. The crowning glory was the crossing of an (erosion?) crater. A Bedouin fountain on the crater floor, but unfortunately without Bedouins.

Zagora – Erg Chegaga

Got on the dog

In Zagora we stay at the very well-kept “Oasis Palmier” campsite. It’s beautiful here. But French tourists brought a well-meaning dog that had been hit by a truck from the city to this campsite, leaving 100 euros with the order to look after the dog. The admittedly “hearty” dog was injured in the head and had two broken legs. Perhaps also internal injuries. The whimpering and howling of the injured dog during the day and especially at night goes through your heart and soul. In the end, we can’t stand it any longer – it’s too much for us. We therefore switch to the equally well-kept “Palmeraie d’Amezrou” campsite with excellent sanitary facilities. We are welcomed with a cup of tea and in the morning there is a flatbread on our stairs.

To Erg Chegaga

Our time in Morocco will soon be over. We want to extend and therefore call the GNV. A little refreshment before the call to Italy (unfortunately only possible by phone, not by email). Then it happens – a large dental seal falls out. That’s it. We refrain from calling. Our plan to drive via M’Hamid to Erg Chegaga and on via Lac Iriqui to Foum Zguid unfortunately comes to nothing. But via M’Hamid to Erg Chegaga and back to Zagora, that can be done in the two remaining days.

As gravel plains alternate with sand on the way to Erg Chegaga, we drive with an “average” air pressure of 4 bar. Our air pressure regulation system works to our satisfaction. It is convenient to be able to check the air pressure axle by axle from inside the vehicle. But beware, if the tires on both axles are inflated at the same time, the vehicle’s air pressure will collapse.

We’ve made it: we’re at Erg Chegaga!

The sweet secret in Zagora

For once, the saleswoman was completely unmotivated and unfriendly. But maybe that’s why the sweets she sells are all the better?

Return journey

From Zagora we follow the Draa upstream. The clay architecture of the ksar (fortified settlement/storage castle) never ceases to amaze. The Draa carries a lot of water. The picture shows the Tamnougalt Kasbah near Agdz. Kasbah = castle.

Here I fell for a bicycle dealer. I really wanted to buy dates, but I had no idea of the price. In the end I paid 130 DH (approx. 13 CHF) + a used shirt for 1 kg of dates. Back in Switzerland, I see that 1st quality dates cost less than CHF 10…

Between Agdz and Ouarzazate you cross a wild mountain landscape, the Tizi’n Tinififft. After Ouarzazate, we turn off into the side valley of Ait Ben Haddou to spend the night at the“Atlasview” campsite. Once again we experience Moroccan hospitality. On arrival, we are served a delicious peppermint tea. The view is fantastic. However, a very cool wind blows down from the great Atlas.

The next morning, our host picks us up so that we can watch the bread being baked. The crispy, fresh flatbread tastes excellent. Out of enthusiasm, we give him two shirts that have become too tight for me. He gratefully accepts them, but is keen to return the favor and gives us two mineral crystals. We felt very comfortable with these people. Thank you very much!

Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou is one of the typical residential castles or fortified villages of the Berbers, in this case the “Sons (Ben) of Haddou” . Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time for a tour and therefore only see Ben Haddou from the viewpoint.

The origin of the Berbers is not entirely clear. However, the architecture of the residential castles corresponds to that of Babylonian construction. The Berber script seems to be related to the early Phoenician script, just like the Hebrew script, as it consists only of consonants. Before Islamization, the Berbers belonged to the Jewish or Christian faith. In a conversation with an intellectually educated Berber, he told us that the Berbers are thought to have come from the Israel/Yemen region. At the end of the conversation, he said: “Basically, I’m a Jew from my roots”, but it doesn’t matter what religion you belong to anyway. Got into his car and drove away.

Tizi’n Tichka

The drive over the High Atlas, over the Tizi’n Tichka, is tremendous and challenges me, as I am unfortunately not free from vertigo. However, most of the northern ramp is a large construction site and very difficult to ride.

Marrakech missed

Near the Koutoubia Mosque and therefore close to Jamaa El-Fna Square, there is a 24-hour parking lot that we wanted to drive to and stay there overnight. At first, a gate that wasn’t high enough blocked our entrance to the city. Afterwards, we were confused by the countless truck driving bans and decided to drive to the next campsite instead. The journey there was a pain. Why? We were beginning to feel so sorry that we didn’t dare to drive into the city after all, and we were so stuck in the heavy evening traffic that there was no turning back. That still annoys us today when we think about it. So close but gave up too soon. I hope it doesn’t happen to us again.

The campsite “Le Relais de Marrakech”, under French management, was too European for us. The campsite could just as easily have been located somewhere in Europe. Even the audience.


We round off our trip through Morocco with a final day on the beach in Assilah. We are aware that we have only scratched the surface a little with Morocco. What a shame for this beautiful country with its lovely people. Another time we would definitely take more time than just five weeks (including the outward and return journey) and travel more remote routes.

In Assilah we have our MAN, which still has no name, washed and refueled. In the meantime, we have met Rikki and Peter from the German side of Lake Constance and drive to the ferry port together. Good conversations are guaranteed during this two-day crossing.

A final highlight is the departure from the port of Barcelona at night. What can we expect next? We want to take care of the shipment to Egypt immediately!

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