Since '02 xBhp is different things to different people. From a close knit national community of bikers to India's only motorcycling lifestyle magazine and a place to make like-minded biker friends. Join us
About: Morocco or ‘Maghreb al Aksa’s proximity to mainland Europe and oriental traditions makes it a unique blend and perhaps the perfect first landing on the shores of Africa for many motorcyclists Situated in North Africa (called the Maghreb), officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco, this beautiful nation is a true traveller’s heaven.
Country name: Morocco
Area: 446,550 km²
Population: 446,550 km²
Language: Arabic, French (second language for many)
Currency: Moroccan Dirham
Road Length: ~60,000 km
Roadtrip name: Multistrading in Morocco
Route: Ceuta, Spain > crossed over to Tetouan, Morocco > Chefchaouen > Ouezzane > Moulay Bousselham > Rabat > Casablanca > Marrakech > Ouarzazate > Tinerhir > Erfoud > Midelt > Fes > Ouezzane > Chefchaouen > Tetouan > crossed over to Ceuta, Spain
Here’s the Google Map link to the route
Ride on: Right side
Metric System: Speed is in KM/H and temperature in Degree Celsius. Fuel or gasoline is measured in litres
Best Weather: Spring (mid-March to May) or Autumn (September to October)
Machine: Ducati Multistrada : 1198.4cc | 150 bhp | 119 Nm | 220 kg (kerb)
The Multistrada is a unique motorcycle. The Multistrada 1200 was powered by the 1198 Superbike Testastretta engine, with a revised valve overlap angle of 11 degrees (from the original 41 degrees in the superbike engine). It produced a massive 150 bhp of power and 119 Nm of torque.
Electronics include Traction Control and ride-by-wire but perhaps the most nifty feature is the ability to change the character of the bike on the fly by simply pressing a button, even while riding. The four modes, listed below, change the Power and torque delivery, suspension settings (in case of the 1200S), and traction control.
Fitted as standard equipment on all versions, the electronic ride-by-wire system administers three different engine mappings to change the character of the engine, while Ducati Traction Control (DTC) uses eight levels of system interaction to enhance control. For the ’S’ version, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) instantly configures the suspension setup.
Just to understand how advanced the modes are, in comparison, the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector System (S-DMS) of that time had three modes, which the rider can select, but it stops at changing the engine mappings. The Ducati system actually transformed multiple characteristics that helped it achieve different personalities.
Manoeuvring the MTS was easier than expected. The turning radius was surprisingly small but the height of the motorcycle could be a factor that can cause trouble for the ones who aren’t very gifted vertically. But the weight made things easier. It looked massive but weighed a mere 189 kg… it was a marvel.
That also provides the motorcycle with an awesome power-to-weight ratio making the bike a nimble one. It can deal with corners with almost superbike-like confidence. There’s not a lot to complain when it comes to the Multistrada 1200. Whole lot of grunt, amazing road mannerisms, comfortable ride, and the ability to deal with light offroading.
Morocco was an amazing roadtrip but quite a bit of it can be attributed to the Multistrada as well which lived up to the faith of the Bologna brand which went so far as to name it ManyRoads.
Roadtrip description: Morocco or ‘Maghreb al Aksa’s proximity to mainland Europe and oriental traditions makes it a unique blend and perhaps the perfect first landing on the shores of Africa for many motorcyclists Situated in North Africa (called the Maghreb), officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco, this beautiful nation is a true traveller’s heaven.
With the gorgeous Atlas Mountains rippling through the mainland form the dorsal spine of the country, one side fades off into the Sahara Desert while the other is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The geography, thus, is largely mountainous with an incidence of arid regions and coastal plains. It also occupies an important vantage point along the Strait of Gibraltar.
The climate, too, varies from semi-arid in the desert regions to Mediterranean along the sea, to continental and alpine in and around the mountains. The best time to visit Morocco is during spring (mid-March to May) or autumn (September to October) to avoid scorching heat and peak winter. An important thing to keep in mind is that your trip may be affected by the Islamic festival of Ramadan so plan accordingly.
Riding in Morocco is a heck of an experience. While most of the regions have good-quality roads and the riding is generally smooth, some country roads provide you with some off-roading fun as well. The Atlas Mountains region deserves a special mention. For a lot of Indian riders, Spiti and Ladakh are the epitome of riding, the region surrounding the Atlas mountains has a very similar feel.
Chefchaouen, a mountain village situated in the Rif Mountains, has a small medina with narrow lanes and blue and white houses. Motorcycles aren’t allowed beyond a certain limit and one will have to walk, but that adds to its charm. It offers native handicrafts as well such as woven blankets and wool garments. Its goat cheese is also famous. Nearby is the Kef Toghobeit Cave, one of the deepest caves in Africa. The nearby Rif Mountains are also known for the production of Kief (a drug like hashish) so do not wander off as the locals do not like unwanted visitors.
Rabat, the capital city, houses the country’s most important museum, the Royal Palace, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, as well as several historical attractions. The Hassan Tower, carved with beautifully intricate motifs, is all that remains of ruler Yacoub al-Mansour’s grand vision of a mosque on this site. Rabat’s Kasbah district is also a top-rated attraction which is home to the Kasbah Mosque, Rabat’s oldest, and offers stellar views over Salé and the Atlantic Ocean. Its colourful medina is home to some spectacular mosques that definitely deserve a visit.
Casablanca, located nearby, is Morocco’s largest city. For all the movie buffs out there, it is a household name. And although the actual movie wasn’t shot here, the city does have its own rendition of the famous “Rick’s Café Américain”. Its main attraction is the Hassan II Mosque, the second largest in the world with the world’s tallest minaret. It also has beautiful seaside districts like Oualidia and Mohammedia, along with the historically rich and lesser-known Azemmour.
Another noteworthy thing is the abundance of big bikes in Morocco. You see quite a few of them plying on the roads. One of the biggest reasons for that is Morocco’s proximity to Europe and the unique riding experience it provides. A lot of touring companies frequently arrange rides to Morocco. And so, big bikes are a common sight. They still turn quite a few heads though.
Marrakech is a bustling town with a must-visit medina (UNESCO World Heritage Center) and some other surprises like a restaurant where a James Bond movie was shot. It is the fourth largest city and is the capital of the mid-southwestern economic region. From the central square of Djemma El-Fna to the El Badi Palace, and the busy souks or bazaars, this city is a socio-cultural hub and the ideal place for shopping!
The Atlas Mountains, forming a dividing line to the Sahara, are almost uninhabited. The mountain roads are a pleasure to ride on and provide some great views of natural beauty. One may find roadside stalls selling artefacts made of salt and natural rocks. It also has several traditional Berber villages for those looking for a more cultural experience. Another must-visit for motorcyclists is the Dades Valley or the Dadès Gorges which has some of the most incredible rock formations.
Ouarzazate, nicknamed as ‘the Door of the Desert’ is at an elevation of 1,160 metres and located in the middle of a bare plateau, south of the Atlas Mountains. To the south of the town is the desert. Ouarzazi Wood is the nickname given to the Atlas Studios here, one of the largest in the world. Films like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), and The Gladiator (2000) were shot here.
The final leg of the trip saw us riding into Erfoud, known as the ‘Gate of Sahara Desert’. The dunes of Erg Chebbi, which have characteristic orange-coloured sand, can be accessed from here relatively easily. One can hire ATVs, 4x4s, and motocross bikes here to ride in the sand. Or, if you have a motorcycle that you feel can take the heat, you can try that too. We did. The Multistrada can take the heat… to some extent.
From here, we went to Fes which is the third-largest city in Morocco. It has two medinas, the larger of which, Fes el Bali, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is believed to be one of the largest car-free urban areas. Al-Qarawiyyin, founded in AD 859, is considered to be the oldest continuously functioning ‘madrasa’ in the world. The city of Fes has been called the ‘Mecca of the West’, and the ‘Athens of Africa’.
The roads are generally well-kept although one should be on the lookout for the odd few missing drain covers and the animal traffic (including strays as well as horse/donkey carts). Morocco has a good motorway network with an extensive system of toll roads on a pay-per-use basis which is quite inexpensive.
You ride on the right side of the road and the legal driving age is 18 although hire car companies generally expect you to be 25 and with at least two years of driving experience. Speed limits are pretty lenient on mountain roads and highways, however, there are a lot of speed traps and police near and in big cities.
The traffic can be slow and roads are prone to jams in the cities. The Moroccans do enjoy a good honking symphony and almost use it to communicate with fellow drivers. It can be a mere greeting, a show of gratitude for letting them pass, or just the substitute for cussing. While they mostly follow the road etiquettes, you should be cautious in your own regard and as some of them, especially the taxi drivers, can be particularly brash when it comes to road regulations. You may have problems with people driving in the middle of the road and the bigger cars refusing to give way.
There are also a number of police checkpoints and when someone flashes their brights at you, you should slow down as it usually means there’s one up ahead. Do not worry as long as you’re following the traffic rules, since they’re not usually after the tourists.
When it comes to parking, ensure that it is secure. There are designated parking lots with an attendant and they charge you only a few dirhams. Parking is not allowed at kerbsides painted in red-and-white stripes. The parking attendants also have the authority to ticket illegally parked vehicles and have them towed away.
Fuel is mostly of good quality (from our first-hand experience, since the Ducati MTS didn’t have any issues). Most of the places you will find 95 Octane as well. The country is well-dotted with petrol stations and in most of the towns, you’ll find garages with good mechanics as well.
You will also be quite surprised to find a number of Mercedes cars on the roads.
Coming to accommodation, Morocco offers conventional hotels which are cheap and quite easy to find, and are of two types- classified and unclassified. The former is your typical western-style hotels found abundantly in the more urban areas. The latter, in the older part of the cities, are the cheaper options. They’re usually centrally located although you may have a problem with some modern amenities which the classified hotels offer.
There are also Riads (called Maison d’hôte) which are slight variations of a guesthouse type of stay and seem to be the more popular choice. They’re usually Medina townhouses, bought and redecorated by Europeans or the richer lot of Moroccans. Riads can actually be more expensive than hotels but in most cases, much classier as well.
Other than these, you have hostels, and if you’re feeling particularly hippie, you can also opt for desert/nomadic camps. They do lack a bit on the facilities front but make up for it on the adventure one. Another cool feature of the Moroccan lifestyle is the number of hammams which are steam baths and the Turkish equivalent of a spa. You will likely need to be led to one since they’re difficult to find as they are unmarked. But once you do, beware you may not feel like stepping out at all!
Moroccan meals begin with at least seven cooked vegetable salads to scoop up with bread. The cuisine has some unmissable gems like couscous, tagine (vegetable and meat stew), B’sarra (rich broad bean soup), harira (a lentil soup, usually used to break the fast at sunset each day during Ramadan), and Makouda (deep-fried potato balls).
You will face no shortage of street food either which ranges from kebabs, calamari and grilled sardines, to the more unusual stuff like snails cooked in a spicy broth. So when you’re going for that authentic Moroccan experience, you know what to order off the menu. One thing to keep in mind is that most of the Moroccan food is entirely eaten by hand (the right one). Instead of using a spoon or a fork, Moroccans use a slice of bread instead.
Moroccans, like their food, are warm and comforting, and smell of hospitality. You are likely to come across two different kinds of Moroccans- those who tend to live in the past and those who are a lot more progressive. Regardless, most of the people you come across, although they may seem unapproachable at first, will end up inviting you to their house for a home-cooked meal within one genuine conversation.
Moroccans comprise of two main ethnic groups- the Arabs, and the Berbers. As a result, while Arabic is the primary language, Berber is also still in use especially in the deeper parts of the mountains. They also speak French and English. On the whole, you shouldn’t have too much trouble going around with just English, although it would be advisable to learn a few basic phrases in Arabic and French.
As an added bonus, you may want to plan your trips around certain festivals like the Moulay Idriss Festival, the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez, and the Timitar Music Festival.
For our ride, we relied on Edelweiss, a motorcycling touring company based out of Austria but operating tours across the world. In these tours, a bunch of riders explore the country together as a group, with a tailing van which carries the suitcases and spares. The trip was meticulously planned, and everything was taken care of. More than anything, it covered all the important points and made sure that the entire Moroccan experience was served to us on a two-wheeled platter.
For first time riders who have just begun their road-tripping journey, Edelweiss provides a fantastic opportunity to experience the freedom and thrill of exploring a country by means of a motorcycle while also giving one the comfort of a riding community.
Some important tips:
# As an Indian, you will need a visa. The embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco is in a very nondescript building in Delhi. You need to get your papers in order and go there and give your passport. They will not even give you a receipt; therefore you need to have a lot of faith! Allow 2 weeks processing time and you should get it. They will take a DD when you come to collect the visa.
# The best bet would be to hire a bike in Spain and ride to Algeciras port and take a ferry to Ceuta on the African mainland. Ceuta is a Spanish enclave in Morocco. The ferry is an hour or so.
# Stay overnight in Ceuta, and the next morning, go to the Morocco-Ceuta (Spain) border that is around 5 km and then hope for the best. They tie your passport to the registration of your bike and give you a unique entry number and some papers. It is like marrying the bike. If you lose the papers then you will have the toughest time leaving the country.
# Once you enter Morocco it’s relatively smooth sailing. People have much better etiquettes on the road, however, they are not as clinical as in most European countries.
# Do not take photos of women, especially in Kasbahs, don’t even point a camera at them.
# Do go without a map, people understand French, do take a translator on your phone or a small pocketbook. You will also find ATMs in all the big and small towns. Not all places accept cards, also take Euros from Spain and exchange them at a bank or currency exchange in Morocco.