I'm planning a cycling tour in Morocco in May next year with a friend. We have 11 days to play with. 16th-27th May. The original plan was to fly Manchester to Marrakesh and cycle north to Malaga or Faro for a flight back to Blackpool. However looking at a few tour reports, the area to the south of the High Atlas appears to be interesting. Ouarzazate, Ait Ben Haddou world heritage site, the Draa valley, the Dades and Todra gorge's, the valley of a Thousand Kasbahsa, a trip to the edge of the Sahara all sound inviting. However a cycle to the other side of the Atlas and back would probably mean a return trip using Marrakesh unless the distance can be shortened initially from Marrakesh and onwards from the Anti Atlas region.
We will be using a Dawes ultra galaxy and Raleigh Randonneur touring bikes with panniers (camping gear etc) although we might opt for a lighter set up and use accomodation if it fits in better with the touring. The use of touring bikes appears to be quite restrictive considering the abundance of piste's (rough mountain tracks) compared to tarmac roads.
I would be grateful for any advise and input on routes/places of interest/ camp sites etc please. Windows live local have the area well mapped. Google maps do not cover the area. http://local.live.com/
I've never cycled Morocco but have been in the area you're talking about a couple times.
Ouarzazate itself isn't much to write home about, although Ait Ben Haddou is definitely worth a visit and you could find accomodation in Ouarzazate. The Draa valley is beautiful although be prepared for quite the climb over the mountains! If you want to go as far as Zagora, I can recommend a guide we've used a couple times, www.caravanedesertetmontagne.com -- Brahim -- he's really good and won't take you to carpet shops etc unless you really want to go!
I think you can fly in/out of Ouarzazate so that might be worth looking into, though I'm sure the price goes up accordingly.
I cycled Morrocco in November of 1997. I flew from Frankfurt to Casablanca and took a train right from the airport to Rabat. There I spent 2 days to get used to the new culture.
I cycled from Rabat to Fes; Fes to Meknes (nice campground in the city); Day trip from Meknes to Volubilis (Roman ruins).
I caught a ride from Meknes to Ar-Rashidia (OK little campground).
Then I cycled from Ar-Rashidia to Erfoud; from Erfoud 3 days almost to Agdir. The headwinds were wearing me out and I accepted a ride from someone I'd met at one of the campgrounds. From Agdir I cycled to Ouarzazate (miserable campground). From Ouarzazate I did a day trip to Ait Benhadou (did you know parts of the movie Gladiator where filmed there?). Then from Ouarzazate I cycled across the Atlas Mountains 2 days to Marrakech (yet another crappy campground). From Marrakech I took the train back to Casablanca and spent 3 days there before heading back to Frankfurt. All the roads I used were surfaced with varying surfaces and shoulder widths. Morroccan drivers were reasonably courteous but with some fast and aggressive ones thrown in for good measure. But overall, they're used to sharing the road with bikes, donkeys, horse drawn carts and old mopeds.
Morrocco is a dry country but bottled water seems to be sold everywhere. Just when I thought I was in trouble, running out of water and my map not showing any towns nearby, there would be a roadside store selling water.
Morroccans are a very friendly people and it's a very safe country. BUT be prepared for an onslaught of hustlers anywhere near any tourist sites. You will possibly be offered dope and you'd be less than smart to go for that in a foreign country. You'll also find children constantly approaching you asking for Dirhams, stylos (pens), and bonbons (candy). I personally don't give handouts as I feel that it creates generations of people who've come to expect freebies from tourists. While Morrocco is poorer than most "western" countries I feel there are better ways to make contributions.
From what I've seen I'd suggest seeing Ait Benhadou, Marrakech, and Volubilis. The fringes of the Sahara were also quite nice with very few people and a lot of traditional Berbers. This was all 10 years ago and things may have changed somewhat since then.