Sunday, 11 May 2014



I know that I have said it before but I can't believe where this year has gone already.  By the time you receive this blog issue it will be May and already we will be well into the last of our early 2014 tours, that's 2 "Classic:, 3 "Premium" and 1 "Discovery" completed, until we return to Morocco in September with the "Amazigh" Eastern Moroccan tour.

As mentioned we return in the Autumn with the September "Amazigh", with just ONE vehicle place available.  The November "Premium" tour has ONE vehicle place remaining and the December Xmas/New Year tours offering "stand-by" places only.  Everything else is FULL for 2014.  The Classic Tour October 2014 should you be interested you need to contact the Camping and Caravanning Club Direct.

Currently we are running at around 50% booked for most 2015 tour dates with some tours already FULLY BOOKED.  We can only offer single vehicle places on ALL the early 2015 tours i.e. January through 'till May, so don't wait if you are thinking of joining one of these tours.

For any number of reasons clients switch dates or cancel so for the latest up-to-date tour availability just contact the office.

Remember, Andalusia Detours continues during the early and late summer months with increased tour dates for 2015.

NOTE: Due to personal reasons a client has had to transfer from the September Amazigh Tour this year, this means we now have a place available on that tour - commencing 5 September 2014.  Call or email ASAP if you are interested in the LAST available AMAZIGH tour place for this year!

Okay, enough of that for the moment ..... 


No, not an invasion force ..... In today's security environment, the ability to quickly place military personnel on a location anywhere on the globe is at a premium.  In order to stay ready for that task, the U.S. Marines of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force conducted a training mission in Tifnit, Southern Morocco during April.

Their mission was executed in conjunction with African Lion 14, comprising of a combined-joint exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the U.S. that involved approximately 150 soldiers of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, 350 U.S. service members and undisclosed numbers of additional military personnel from European, African and partner nations.

The Marines flew approximately 500 nautical miles in MV-22B Tiltrotor Ospreys from Moron Air Base Spain, to their landing zone in Tifnit.  Once they arrived, a platoon of Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which is the ground combat element for SP-MAGTF Crisis Response, quickly established security of the area.

Capt. Kyle Stuart, the flight lead for the African Lion 14 mission said, "our task was to provide assault support for the tactical insertion of the platoon from the GCE into simulated U.S. compound in Morocco in order to safeguard U.S. citizens and government property".

The Crisis Response's flight and insert also demonstrated the rapid-response capability to multinational observers from 14 different countries during the "Observer Program" of African Lion 14.  The countries included: Mauritania, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Senegal, Poland, Italy and France.


Unfortunately the tour group had turned-in for the evening while others declined our offer of an unscheduled evening trip into Fez.  A shame really as quite by accident Hammed and I stumbled across something quite unusual.

The Tariqa Khalwatiyya and a night of dihikr wa Samaa, or prayer and contemplation, and much more besides.

The evening begun wit the brotherhood chanting in a semi-circle, and progressed to one of the most spectacular and beautiful of Sufi practices - the whirling dervishes.  To watch them is to have a sense of suspension, as though they are almost levitating.

The Tariqa re-grouped and began their deep, drum-like chant, over-toned by a singer on stage.  Then they rose and moved into a tight circle, rotating as the chanting intensified.  They opened out, and three dancers ran into the centre, leaping, turning and tossing their hair in a wild and exuberant display.  The circle formed again, and more acolytes came to join, as the audience rose to add their voices to the experience.

As a finale, individual roses were thrown into the audience; a fitting token for a truly moving and exciting experience.

The Tariqa Khalwatiyya is an Islamic Sufi brotherhood that, along with the Naqshbandi, Qadiri and Shadhili orders, is among the most famous Sufi orders.  The order takes its name from the Arabic word Khalwa, meaning "method of withdrawal or isolation from the world for mystical purposes".  The Khalwati order is known for its strict ritual training of its dervishes and its emphasis on individualism. 

The Khalwatiyya are based in Turkey.  However, through Moroccan, and more generally North African, Sufism is characterised by the devoluton ofmultiple brotherhoods.  Over time from a small group of orders who brought Sufism to North Africa, principally the Qadiriyya, the Shadhiliyya and the Khalwatiyya, it has grown.  There exist a great number of similar annexes in Turkey, including orders descended from all three of those just mentioned.  Rather than shedding light on some fundamental historical difference between Moroccan and Turkish Sufism it will surfice to say that the "originality" of the Khalwatiyya, in contrast to their Moroccan counterparts, appears largely coincidental.

Having said all this, it should be reiterated that the Khalwatiyya have a very strong presence in North Africa, principally through the Tijaniyya annex, which is the largest tariqa in West Africa and whose founder, Ahmed-al-Tijan [d.1815], lived and was buried in Fez.  Indeed it was al-Tijani who was responsible for propagating the Khalwatiyya order, which he had encountered in Cairo on his way to Mecca to perform the Hajj, in the Maghreb.

In a further example of the inter-connectedness of the brotherhoods histories, Tijani had also been an initiate of the Wazzaniyya and the Qadiriyya.  This reflects the widespread diffusion of the oldest Sufi orders throughout the lands of Islam, and demonstrates how no order should be considered indigenously "Moroccan", their origins stretching back to the medieval Middle-East and Central Asia.  Similarly, whilst we may talk of the "Turkish Khalwatiyya", the fact is that they originated in Tabriz, in what is present-day Iran, their master the Persian speaking 'Umar al-Khalwati [d.1398].

Phewwwwwwwwwwwwww .......


Whilst we at Desert Detours are of course aware how precious clients motorhomes are and their concern for suitability and comfort ..... and the continual need for electric HU, dumping, water, etc etc etc [on some routes] I was refreshed to welcome on the April tour [for just the Desert and Todra sections] Colin and Sally ........

The above picture says it all ..... Having previously ridden overland to China, yes CHINA, you would think that Morocco would have presented few challenges.  Indeed the main challenge this intrepid couple faced was the constant questions and photo calls wherever they stopped.

Joining our group at Meski, Colin and Sally continued with us into the Desert and then onto Todra.

Oh yes, the bike ...... A 100% ORIGINAL 1937 BSA that saw service in WW2 and then as an AA Patrol vehicle.  Like I said, 100% original.

Even staff member Benny had to get in on the act!


In the tour Escort vehicle, minding our own business on the road just out of Fez and .................... Watch 'till the end and turn the volume down if easily offended [hear how we switch from talking Arabic to English in a flash!]


Rabat - Sometimes it is true that you can foretell the end of a story at first glimpse.  That is what happened to me when I lived with an Amazigh [Berber] family in the Kingdom of Morocco in 2013.

Although I didn't speak a word of Tamazigh at that time, there was a surprisingly good connection between the mom of the house [Iwalida] and me from the very first moment.

I remember that it was after midnight when I arrived at her house on a hot September night; I was received by a short woman with bright black eyes smiling warmly who led me up her three-story house to the terrace.  After introducing herself to me, she gently showed me my bed among others, pointing to a place on a big carpet shared with girls.  After my initial surprise, I stayed a while, thinking about my madness of living with strangers in a country with such a different culture - but I soon fell asleep with a broad smile, knowing that I had made the right decision. 

Amazigh are the original inhabitants of North Africa and have lived there since 8000 BC. Even today, they comprise an important percentage of the population in Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.  The name "Berber" comes from the Latin word "barbarian", and the Romans called them this because they were difficult to conquer and dominate.

However, Berbers prefer to be called Amazigh, which means, "free man" in Tamazigh, their language.  Although Romans, Phoenicians, and Arabs influenced their culture, they still keep their traditions and some ancients habits.  And although Islam has influenced their religion and have had to cope with many obstacles, they preserve their mother tongue to this day.

As nomads and skillful traders, the Berbers created new trade routes from the Sahara to the Mediterranean coasts.  They were brave men that helped conquer modern Spain for more than seven centuries, calling it Al-Andalus.  Nowadays, they have mingled with different ethnicity and live in the mountains, the desert, or even in big cities.  They can be peasants or students at important universities.  They are the best guides for showing the grandeur of the Sahara, sleeping under a starry sky, or deftly using the latest technology.

Before my trip to Morocco, I tried to learn about the country, and when I arrived, I came across the Berbers.  With them, I learned the value in building personal relationships, being respected and integrating my diversity.  For the Amazigh, family is the cornerstone of society, and if you are trustworthy enough you will become their extended family, whom they include in all of their activities. 

Imazighen [plural for Amazigh] are very kind and independent.  From their earliest age,they learn generosity and a love for Nature.  They enjoy talking quietly while sitting on the sand at sunrise or sunset.  They take time to tell stories or sing while playing drums before an open fire at night.  Imazighen are also devoutly religious. 

As the writer Mousso Ag Assrid said, "we have the clocks, they have the time".  When I first met the Berber family with whom I lived for two months, I personally experienced a strong impact between the two different worlds in my heart.  The frantic life of the West had no place in the peaceful lifestyle of the desert.  My Amazigh hosts made me understand that the things that seemed most complicated where the simplest to work out.  I passed from surprise to pleasure.  My hosts taught me not only to acquire new habits, but also to learn a new way of seeing life.  Through simple acts like an invitation to sleep on the terrace with the family or the sharing of daily activities, they turned each day of my visit into a new adventure.

It is impossible for me to describe the fundamental differences I experienced on this unforgettable trip.  Three years later, it is not easy to recount every moment, but I remember my feelings during the trip perfectly.  And today I miss the joyful and tolerant atmosphere of my "home" - kind hands to ease the tensions, profound harmony, patient smiles that gave me courage to try new things, deep silences, pleasure for my little domestic achievements, time to play naive jokes ...... They taught me to pause in hard times and listen to my heart, so that I can find what I am seeking.

What I most admire about the Imazighen is that although the pace of the world is constantly accelerating, they will never lose their traditions or roots.  They will take all the world has to offer without losing their essence.  Imazighen, those wise people from the distant sands of Erg Chebbi, made my stay unforgettable by giving me the most precious thing a person has: their time...............


Among the many aromas of a Moroccan street one of the most delightful, and as thought provoking as the smell of freshly baked breads, are the stands of the Moroccan tea herb vendors, stacked high with glistening wet piles of freshly cut, green, tea herbs with a dominant scent of fresh mints.  But there is more to mint tea than simply mint.

Moroccan Tea and its flavours are a serious concern for everybody.  Moroccans take incredible pride in their tea, serving it with every conversation, all day long, and after every meal, so there is an extraordinary demand for a daily and endless supply of fresh herbs. Spearmint tea, Atay Naanaa [the gift of Allah], is as ubiquitous and quintessential to Moroccan culture as couscous or tagine, however, Moroccan tea is not exclusively flavoured with Spearmint.

While there is an abundance of fresh spearmint on the stalls if you venture further into the piles of bundled sprigs the leaf shapes, colours and stalks change from mint to the other prevalent aromatic Moroccan tea herbs; the earthy scents of Wormwood or Absinthe [sheeba] for bitter, biting taste, the sharp, musky scent of wild Thyme [satar], lemony, floral accents of scented geranium [tafliout], and the silky, rabbit ears of Sage.  Often tea preparations include smaller quantities of dried Peppermint leaves or fresh leaves of the strong fresh mint/menthol flavour of Pennyroyal [fliou], giving a tea a more pungent aroma and flavour.  For the discerning tea connoisseur not all mints are the same either.  Numerous varieties of Spearmint can be found in Morocco and the best tea herb vendors always stock a good choice of flavours from floral accents of tamaris to those with basil notes, zesty pineapple or peppermint scents depending on the season or region.

There are also two schools of tea in Morocco, drawn distinctly down the blurred geographical boundaries of Morocco's Berber and Arab cultures.  Mint teas in the north can be found infused with Lemon Verbena, Pine nuts, Orange blossoms or Tunisian Jasmine. Berber teas of the south and Atlas Mountains tend to be stronger, darker shorter and can include number of herbal additions for flavour and medicinal purposes including Wild Thyme, Sage, Wild Mint [timicha], and Rosemary or even the subtle infusions of golden pistils of saffron.  

Personally my favourite Moroccan tea is a subtly sweetened, tall glass blend of Tamaris spearmint, fliou, [pennyroyal] and tafliout [lemon scented geranium] made in accompaniment with a Tunisian jasmine green tea.  It's as equally divine in its aroma as it is in exotic flavours.

Beyond flavour and scent Moroccan Tea is more that just a drink, symbolic not only of Moroccan cuisine and Moroccan hospitality but also deeply steeped in ritual and ceremony. A typical Moroccan family will own a fine tea service used for special occasions and the serving of guests.  An engraved Moroccan teapot [berrad] with a long, curved spout for accurate pouring from high above the glass., typical engraved or coloured Moroccan tea glasses [keesan] and special serving tray [siniya].  The tea ceremony remains sacred as does the flair and art form or pouring the tea.  The higher the pouring the better.  Purportedly affecting not only its flavour but aerating the tea so a desirable foam head will form on the surface.

Try it ............ The art of tea making Moroccan style is not complex and the results delicious.

For the traditional basic recipe, you require a reasonable sized metal tea pot that can be heated on a stove or simply a pot.  Bring around a pint of water to the boil and add half a handful of green tea leaves [gun powder tea is excellent] and several sugar lumps according to taste.  Bring the water to the boil again and then remove from the heat while you place a large sprig of mint [or a couple of cups of leaves] into the water.  Bring to the boil again then remove from the heat and let stand for a couple of minutes.

Pour one tea glass full of tea and then return it to the pot.  Repeat this a couple of times. Now the tea is ready.  Pour each glass from high enough above the glass to cause the tea to foam a little.

There are many variations on this but basically it is up to you.  Enjoy!


I picked up the story via one of the media releases I trawl and quite like it .... It also reminded me of a song I heard way back ..... Brian Ferry version, I think?

A charitable act of kindness by a selfless Muslim in the bus on Saturday April 20 has touched the hearts of millions and elicited appreciative responses all over the world.

The wonderful story of this simple act of selflessness and true human character went viral in the social media.  Its hero is a Muslim who gave his own shoes and socks to a needy barefoot in the bus in Vancouver, Canada.

Surjit Singh Virk, an off-duty Coast Mountain bus driver, said he witnessed an act that "touched his soul in a way that he has never experienced before", after seeing a Muslim giving the shoes off his feet to a passenger "with two plastic hairnets covering his feet instead of shoes".

"It made my heart melt," Virk said to QMI Agency as reported by the Huffington Post.

"He just took his shoes and socks off and said, 'you can take these, don't worry about me - I live close by and can walk'.

The kindhearted Muslim walked out of the bus barefoot at the next stop before the man could say thanks.

According to the same source, the generous man, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a 27 year old from British Columbia in Canada, who volunteers at the local mosque.

The kind hearted Muslim preferred to speak to the agency on anonymity "because his Muslim faith teaches that charitable acts should be anonymous".

"Faith, hope, peace ....... this is what it looks like.  Much respect to him.  May we all be role models like him one day in one way or another", commented Aumbrine Khan on the photos of both people shared by Salim Jiwa.

"Mercy and love are the foundations of all faiths.  I don't know a faith that does not teach generosity.  In fact, it's a foundation of Islam - a pillar of faith", added another Facebook user, commenting on the same photos.

If I could be you, if you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other's mind
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you'd be surprised to see that you've been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

Now your whole world you see around you is just a reflection
And the law of common says you're gonna reap just what you sow
So unless you've lived a life of total perfection
You'd better be careful of every stone that you should throw 

And yet we spend the day throwin' stones at one another
'Cause I don't think or wear my hair the same way you do
Well, I may be common people but I'm your brother
And when you strike out you're tryin' to hurt me it's hurtin' you
Lord, have mercy
And there are people on reservations and out in the ghettos
And brother, there, but for the grace of God, go you and I
And if I only had wings of a little angel, well
Don't you know, I'd fly to the top of a mountain and then I'd cry

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Better walk a mile in my shoes
Try before what you're doing


The debate is endless and all options and opinions are valid.  Personally I stand nowhere, not even on the "fence".  After 37 plus years in business I have just about seen and heard it all...... Why go on an Escorted/Guided tour when you could perhaps do it solo?  I am not talking about mainland Europe but the more far away destinations. 

There is rarely a tour when our group does not stumble across the loan "solo" motor-homer. It generally takes them no more than a few moments to strike-up conversation when it becomes clear that they are desperate for someone to char too or to glean information from ..... Solo travel can be quite a lonely experience and not for most I feel, although they will never admit it.  No problem, we always offer info and wherever possible assistance.

Then there are the "Independent" groups.  Sometimes just a few friends, often being shown around by one of our earlier clients, no problem.  Sometimes there are bigger groups, often put together by a club or forum .... sadly the motive is to enable to "organizer" to secure their complimentary ferry ticket [yes, you know who I mean].  Again, no problem, but very few of these groups stay together more than a few days, so I ask myself what was the point? Security in numbers? Yeah right!

Anyway this is NOT a rant, just an observation from which I see while sitting comfortably on the fence.

What does concern me is the lack of preparation, adequate insurance and/or knowledgeable assistance or any thought or plan in case of emergency .... Morocco is NOT Europe and normal and expected practice does not in most cases apply.  Without a wide and in depth knowledge, particularly technical/medical, of the region a minor "event" can turn into an expensive nightmare. 

It was most certainly not a minor event that unfolded on our last tour and I recount only to illustrate the many events that can overtake a "traveller" in a distant and unfamiliar destinations ..... The "story" is recounted with permission .........

John and Wendy had planned their Moroccan adventure well in advance, reading articles, asking questions and thankfully securing adequate insurance cover for both themselves and their vehicle.............

Perhaps more for another time ..........................


Marrakech -Zaouia Cherradi is home to a hauntingly exquisite mosque and marabout located in the village of the same name. 
It is close to the nearby town of Oudayia, some 30 kilometers outside of Marrakech on the road to Essaouira. It was built during the reign of the Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail who built Meknes as his imperial city during his reign in the early eighteenth century. He had to wage war against opposing forces in Fez and Marrakech and raise a standing army.
Among those he recruited were the Cherrada tribe who originated from the Al Hilal, an Arab tribe who traveled to Morocco in the fifth century in the Sahara from the Hamra Seguia area. They and the Chbanates Ouled Dlim, Ait Oussa, and Tekna went through several migrations, finally ending in the Souss in the seventh century. They were installed by the Saadians around Marrakech.
Sultan Moulay Ismail based his army, including the Cherrada, in Oudayia. When they liberated Marrakech for him from his rival Ahmed Ben Mehrez, they were rewarded with special consideration and plots of land. The beautiful mosque and white-domed mausoleum at Zaouia Cherradi were built during Moulay Ismail’s reign and locals tell age-old tales of his visit to a hammam there. Sadly, this building was recently demolished due to its old age.

The Zaouia of Sidi Ali Bouatel, a few hundred yards from Zaouia Cherradi, reflects the great history of the Sahrawi tribes in the Haouz region of Marrakech and was restored and repainted by the Ministry of Habous in 2010. Sidi Ali Bouatel is the patron saint of the Cherada tribe.
During the nineteenth century, the region experienced a revolt by the Cherrada tribe against Sultan Moulay Abderahmane, leading to the destruction of the town by Sultan Moulay Abderrahmane’s army. Locals point to a nearby hillside where the Sultan is said to have fired his cannon against Zaouia Cherradi. The little village still holds the remains of the walls and buildings of a much larger town that used to stand in its place.  Down the road from the mosque are the remains of an unusually built large brick archway and inside the graveyard is an imposing marabout built in brick instead of pisé.

In 1870, following the revolt, all the tribes migrated from the region and relocated to the Gharb where they remain to this day. The area of Zouia Cherradi also succumbed to desertification and water loss. It was originally a very fertile area that once held a river. The old river may have stretched as far as Safi perhaps, allowing the town to play an important role as a stop along one of the main trading routes.

During the 1920s, French media owner, Pierre Antoine Maas, was said to have expropriated Cherrada land, which had been granted to them by the Sultan’s dahir with the aid of the French Protectorate Authorities.

The large imposing mosque has a remarkable decorated minaret, red walls and green-slated rooftops. The inside of the mosque is well preserved and has a large courtyard. The adjoining white-domed mausoleum has exquisite stucco at its entrance but the insides remain deteriorated. The zellij tiles on the floor have been badly damaged and some of the walls have been defaced with graffiti. Restoration work on this historic mosque, which is at least 500 years old, is said to begin shortly. The historic mosque could bring in money for the local community from cultural groups interested in visiting the mosque to see Morocco’s unparalleled history and architecture.


Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education Lahcen Daoudi announced that the government is moving to boost the position of English in Moroccan universities, stressing that English is the language of scientific research, and it is believed to be the solution in Morocco’s education system

After the Secretary General of the Independence Party Hamid Chabat called for the adoption of English instead of French as the second official language in Morocco, Daoudi announced that the government is to adopt English in Moroccan universities.

Talking to Al-Yaoum 24, Douadi declared that the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research will impose English in engineering and medical programs. The ministry is to make‘ “English proficiency a condition for obtaining a doctorate.’’
“Thus, students who want to have access to science departments at Moroccan universities must be proficient in English,’’ Daoudi explained.
Daoudi declared that the ministry’s policy of adopting French Baccalaureate in the country is “a dubious solution”, to Morocco’s ailing education system explaining that “French is no longer useful”.
According to Daoudi, Morocco should follow many countries, such as Spain, Portugal, and Romania, which adopt English as the main foreign language in their education systems.
He stated that “French is important in France and Africa. But Morocco must have educational frameworks for more languages.”
Adopting French as the second official language in Morocco after Arabic has always been viewed as the main problem in the country’s educational system. In this regard, Douadi said that “we master neither Arabic nor French…because most scientific references are in English.”
According to Daoudi, when Arabic was the language of science in the past, scientists were obliged to learn Arabic, like Pope Sylvester II, who used to study in Arabic in University of al-Karaouine in 996. But nowadays, “English is the world language for scientific research,” Daoudi stressed.

The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Training concluded, “Whoever wants to learn Arabic, must also learn English first.”