Morocco: West Atlas
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours
  Morocco flag Western Atlas: Forêt de la Maamora, Tiflet, and Khemisset  
  Equestrian training facility, Sali, Morocco Leaving Rabat-Salé to the interior, after ever expanding suburbs of Salé, the land use gets increasing more rural. Along the way you pass some royal enclosures (not to be photographed) and an extensive sports area for the Moroccan Royal Arm Forcs (also not photographed) that include a large equestrian training facility with a very nicely maintained white rail fence.

The expectations for the local cows are not so high so they can pass the day grazing, and can be photographed.

Morocco, cows grazing
    Morocco, roadside fruit vendorMorocco, roadside fruit vendorAlong the highway, approaching Sidi Allal el Bahraoui, there are pop-up produce stands -- many set in the bed of pick-up trucks.. It looks like this visit was in watermelon season, but there were also a few other fruits being sold like oranges and peaches. Morocco, roadside fruit vendor
    Truffles for Cork-Oak, Foret de la Maamora, Morocco Truffles for Cork-Oak, Foret de la Maamora, Morocco Curiously, another item stacked up for sale along the road were truffles. But on realizing that we were passing through a corner of a cork-oak forest, this made more sense. Apparently truffles grow near the roots of cork-oak as well as other trees. The truffles were packaged (preserved) in balls of clay. It seems that this would make it difficult to determine exactly how large the truffles was, and hence its value.  
  Cork-Oak, Foret de la Maamora, Morocco Cork-Oak, Foret de la Maamora, Morocco

Inland from Rabat-Sale and Kenitra Sali is the large Forêt de la Maamora, a cork-oak forest. It is the largest cork oak forest in Morocco and probably the world. A century earlier is was 130,000 hectors (1300 sq km), but by the new millennium, from human encroachment, it had been reduced to 55,000 hectors (550 sq km).  Much of what is left is roadless (there are trails and tracks), but there is a paved road that circles through the southeast corner.

Cork-Oak, Foret de la Maamora, Morocco
    The low traffic volume road is popular with local cyclists. I was invited to join cycling group on a training ride going this way -- they were very patient not to drop me.  
    Bicycle training ride, Morocco Bicycle training ride, Morocco Bicycle training ride, Morocco Bicycle training ride, Morocco  
    Cork bark stack, Maamora Forest, Morocco Cork bark stack, Maamora Forest, Morocco Maamora forest is being actively managed and harvested.. The first bark from a cork-oak can be harvested at about 25 years, then they can be harvested every 9 years, until the tree is about 150 years old. After the bark is harvested is stacked in a prescribed manner, and seasoned for not less than six months.  
    Small tortoise, Maamora forest, Morocco Charcoal making, Maamora Forest, MoroccoThere is a sign about a project to rehabilitate the Maamora cork-oak forest. There were a couple of large patches of eucalyptus trees that have been clear cut. In one of these there was a charcoal making operation. Time will tell if it replanted in cork-oak.

The small tortoise (right) was found in the middle of the road and relocated to the side. He happily crawled on.

    Typically roadside restaurant menu, Sidi Allal el Bahraoui, MoroccoThis is a typically roadside restaurant, with a typical menu, in Sidi Allal el Bahraoui. The menu lists Moroccan salad and soup, grilled meats, several kinds of tagines (meat and vegetables steamed in a thick ceramic tagine dish), roasted chicken and drinks. Another frequent menu item at casual dinning restaurants is pizza.  
    Main street, Tiflet, Morocco Pomegranate flower sculpture, Tiflet, Morocco

Tiflet is a growing town with a newly upgraded main street. One of the traffic circles has what, by day, is a fairly non-descript sculpture (right). If you return at night it transforms into a colorful pomegranate flower (far right).

The symbol of the town might be the pomegranate, but the identity of the town has got to be the café. There must be a dozen with in 100m of the traffic circle. A few of these are shown below.

Pomegranate flower sculpture, Tiflet, Morocco
  Café, Tiflet, Morocco Café, Tiflet, Morocco Café, Tiflet, Morocco Café, Tiflet, Morocco Café, Tiflet, Morocco Café, Tiflet, Morocco
    Wheat field, Morocco Wheat field, Morocco Agriculture in Morocco often seem to be "as far as the eye can see", as in olives as far as the eye can see, or argan as far as the eye can see, or as in this series of pictures, wheat for as far as the eye can see. Wheat field, Morocco
    Vineyard, Morocco

Vineyard, Morocco

The wheat fields are occasionally interrupted by some other crop -- in this case grape. The large white building seems to be associated with the vineyard. On closer inspection the roof of the building is dotted with white stork nests. These storks add on to existing nest, so over time they can become huge. The presence of storks is loved so nesting is encouraged and nesting sites never disturbed.

Vineyard with stork nests, Morocco
    Olive trees, MoroccoCows grazing, Morocco

There is also a smattering of other agricultural activities, like olives (left) and cattle (right). It is all scenic.

There were also a few small orchards of pomegranate, but they were always behind high hedgerows so difficult to photograph distinctly.

    Central square, Khemisset, MoroccoCentral square, Khemisset, MoroccoHorse sculpture, Central square, Khemisset, Morocco

A prominent feature of Khemisset is its central square. Generally, it is very open, but accented with dozen of very tall Royal Palms, a couple of sculptures and a few other structures.

    Market, Khemisset, MoroccoKhemisset, MoroccoHotel, Khemisset, MoroccoElsewhere the town was similar to others, with markets, a few taller buildings and sprawling housing.  
    Sheep grazing, Khemisset, MoroccoSheep grazing, Khemisset, MoroccoCemetery, Khemisset, MoroccoOn the outskirts of town, a flock of sheep were grazing (left) and there is a cemetery (right).  
  Prickly pear cactus, Morocco
    The 60km (37 miles) of road between Khemisset and Meknes continues to be scenic and varied (row above). In new abundance in this section were prickly-pear cactus and corn, both of which were introduced from the New World.

Unlike in the towns, cafés are sparse, but we found a welcoming one where we needed it (right).


Rabat Meknes


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