The Draa Expedition

It’s time to dust off my camel skills… I am off on another Adventure and this one is a big one.

Draa Expedition Alice Morrison
View from the top

In fact, it is my biggest so far. From January the 9th to March the 28th 2019, I will be walking 1200km down the length of the Draa River in Morocco. It will take me 81 days, with 80 days of walking between 15 – 25km per day and one whole day of rest (lucky old me!). I’ll be searching for lost cities, exploring the troglodyte caves and trying to understand the mystery of the tombs of the giant men. So far, so Indiana Alice.

I will pass through very different environments during my trek. I start in the Atlas Mountains just north of Ouarzazate and will then climb down to the lush agricultural land and palmeraie of the Draa Valley. The third part of my journey takes me across the magnificent dunes of Erg Cheggaga and then through the barren desert wilderness following (where possible) the course of the river. Finally, I will (inchallah!) walk out of the desert and across to the sea at Tan Tan on the Atlantic Coast.

I am carrying out the expedition with the expert help, planning and execution of Jean-Pierre Datcharry from Désert et Montagne Maroc  He has traversed North Africa himself on foot and with camels and I will be using his own camels and camelteers from his team. If you want to travel with camels in Morocco, he is the man to come to.

Jean-Pierre in his library in his beautiful Guesthouse, Dar Daif, in Ouarzazate

The logistics are complex as we will need to carry water throughout the second part of the journey as well as food supplies, tents and equipment. We have planned for three camels for the first part of the trek with two camelteers and five camels for the second part when we enter the desert. We will then be joined by a guide as this part of the route takes us close to the Algerian border which is a major security zone.

Date harvesting

I’ll be travelling through a microcosm of our world and how it is changing now. This is a journey through Morocco, the new tiger of Africa. It is a world of lush date palmeraie, red kasbahs, and the blue men of the desert. It is also a country which is modernising apace. A huge road-building programme is making the remotest areas accessible. Morocco has the largest solar power plant in the world and mobile coverage is universal. But with that development come all the issues of the modern world including shrinking water supplies and the changes being wrought by our overheating world.

Dried out lake bed

This is a physical journey through changing landscapes but it is also a chance to meet and get to know some of the diverse peoples of Morocco.

Women use henna to toughen their skin

The Draa river passes through some of theoldest inhabited areas of the planet. The Tantan Venus, the first manmadesculpture, thought to be 300,000 years old was found there. All along thesouthern part of the route is evidence of lost civilizations with rock paintingsand carvings and the Foum Larjam necropolis which is the largest in NorthAfrica, and whose several kilometres of tumuli remain virtually unexplored.

The people of the Draa are called Drawis and speak Darija and Tashlaheet. They are known for their fierce independence and the area was in almost constant revolt from government from the first historical records until very modern times. Their origins are mainly Berber (Amazigh), with Arabs settled from the caravans that used to carry their gold, salt and slaves along these routes and also the Haritan, the proud descendants of slaves who came up from West Africa in the days of the great trade.

Sand kittens – only just rediscovered in Morocco

I am also hoping I get to meet some wildlife along the way and I have my binoculars with me for a bit of birdwatching. I would give my eyeteeth to spot some sand kittens, but I think I’ll be lucky as they have only just reappeared in the country. I know there are wild camels on the route, and am hoping the females won’t be in season as that could cause us problems with our male animals. There should also be gazelles and foxes but both species are notoriously shy of humans.

Draa Expedition with Adventurer Alice Morrison
The large dunes of the Sahara

This is a huge endeavour for me and I am full of excitement. I hope you will follow and share the expedition with me and that I can give you a chance to see and read and hear about some of the fantastic encounters, wonderful people and stunning landscapes that I will experience.

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Wish me luck!

46 comments on “The Draa Expedition

  1. Sonia on

    Wow, this is going to be an awesome adventure which I will follow with great interest. Stay safe and may your camel be charming!
    Sonia x

    Reply
  2. Richard Winter on

    I’m most envious, we drove down the Draa to just beyond Zagora and loved it. I look forward to following your adventure doing it the ‘proper’ way. Bon Voyage.

    Reply
  3. Gillean Somerville-Arjat on

    Good luck, Alice. It sounds as if you have everything well teed up. A pity it’s not another bbc filmed expedition.

    Reply
  4. Patricia banner on

    Amazing adventure Alice. In my youth I was a keen trekker (Bhutan, Nepal) and am now an arm chair explorer thanks to fantastic women like yourself. Wishing you all the best !

    Reply
  5. Sylvia Humpherston on

    Hi Alice my amazing wonderful friend, all the very best and loads of good luck I know you will do it.
    Loads and loads of love Sylvia xxxxx

    Reply
  6. David West on

    Hi Alice

    Another New Year and a new adventure for you. Enjoy and stay safe. Really
    looking forward to reading your bloggs and hopefully the witty and informative book that will follow.

    Reply
  7. Annemarie Diaj on

    What an amazing and brave thing to do! So jealous!! Read the fantastic book of Jeffrey Tayler “ Valley of the Casbahs” who did the same journey. Have a safe and great trip and looking forward hearing all about it. Good luck Alice!

    Reply
  8. Jaz on

    Hi Alice
    I have visited Zagora and Mhamid and spent a couple of nights in Erg Chegaga – amazing sunset and sunrise from the top! Met lovely, kind people throughout the journey as I know you will too… can’t wait to hear about your adventure. Enjoy the next 81 days and keep us all posted. Also congrats on completing the ET Race. Take care, Jaz xxx

    Reply
  9. Jaz on

    I second Annemarie’s comment that Jeffrey Taylers book is a fantastic read and he did indeed make the journey you will be starting. Not sure whether it’s available via kindle though as I think you asked me about this previously. Anyway hope all going well so far……best wishes Jaz

    Reply
  10. Alexander Wilson on

    Dear Alice,
    What a thrilling adventure is in store for you and a delight for us to read, although I suspect your mum and dad, while very proud, may have some misgivings!
    Best of luck and success on your trip.
    Alex

    Reply
  11. Gaillyn Cooper on

    Hi Alice. Gaillyn here, friend of Jane Folliot & part-time Kasbah house; Dar Ayour, owner/restorer & resident in the village of Tamnougalt, 7 kms south of Agdz on the river Draa. If I were not currently in Australia I would be there to greet you in passing. But if you are stopping by Tamnougalt, ask at the Kasbah Al Caid for Farouk of the same family. He would happily show you through his family Kasbah.
    I wish you well on your journey. Safe & happy walking.

    Reply
  12. Linda Brumfitt on

    Will be following with passion as it was after I met the 94 year old Hamma El-Gasmi, star of a BBC documentary about the advancing front line of the Sahara and lost culture of the nomads that I set my latest project with his grandchildren in the very same dunes you’ll be crossing which sound to be more than just Chegaga. Enjoy every precious minute.

    Reply

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