Author: Chris & Carsten Stricker

Chris and Carsten Stricker CultureAndCream authors from Berlin Chris is the owner of a PR agency and Carsten works in the field of music management. We are both very busy and professonally, everyone is traveling a lot for themselves. In the meantime, we allways take our time on litte trips together, where the golf bgs should not be missing. Once a year we embark on a great multi-week adventure in places of the world that are still missing on our map. Let yourself be surprised!

This fascinating North African state is shaped by cultural influences of Berbers, Arabs and Europeans. Chris and Carsten Stricker wanted to explore it on their own. For their obligatory end-of-the-year-trip they grabbed a rentail car and drove 2.800 kilometers overland.

Since there is a another long-distance trip looming in a couple of weeks (watch this space…) we didn’t go for a long-distance destination in 2019, but went for a medium haul. Four hours from Berlin to Marrakesh, followed by two weeks and a half and 2,800 kilometers by car. Over and around the majestic Atlas Mountains, to the west coast and back to this fascinating metropolis. All this “self-drive” – what is normal for us is by no means the standard in this region. Most of the tourists travel the country by coach or in small groups with a driver/guide – or (mostly) just stay in Agadir or Marrakech. But we find it more exciting to look around the country and follow our own travel plan. We like to decide spontaneously how long we want to stay in one place and where to go next. Morocco makes this very easy: The roads are – thanks to an ongoing governmental road construction program – pretty amazing. Hotels, riads and guesthouses are available at short notice – and this in most price categories and via the “usual suspects like booking.com, IEscape, SecretEscapes etc.. This northe african travel destination offers real “value for money” and exactly that mix of relaxation, exoticism and adventure which we are looking for. Here are our highlights at the four main locations of our trip as well as some tips.

Marrakesh – between haste and silence

To experience Marrakech by car can be a bit of a kick start. Especially when your alarm has woken you up at four in the morning. And when the flight took almost six hours instead of the planned four – thanks to a strike by French air traffic controllers. So off we go and jump in the (slightly run-down) rental car and out into hostile life – more precisely into the inner city traffic of Marrakech. Roundabouts non-stop, road marks don’t count and traffic rules are merely rough recommendations for moped drivers, battered taxis and donkey carts. The only thing you can do is go with the flow, keep your eyes open and of course: honk! as they all do. After only 30 minutes we arrive at our first domicile, the wonderful boutique hotel Dar Zemora. It is located a little outside the city centre in the quiet Palmeria. Heavenly silence, a paradisical garden, tastefully decorated rooms and suites. And for the first time on the journey this unique, peaceful Moroccan hospitality.

Erg Chebbi, the big sandbox

After three nights our “city trip” ends, and we head for the mountains – or rather across them. The Atlas massif is spectacularly beautiful, the roads are well maintained and we make good progress. After an overnight stay in the Dades Gorge we reach Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi. Here right at the Algerian border the Sahara desert has sneaked into Morocco and left an impressive dune landscape, almost 22 km long and 5 km wide. This 150 metre high sandbox attracts grown-up kids with all kinds of sand toys – such as quad or motorbike rides, camel rides into the sunset or sandboarding, the sandy counterpart to snowboarding. Highly recommended is a half-day trip around the dune (this time with driver and a four-wheel drive) including a prehistoric fossil site and a visit to a Berber family for tea. The towns of Merzouga and Hassilabied offer hotels and tented camps in all categories. Our Riad Madu was absolutey marvellous. And the desert? To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (“The Little Prince” etc.): “I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.”

Sidi Ifni – by the sea and at the souk

After ten days in Marrakech and around the Atlas we are looking forward to the ocean. Isn’t it a privilege to enjoy the mountains and the sea in just one holiday? Our first encounter with the Atlantic Ocean is in Mirleft on the coastal road to Sidi Ifni. Rarely have we ever seen more spectacular sundowns than in the Kasbah Tabelkoukt, our temporary home for three days and nights. Their website is a little sparse but that Boutique Hotel itself is lavish. Interior, hospitality, food – all top standard. So is the location itself, directly by the sea on a high plateau and with private access to one of the most beautiful surf beaches in Morocco. Nevertheless we are not held up by the sea and the pool as we are attracted by the village Sidi Ifni nearby. In this former Spanish exclave you will find Art Deco architecture of the 1930s as well as a pretty strange sight: a huge empty wasteland in the middle of the old town – the former military airport. And after a short drive through the fertile coastal landscape we find the animal market in the village of Guelmin. An original souk (= market), where the farmers offer not only camels, sheep, cattle and poultry but also home-grown vegetables, fruits and spices. An authentic experience for all senses.

Essaouira – the best of all (Moroccan) worlds

“The Windy City” is not the secret anymore that it used to be. Formerly called Mogador, Essaouira is now a surfing and kitesurfing paradise and, as the forme refuge of Jimi Hendrix, a popular destination for international music fans and tourists. Sunbirds, senior citizens from all over the world, also like to spend their winters here. And that makes perfect sense as the coastal resort has managed to preserve its original charm. The Medina has everything that the old town of Marrakech has to offer – but in a more manageable, intimate and less hectic setting. You can buy everything that is advertised in Marrakech’s medina, but instead of ten shoe-, carpet- or handicraft shops with the same range of products, there are only two or three. You’ll find wonderful, hidden and affordable riads right next to the city wall. The culinary offerings of the region are phenomenal – from fish and seafood snacks at the harbour to french top cuisine: there is something for everyone. And our domicile Dar Alya is yet another gem. It is located just a few minutes outside the city, has just four beautifully furnished rooms with their own fireplace, heated pool and a charming landlady Sophie, who is only there for her guests – and of course her pets.

And a few more stopover recommendations and tips:

Zagora – like Erg Chebbi under the atlas and close to the desert, but less touristy and more authentic. Accommodation tip: Ma Villa Au Sahara, a great Riad with Tintin-like charm.

Taroudannt – The eastern centre of the fertile Souss plain is also called the “little sister of Marrakech”. The Hotel Dar Zitoune  impresses with its gardens, two beautiful pools and nicely furnished bungalows and luxury tents.

Dades-Schlucht – In the middle of the High Atlas this valley offers spectacular rock formations and ancient Kasbahs (castles) as well as a variety of restaurants and guest houses for the night.

Restaurant tips:

… in Essaouira: O’ Bleu Mogador. Maitre Serge cooks Moroccan-South French fusion cuisine at highest level. There are only a few tables, so make sure to reserve!

… in Marrakesch: At the Djemaa el Fna or Place of the Jugglers you will find all sorts of food stalls: Snails, kebabs and tajine – everything you want and all in the middle of the bustle.

Dar Yacout – Traditional Moroccan cuisine in huge portions, an incomparable ambience, delicious (also alcoholic!) drinks and great North African live music. The Dar Yacout in the north of the Medina guarantees an unforgettable evening. Reservation required!

Beats Burger – And when you can’t see no more tajines: In the middle of the medina they offer really great burgers!

Marrakech Shopping – The new town has developed into a small shopping El Dorado. Fashion from local designers, modern interiors and tasteful souvenirs can be found in the quarter between Boulevard el Mansour Eddahbi and Rue Tariq Bnou Ziad.


On the road in a vast and quiet land

We had been looking forward to Namibia for quite some time. Two and a half times the size of Germany, but with only 2.3 million inhabitants. Peace and quiet! Namib, the oldest desert in the world. Cheetahs, elephants, antelopes and giraffes – a paradise for animal freaks like us. The Kalahari and Etosha Pan, places we had only seen in documentaries. But along with that, and much less glorious, Germany‘s colonial and industrial history. How do you approach such a country? We approached (of course) by plane with Qatar Airways and a stopover in Doha, one of the most modern airports in the world. What a contrast to Windhoek International which, in comparison, felt quite provincial and manageable, but unhurried as well.

Off-road vehicles, a road-trip essential

Prior to our trip, we had already rented the vehicle which was to be our transport for more than 4000 km over the course of the next three weeks. Four-wheel drive, off-road vehicles are an absolute must to traverse Namibia’s mostly unpaved roads. A lot of time is spent on gravel tracks so our tip is: Don’t be tempted to economise here – choose one of the larger, “high-legged” off-road vehicles. Unfortunately, we didn’t! Check out  for a good on-site Europacar service with a comprehensive insurance package. We spent the first two nights in Windhoek to getting acclimatised. 1650 meters above sea level and over 30°C. The first person we talked to on the street was a colorful Windhoek local who had spent much of his youth in East Berlin. He immediately identified us as tourists and hailed us in accent-free German with the pioneer greeting “Always ready!“ For us, coming from Munich and the Ruhr area, it was a rather bizarre experience and a first indication of how strongly Namibia, the former „German Southwest“, is connected to us and our recent history, both as a pre-First World War colony and a socialist partner country of the GDR.

Chris at the Tropic of Capricorn

Our travel route

Unlike many visitors who stay mostly in the Windhoek, Namib and Etosha triangle, we had planned a more comprehensive route which took us south to the South African border. Our adventure began with the 550 kilometres into the Kalahari, to the border of the Transfrontier Park and the country triangle of Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. Here we spent the night in the small chalets of the Kalahari Game Lodge. From there we travelled west to the Fish River Gorge, the second largest canyon in the world. Further and further west, skirting the edges of the restricted area where diamonds have been mined for over 100 years. The railway line, which ends at the coastal town of Lüderitz, has probably been unused for just as long. We crossed the Namib towards the north with a stay in Sesriem near Sossusvlei. Right in the middle of the desert, site of a petrified forest and the world’s largest dune, this place is certainly one of the most visited and photographed places in the country. Because of the heat (temperatures had reached over 40 °C) we were already looking forward to the next stop on our journey. The coastal town of Svakopmund, where temperatures are moderate even in the hot season, has an almost Mediterranean feel but we really wanted to get back to the quiet of nature. Next stop: Erongo Mountains where, in the excellent Erongo Mountain Lodge, we slept in (admittedly quite luxurious) tents for the first time. The northernmost point of our round trip was the Etendeka Mountains, from where we drove to the Etosha Pan. At the eastern end of this huge salt lake we spent some more quiet days in a lodge where, from our tent, we could observe the animals gathering at the nearby waterhole. Well rested, we returned to Windhoek and from there, back home to Germany.

The five „must-do’s“ in Namibia

A jeep ride into the Fish River Canyon, one of the absolute highlights of our trip. The Fish River Lodge is located directly at the canyon and the view from the bungalows into the 500-metre deep gorge is breathtaking! In the early hours of the morning we embarked on a jeep tour to the foot of the gorge with our guide Jerry (short for Jerome), and a very nice couple from New Zealand. The 27 kilometres took two and a half hours – one way! Over hill and dale we went, over narrow passes, through volcanic landscapes and down to the river bed. We were rewarded with a swim in a lake and many interesting anecdotes from Jerry. He also told us that quiver trees found here are unique and only exist in the Fish River Canyon. As an interesting aside: the nature reserve is owned and taken care of by the Rockefeller family.

Bratwurst in the “German village” of Lüderitz. Although it’s a little off the beaten track, the German coastal town of Lüderitz is well worth a visit. It lies below the Namib, directly bordering the restricted area. Little has changed here since the 1900s. The inscriptions on the houses indicate their original functions: Gymnastics Club, Bowling Alley and Iron Foundry. There is the Ladies Dressmaker and, of course, the brewery “Hansa”. And should the traveler be overcome with hunger pangs for a good old German sausage, help is at hand: the Diaz Coffee Shop offers an impressive sausage selection, from Thuringian to Frankfurter and Nuremberg Bratwurst as well as great coffee and even dark (Bock) and wheat beers. Our overnight stay this time was in a very pleasant Bed & Breakfast.

Flight over the Namib. For many visitors, climbing the world’s largest dune at Sossusvlei is an absolute must but because of the heat, we decided against the desert trip. So as not to miss the petrified forest and the Skeleton Coast, we booked a sightseeing flight, easy to organise from Svakopmund. A bush pilot (who, by the way looked exactly as one would picture him) took us on the 2 ½ hour flight over the Namib in his Cessna pointing out things which can only be seen from the air. At least as impressive as the spectacular dune landscape is the abandoned mine not far from the coast, where, 150 years ago, German adventurers searched for diamonds. During the flight along the coast, the sight of numerous shipwrecks made it clear why this part of Namibia bears the name Skeleton Coast. It is a place of morbid beauty.

Safari in the Etosha pan. A safari in the Etosha Park Nature Reserve is as much a part of a Namibian trip as a visit to the Hofbräuhaus is in Munich. We spent a total of four days in a wonderful lodge just across the park’s eastern border. From here, a driver took us once or twice a day on a 3-4 hour open jeep tour into the park. It’s also possible to drive oneself, but the experienced and very motivated guides simply know better where which animals can be found at what time of the day. So we saw elephants (with babies!), sprinting herds of giraffes, a rhino, lots of antelopes, cheetahs and even one of the extremely elusive leopards. It‘s a very special experience to see a reclining lion just a few feet off the road. Or when you have to come to a complete halt because two pubescent giraffe bulls have decided to have a fight on the path in front of you.

The sky over Namibia. The Etendeka Mountains area has been developed for tourism for less than 20 years, although “developed” would be somewhat of an exaggeration. There are only a few lodges there so for those seeking silence, solitude and an absolutely spectacular, albeit barren, landscape, this is definitely the place. There are mountain elephants and mountain zebras and giraffes running around freely. The ecological Etendeka Mountain Camp, where we were guests, is literally in the middle of nowhere and survives almost completely without electricity and artificial lighting.  The absolute darkness at night reveals a star-studded sky that is unparalleled and all of the stars of the southern hemisphere can be seen in impressive clarity. Shooting stars guaranteed. And very romantic as well!

A brief contemplation of Namibia‘s German heritage

You don’t have to turn your Namibian vacation into a purely educational trip. However, everything certainly makes more sense and is more fun if you prepare yourself a little for the journey and keep your eyes and ears open while you are there. It is a fact that German is one of the colloquial languages and that Germany, as a former colonial power, has unfortunately left an ignoble legacy behind. Tens of thousands of Hereros were driven into the desert and murdered by their colonial “masters”. The German language is omnipresent here, in inscriptions on old industrial buildings, spoken by the Windhoek-inhabitant who was brought up as a “Youth Pioneer“ in the GDR or on the German-language radio station Funkhaus Namibia from where the Northern German Radio Service‘s “harbour concert“ can be heard live on Saturday afternoons. All the more important then to put it all into perspective. We recommend buying a good travel guide (we did well with the Stefan Loose Namibia Travel Guide) and the reading of Gerhard Seyfried’s excellent novel “Herero” or Lucia Engombe & Peter Hilliges “Child No. 95, my German-African Odyssey”.


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