Tarfaya, goal for our big desert expedition

Tarfaya – where Saint-Exupery wrote his first novel

Tarfaya is also the desert city facing the Atlantic all alone!

At the hotel by the harbor in Tarfaya we got directions to the monument of the famous author Antoine de Saint-Exupery. We never found any signs and our otherwise eminent driver had never heard about this monument or this author. But some few hundred meters further towards the beach we found the monument. This was our ultimate goal for this tour in Morocco outside the normal tourist track.

Tarfaya fishing harbour, Morocco.
Tarfaya fishing harbour, Morocco.

It was a very small monument. An old airplane is placed on a base and around it was a busy construction site. Next year the planned park around the monument is hopefully finished and making the monument look better. Many would may be get disappointed after having travelled for so many days to see this modest monument, but I believe; the more absurd the more fun! I also did as planned and read aloud from the book “The Little Prince”. My traveling companions and our driver Mohamed were an eager and receptive audience. After this little show we went to see the museum devoted to the postal aircraft pilots and Saint-Exupery. The museum is closed on Saturdays and Sundays but we were lucky to find the museum manager outside and he opened up for us and gave us a tour.

Per in front of the Monument of Saint-Exupery in Tarfaya, Morocco.
Per in front of the Monument of Saint-Exupery in Tarfaya, Morocco.

The Museum is really modest and probably not worth visiting except for those with a special interest in this matters. We got a postcard stamped with the local stamp for 20 Dirham. It is well suited as a bookmark when I get home and want to read Saint-Exupery`s books once more.

Visiting the fishing town Tarfaya we had to eat fish for lunch. Our driver asked around to find the best place to eat fish. In the far corner of a small alley the little café served the most delicious fish ever! The smell from the open kitchen was wonderful. In a big pan laid whole fish and got crispy fried. We got 3 fish each and it all got eaten with great pleasure.

Delicious fish in Tarfaya, Morocco.
Delicious fish in Tarfaya, Morocco.

Tarfaya is not a common destination for tourists in Morocco. But if you are travelling south in Africa and are crossing the border to West Sahara, this is a natural stopping point. It can change quickly because they are planning oil drilling in the ocean outside this coastline. It is controversial and the protests are heavy. West Sahara is occupied by Morocco since 1975-76. See also: Western Sahara Resource Watch.

At the moment Tarfaya is a quiet and calm fishing village situated on a promontory facing the Atlantic. It is very close to the border to West Sahara. The sand dunes appear to wanting to take over the city. On the other side big waves are breaking on the beach and the fishing harbor. The landmark Casa del Mar was built by the British in 1880 and is situated just outside the harbor of Tarfaya. The coast has many shipwrecks. Once upon a time there was a ferry going to The Canary Islands, but this also was wrecked many years ago.

We love to travel to peculiar places not recommended by the countries Tourist Office. This time it was the author Saint-Exupery that was the reason for our trip to Tarfaya and the south of Morocco. In addition we just love the desert! Saint-Exupery is best known for his little novel “The Little Prince”, but he was also a pilot. From 1927 to 1928 he was Station Manager for the post planes based in Tarfaya. He wrote his first novel when he was stationed here, Southern Post.

The British occupied Tarfaya in 1882. The area was then occupied by the Spanish in 1912 and became part of Spanish Sahara. In 1958 the area was again part of Tarfaya and included into Morocco.

The road down to Tarfaya from Tan Tan goes through the desert and along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The desert goes right into the sea. The desert is a mix of dry grass and dunes. Rivers are several places running out to the sea forming lagoons. The last 100 km north of Tarfaya is very desolated and for every 1 km there is a military post. We stopped at one of them and were well received by one of the soldiers. At the beach there we found a lot of exciting shells in all sizes and forms. There was some extra weight in the car afterwards. The question is how to get it all back home on the plane!

About 50 km north of Tarfaya is Lake Naila and the Park National de Khenifiss. The lake is just inside the coastline and is a very popular fishing spot.

Lake Naila in Park National de Khenifiss, Tarfaya Marokko.
Lake Naila in Park National de Khenifiss, Tarfaya Marokko.

We stayed 2 nights at La Courbine d’Argent about 100 km north of Tarfaya. High walls except on the back towards the Atlantic surround the place. The living room has French doors opening up to the beach. Its only 30 m down to a belt of very green stones. This is an Eldorado for stone hunters. Some nice shells as well and in the small ponds you can find rare sea creatures like snails with wings!

The host is French and cannot speak a word of English. That makes it a bit difficult to stay there. We never knew when it was dinner or breakfast. We felt very outside and lacked completely information. But we sat nice and quiet and waited. At 21.00 the dinner was served and it was OK.

The best thing about this place is the location right by the beach. To walk along the beach to look for stones and shells are always fun. The 3 dogs belonging here will gladly follow you and they love to run after small stones if you throw them. You can walk up to the little town Akfhinir just north of La Courbine d`Argent. This is a main stopping point for the traffic from south to north in North Africa and visa versa.

This is the first place we lived where we was not welcomed. We felt that we were intruding in a private party when the host had family visiting. Breakfast was the worst on the whole trip. Bread from the day before as toast, some jam and honey. No butter, no cheese and no juice. Just coffee. No napkins, we had to ask for that. The host, old Paul Italiano, seams to give a dam about his guests!

We had dinner in the small town Akfhinir the second night. Our driver has found the best fishing restaurant on the main street, actually the only street. A very humble place, but with fantastic food. And very nice staff, both in front and behind the counter. Visiting the south of Morocco completely matched my great expectations!

Casa del Mar in Tarfaya, Morocco.
Casa del Mar in Tarfaya, Morocco.
Fishing hut on the coast outside Tarfaya, Morocco.
Street life in Tarfaya, Morocco.
City Hall in Tarfaya, Morocco.
Tarfaya fishing harbour, Morocco.
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