Morocco & The Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert cuts across Africa – from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea – creating a natural barrier that has been one of the greatest challenges for travelers for thousands of years. It used to take Camel Caravans two or three months to make this treacherous journey, exchanging luxury goods from West Africa to the Mediterranean. Fortunately for travelers in the 20th century, there are paved roads that connect these two worlds, making this journey possible.

In 2008 we attempted to make the journey across the Sahara Desert, with the goal of traveling overland from Morocco to West Africa. Along the way we would cover thousands of kilometers, crossing one of the most extreme places on the planet, the Sahara Desert. Of course, we had many challenges along the way – a long story worth saving for another day – but we survived one of the most epic road trips of all time.

We began this journey in Tangiers, traveling through Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, eventually exiting the desert in Mali. From the top of the African continent, we traveled south to Chefchouen and continued towards the desert outpost of Erfoud eventually heading back west towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Our mission was to cross Morocco, so we made quick time across the county, only making a few stops along the way – including nights spent sleeping in Aït Benhaddou, the Todra Gorge, and Marrakesh – eventually reaching the Atlantic town of Essouria. We crossed the High Atlas mountains and entered the Sahara Desert.

We followed the Atlantic coast most of the way south; from just south of Agadir we stayed on the coast, following the newly paved road which cuts all the way south from Morocco to Senegal. We spent a night camped out on the beach near Tan-Tan and another in Layounne before we really started feeling remote. As the journey wore on, our vehicle began to feel the intensity of the desert, which forced us to spend two nights in Daklah, and later a full five long days in Nouakchott.

From the Mauritanian capital, we cut east and traveled along the infamous “Road of Hope” before finally cutting back south, and eventually arriving in Mali, where the relentless desert “ends” and the semi-arid Sahel begins. We had survived – just barely – one of the most intense journeys of our lives.

These are my favourite pictures from this adventure.

Northern Morocco:

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The Blue and White city of Chefchouen. 2008.
Ait Benhaddou mud village. 2008.
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Roman Ruins of Volubilis. 2008.
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Colourful dyes for sale at a market in Chefchouen. 2008.
Leaving the mountains. 2008.
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Inside the walls of the city of Marrakesh. 2008.
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Fish for sale at the docks in Essouria. 2008.
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Chefchouen. 2008.
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Todra Gorge. 2008
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Roman Ruins of Volubilis. 2008.
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Todra Gorge with my fellow travelers. 2008.
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Ait Benhaddou mud village. 2008.
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Antique Stereos for sale in the market of Essouria. 2008.
Ait Benhaddou mud village. 2008.
Red hills around the Ait Benhaddou mud village. 2008.
Ait Benhaddou mud village. 2008.
Ait Benhaddou mud village. 2008.

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Explorers in Africa. 2008.

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Marrakesh Medina on a cloudy evening. 2008.
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The market of Marrakesh. 2008.

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Chefchouen Sunset. 2008

Crossing the Sahara Desert:

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Sand Dunes in the Sahara Desert. 2008.
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Oasis town surrounded by desert. 2008.
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Doorway to the Desert. 2008.
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Sunset on the edge of the desert. 2008.
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Road through the Mountains. 2008.
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Fertile Valley. 2008
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The Anti-Atlas Mountains. 2008.
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An endless road along the endless desert in Mauritania. 2008.

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