In the southwest corner of Morocco lies a scattered outpost of white-washed homes that make up the seaside village of Mirleft. A quick stop here reveals nothing extraordinary to even the most well-honed wayfarer. Only after a proper sojourn of a few days does the true spirit of the place begin to rise from it’s sandy shores.
Although the town of Mirleft sits just before the better-known town of Sidi Ifni, its vibe is completely polar. The town emanates an aura of vagabond surfer coupled with artistic hippie. It’s what some part of California once was. Perhaps it’s the Essaouira that Jimmy Hendrix and Orson Wells fell in love with. It’s what DiCaprio was searching for in The Beach. It’s secluded, misinterpreted, longed for, and still secret in many ways. And, I’m sure once word gets out, it will be more frequented as a result.
When visiting Morocco, a place like Mirleft can take a while for the energy of the place to begin to take its full effect. At Sally’s BnB, I wasn’t sure what to think when a refined British madam answered the door and invited my traveling companion, Victoria (pictured above), and I in the door. Her refined class and accent were of the bygone days of colonial Britain. Vicky was so allured and partially awe-struck that she stuck to our new hostess like glue – a new role model perhaps. Once her door opened, so did the figurative curtain of Mirleft begin to lift giving us our first glimpse into the eccentric sphere that makes up this small town. The coziness of the place immediately allowed us to breathe a sigh of relief. Sally invited us in and told us to make our way to the sunny terrace. Horse photos lined the wall, as did trophies of various competitions won by Sally in her former days. Victoria, a horse rancher from Ohio, was smitten to say the least.
On the top level, the view of the blue ocean spread to infinity. A “squawk!” nearly made us both jump ship. Sally stood smiling while her behemoth of a pet bird (a rare species that nearly died in Moroccan customs since the officials there weren’t sure how to feed it) gave us a sideward glare. We would have to see who actually ruled this roost; it seemed the bird had a high degree of avian arrogance with a gigantic beak to match. A wonderful British chap joined us for our meal; wine flowed and fish was served. The day slowly turned to evening that turned to a sky lit night with the chime of the ocean and it’s salt-cleansing breeze. The bird took what food it wanted from whomever’s plate it wished. Bed came in a blurry black out. A Moroccan Moveable Feast.
It was the next night with Sally’s advice that we ventured into town to discover a ramshackle street derrière the main drag. The first building housed within its shabby shell was an honest-to-goodness pub. This was not your run-of-the-mill seedy bar common in the country where one feels the need of a sanitizing-gel dip upon exiting, but a God-be-my-witness pub. Our enthusiasm caused the door to swing well past what the hinges were used to as the cacophony of French and British tourists mingled over proper pints of brew.
The next day we ventured to a pizzeria (apparently now closed since the owner skipped town for back taxes) with what probably served the best pizza in all of North Africa. The distinctive Italian owner who matched the eccentricity of this town treated us like fellow countrymen – mozzarella, wine in coffee cups (to hide the fact he was serving it without a license), and tomatoes served in a variety of fashions, salad, and for the finale: two large pizzas capped off the meal to become another repast worthy of royalty.
Our impregnated bellies pointed the way as we ventured to a nearby beach with one bizarre, circus-like tent occupying a sandy terrace above the water’s edge. From the darkened interior smoke of the distinct plant variety wafted through the door. Two-toned surfers jumped to their feet in surprise, as did a dog that was possibly also enjoying the smoky sauna. The strong lads introduced themselves and gave us a welcome to “Plage Sauvage,” the Wild Beach of Mirleft. The beach was stunning – the half-circular cove was pure sand backed by cliffs of gray rock. A small cave even adorned the center where it seemed a transient had decided to settle; the surfers admitted he’d taken up residence for the last year and wasn’t the friendliest of neighbors. The surfers also outlined how they worked for a locally based surf company. Tourists meandering the beach could walk up for an affordable session. The well-prepared could book ahead online.
On our last day in Mirleft, I decided to give surfing a go. In my better years I had been a professional surfing poser. Poser being the accurately descriptive term given to the echelon of want-to-be wave riders who might have the look but not the skill to ride Mother Nature’s undulating lifeblood. Hassan, the lead surf instructor, had me making sand angels as a warm up before entering the expansive blue. The first wave flipped me over and allowed me to exit after what felt like a few minutes. Once up and breathing again, I had to spot the beach to gain my whereabouts. Hassan came paddling over mentioning that I’d have to dip the nose of the board through the wave rather than allowing it to slam me down and spit me out later.
Once past the break, floating about and waiting on the next set of waves came easily enough. Hassan told me to prepare myself and begin paddling as fast as my arms could take me before the wave would begin propelling me forward. I dreaded another body slam. Hassan shouted “Go!” and I glimpsed back to see a wave the size of a three-story building coming my way. Vicky would remind me later that it didn’t look that large from her angle up near the safety of the white peace-smoking wigwam.
The wave hit the back of the board and Hassan yelled something unintelligible before I swung myself up onto the board with anything but finesse. Success! For three seconds the moon’s pull on the salty H2O of the Earth transported me with divine force and speed towards the brown cove. I fell off the board doing something of a tumble that prevented my mangling and allowed me to erupt with a victorious breath from the salty depths. Other attempts didn’t bring such exhilaration or obliteration so I took my luck and walked to the tent happily fatigued.
Later on the beach, Vicky said she could see my triumphant few seconds through her zoom lens but that a low battery didn’t allow her to snap any shots. Left to oral history, both the size of the wave along with the amount of time I rode the waxed plank will only increase with time. It was that same day that we left Mirleft, heading north along the undisturbed coastline putting any California drive to shame. Our sun-soaked faces smiled as the scenery shrunk in the mirrors giving way to an expansive blue sky and ocean that surely held other hidden adventures awaiting our discovery.
Getting to and from Mirleft with Journey Beyond Travel
I really enjoyed discovering this part of Morocco with Victoria. It was the basis of what has become one of our most popular itineraries called Wild Sahara. It’s especially superb because not a lot of companies can offer this trip with confidence (since they are not familiar with this part of the Sahara and they aren’t on the ground in country as we at Journey Beyond Travel). If you are interested in Moroccan adventure to get off the beaten path, to discover some amazing regions, and to have the trip of a lifetime, contact us for:
– Knowledgeable Guides
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