Taking a trip down Memory Road just got a lot more sandy. And adventuresome. This epic 6-night road trip, much more romantic when given its French title, La Route du Sud, will take you to some of the most remote and captivating areas of Morocco.
I undertook the Route not long ago, thinking that after decades of living and travelling in Morocco I’d seen it all, but I emerged with an excitement and a nostalgia for the open road that I can only urge you to undertake as well, whether this be your first or fourth visit to Morocco.
The first 3 of the circuit’s 6 nights are each in different remote locations south of the High Atlas. You may find yourself in a collection of superbly decorated limestone houses, overlooking a vast African savannah of Argan trees as far as the eye can see. Or another night in a bivouac-style pisé home, nestled deep in an ancient Palmeraie, along a once well-traversed caravan route leading to Timbuctou. Or a schist stone home designed by slick French architectural firm StudioKO (they did the new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech), adorned with scratchy phonograph jazz recordings and vintage photos of the Morocco of old, plonked down in a rocky canyon in an empty quarter occupied only by rock cairns and the occasional goat herd. The Route du Sud pastiches the Morocco of popular imagination, turning it into – and I’m breaking all my rules of cliché and hackneyed metaphor here – a real Thousand and One Nights dreamland.
Like a Moroccan Heart of Darkness, each day leads you deeper into empty country where surprises are at every turn, and as you reach the vast Sahara, the discoveries become inward: you’ll contemplate a silence in the desert dunes so total you can hear your heart beating. Here you bed down in a comfortable tented camp, trading in electricity and running water for unfathomable silence and space, completely isolated from light or sound, before an unforgettable night of sleep under a million stars. In a trip that is a series of highlights, this night in the Sahara desert is bound to leave its impression.
The Route du Sud is the project of Thierry Teyssier, owner of the fabulous Dar Ahlam where the trip ends. Thierry is a Parisian with a penchant for mis en scène who started his “House of Dreams” (Dar Ahlam, in Arabic) in the palm oasis of Skoura some 15 years ago. The accommodations themselves would be reason enough to embark on the trip: each has been carefully and tastefully decorated with impeccable flair, and with the exception of Dar Ahlam, every stop is completely private to the travelling party.
With the careful choreography Teyssier has built his reputation on (and with the help of an invisible forward team of drivers, assistants, and chefs) each day will yield a surprise: glimpses of the Morocco of the popular imagination that elude the tourist masses. Goats grazing in trees, the massive red mud arches of a deserted beach, an ephemeral call to prayer that ricochets over the valley as you tuck into a picnic atop an ancient stone granary, the silence of the desert. Whether lunching at a sublimely scenic spot near crashing waves, taking in an aperitif in a field of Barbary figs, or dining surrounded by a hundred candles in a sea of sand, be prepared to eat fantastically well.
The trip carries a rather hefty price tag, which includes everything down to the alcoholic beverages. You’re accompanied throughout by a driver with 4×4 vehicle, and a guide. On trip I really wanted for nothing, and the lack of television and internet was a fundamental part of the pleasure. After several days of road tripping you’ll either be craving more civilization to bring you down to Earth or wishing the Route would never end.
Trufflepig’s man in Morocco, Sebastian is a man of notoriously exacting standards, and to hear him gush like this is as rare as a rain storm in the desert. Email him here to hear more about this or any of the other million corners of his adopted country which he’s explored.