Geological tours in Morocco can be a great way for geologists and other earth science enthusiasts to learn about the geology of the country and explore some of its unique geological features. Morocco has a diverse and complex geology, with a variety of rock types, landscapes, and geological features that are of interest to geologists. Some of the geological features that may be of interest to visitors on a geological tour in Morocco include:

  • The Anti-Atlas Mountains: The Atlas Mountains are a major geological feature of Morocco, and they were formed millions of years ago as the result of tectonic activity. The mountains are home to a number of interesting geological features, including rocky peaks, deep gorges, and cascading waterfalls. The Atlas Mountains are also home to a number of plant and animal species that are found nowhere else in the world, making them an important ecological region. The Atlas Mountains are a popular destination for tourists, who come to see the stunning landscapes and geological wonders of the region. There are many opportunities for outdoor activities in the Atlas Mountains, including hiking, rock climbing, and skiing in the winter months.

  • The Sahara Desert is a unique and fascinating geological region in Morocco, with a variety of rock types, landscapes, and geological features that are of interest to geologists and earth science enthusiasts. Some of the geological features that can be found in the Sahara Desert include sand dunes, salt flats, and ancient volcanoes:

    • Sand dunes: The Sahara is home to some of the largest and most impressive sand dunes in the world. These dunes are formed by the wind, which picks up sand from the desert floor and moves it to a new location. The sand is then deposited in a new location, forming a dune. The size and shape of the dunes can vary greatly, depending on factors such as the strength of the wind and the amount of sand available. Some dunes, such as the Erg Chebbi dunes in Morocco, can be quite large, rising up to 150 meters (500 feet) high. Sand dunes are a distinctive feature of the Sahara, and they are an important part of the desert landscape. They are also popular with tourists, who come to see these unique and ever-changing formations.

    • Salt flats are formed when a lake or other body of water dries up, leaving behind a layer of salt on the surface of the ground. The salt flats in the Sahara are some of the largest in the world, and they are an important natural feature of the desert landscape. They are often visited by tourists who are drawn to their stark beauty and the unique opportunity they provide to take stunning photographs. These salt flats are often surrounded by mountains, which create a striking contrast between the white salt and the dark rock.

    • Ancient volcanoes: The Sahara is home to many ancient volcanoes, some of which are over 200 million years old. These volcanoes are now extinct, which means that they are no longer active and are not likely to erupt again. Despite this, they are still of interest to geologists because they provide valuable information about the geology and history of the region. Studying ancient volcanoes can help scientists understand how the earth’s crust has changed over time, as well as the processes that formed the volcanoes in the first place. Some ancient volcanoes in the Sahara have been well-preserved, and they can be found in a number of countries in the region, including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Morocco.

  • The Atlantic Coast: The Atlantic Coast of Morocco is home to a number of geological sites of interest, including the Cape Spartel Lighthouse, which is located on a rocky promontory at the tip of the Cape Spartel peninsula. This promontory was formed millions of years ago when the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. The resulting geological forces created a number of geological features, including the Cape Spartel Lighthouse, which was built on top of the promontory. The Atlantic Coast of Morocco is an important region for geologists, as it provides valuable insights into the geology and history of the region. The coast is also popular with tourists, who come to see the stunning landscapes and geological wonders of the area.

    Geological tours in Morocco can be a great way for geologists and earth science enthusiasts to learn about the geology of the country and explore some of its unique geological features. These tours may be organized by tour operators or by educational institutions and may be tailored to meet the specific interests of the group.


Geological Features and Tours of Morocco

1. Introduction to Morocco’s Geological Diversity

In a word, geological diversity in Morocco is truly efficient thanks to impressive fossil-rich formations, the only-outcrop formation in the world: the Tensift or Agadir Valley where the Cretaceous anti-bends and underground workings in the High Atlas Mountains – such as the copper mine at Sidi-Masoud – reached the rate of several thousand meters deep. Furthermore, the Atlantic basement is broken up into horsts and grabens that provide a geological database to fill several tens of Tome in any museum of the world. Similarly, in the palm grove surrounding Marrakech, age-old fossil spurs or the site of the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages are both zones characterized by rich alluvia. In addition, the megalithic in Marrakech, the avoidable Atlas goats, the characteristic acacias, and other genera belong to the arid biogeographical complex.

Morocco presents a myriad of geological features: Paleocene-Eocene basaltic lava flows, sandstone and shale anticlines from the Cenomanian and Turonian periods, age-old Jurassic and Triassic oases, the volcano-sedimentary stage of the Anauni, Tichka, Telouet and Bou-Azzer mountains, and the out-of-the-crust formations of Siroua and Antiatlas. The Cenozoic, in turn, gave Chichaoua, the basaltic volcanoes of the Middle Atlas, and the last major post-rift aggradation and cut episodes represented in the valley enclosures where Casablanca, Safi, El Jadida, Oualidia, and Essaouira are located. The formation of the Rif and the mountain ridges of Southern Morocco, including those of the Hoggar, Vanck, Mouydir, and Reguibat, is also a result of the ongoing tectonic and volcanic activity on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

2. 1.1 Overview of Morocco’s Geological History

To describe the structure of the lithosphere and tectonics of Morocco in detail would not be irrelevant to any geo-discipline in the world. It is also important from the point of view of earth science education, as it is easier to outline the shape of the plate margins. The reason for this is that the mountain chains and the geological structures of a country or region represent geological “maps” of the environmental effects of the type of tectonic activity on the earth’s outer shell that changes and reshapes the morphologies and distributions of land, sea, mountain chains, and sedimentary basins. The tectonics of developing the chosen regional tectonic plate masses in light of topics determine the geodynamic structure of mountain chains and underlying geological structures. In the frame of the linear-only stress states occur in the flexure zones of the developing broken plates with the tensile and shear stress states in the bending back zones of the flexure and trench zones of the subduction zones and the horizontal tensile stress states in the one conjugate basin which is due to the normal flexure and gravity collapse.

3. 1.2 Major Geological Features in Morocco

Morocco exhibits a great wealth both in natural and cultural heritage that portrays the Earth’s history from the Precambrian to the present. Many geological sites are now identified and added to the World Geological Heritage list made by UNESCO. The latter embody various geological phenomena, and in recent years, a multitude of geological and geomorphological studies have enhanced this heritage by identifying very important and well-annotated geological features. Unfortunately, they are poorly promoted and access to most of these features is somewhat difficult and sometimes even impossible. This is not simply due to poor promotion and absence of properly equipped communication stage, but also and mainly to a lack of references to GPS positioning of these sites. This lack does not allow promoting these features nor facilitating the visitor to well prepare his visit because very few sites are indicated and referenced on geological maps or on Google Earth imagery. In addition, we find numerous bibliographic references to the fossils of these sites, which are mainly of scientific interest, but few references to the sites themselves and their interest.

This contribution aims to highlight the geological features of Morocco, and especially those that belong to the world’s geological heritage and are listed as UNESCO global stratotypes. We present their locations, giving their GPS coordinates, and give a short description of each of these geological features. This could be useful to tourists who are interested in such wonders to pay a visit during their trip to Morocco, and also to students, researchers, and scientists in general for whom this report will be precious data. So geomorphologists, for instance, could see in situ spectacular landforms that they only know from literature. And the general structure and tectonic of the Moroccan Atlas belt will also be easily known, being knot it with a real and visual approach to the different recognized and identified lithological formations.

4. 1.3 Significance of Morocco’s Geological Heritage

If the sites included in the proposed list are properly set aside and managed in parallel with economical and guide training plans, they can play a major part in fulfilling the expectations of the local communities and, together with the standard cultural and entertainment industry in Morocco, can help to create a very profitable and sustainable adventure tourism. These sites are noticeable, offer value, vary in importance, are varied for visitors, in addition, and receive a lit amount of visitors to the nation’s historical sights. This study seeks to give those coordinating and managing the geological treasures inside the country an idea about their international and domestic importance. This research demonstrates that with the assistance of the United Nations Summit for World Heritage List, it would be conceivable and useful for Morocco to list these sites in the World Heritage list and gives advocates or other inspection services of such a request a clear argument and help them to frame site books.

Morocco’s scenic vistas, spanning an area of 446,550 km2, are the outcome of environmental forces that have been shaping these physical settings for over 2,500 million years. Three tectonic activity phases have created the Moroccan landscape. Imported terrains, including the foundation of Morocco, have taken various patterns throughout different orogenesis sessions. These days, Morocco’s geological history can be identified, examined, and shared through numerous tours made to a number of geological parks and geosites. These holidays and geological tours will help to understand the global geological context. This history of Earth is so mesmerizing that everybody who used to glimpse the several chapters of the geological world of Morocco would be enchanted and touched.

5. 1.4 Brief History of Geological Tourism in Morocco

Since the 1970s, the very first organized groups of geologists visiting Morocco were most frequently organized in the context of scientific meetings (the First International Symposium on the Devonian System of Morocco, Rabat, January 1978; an Excursion E of the 26th International Geological Congress, Paris, July 1980; an International Meeting on Permian-Triassic stratigraphy, Marrakech, January 1974, etc.). Success was immediate, and geologists interested in post-meeting excursions asked for specific guides to visit a very selected group of sites. As Morocco is one of the best-known Paleozoic localities worldwide, the scientific community benefited from the help of local guides to successfully visit very selected sites. The arrival of the World Wide Web in 1993 completed the image of a mythical and attractive country. In 2013, the National Congress of Saharan and Pre-Saharan Tourism was organized by the Ministry in charge of Tourism in Zagora to bring stakeholders together and promote the various Saharan options. Not a single geological site is mentioned in the available issues on congress-style guides.

The emergence of the concept of “geological parks” dates back to the early 20th century, when the German Ries Act was adopted in order to protect rocks exposed to exploitation. In Europe, the first geological trails were, for example, created in Saxon Switzerland in 1950 or in the Italian Dolomites in 1960. In Russia, the first geologically protected territories were the natural geological parks of the Crimean region, founded in 2005. The number of tourists on geological trails is increasing year by year. At the end of the 20th century, when tourism in Morocco peaked, foreign visitors were attracted by renowned historical and cultural monuments (medinas, kasbahs, bazaars), or by famous festivals and the country’s impressive landscapes. However, some specialized geological guides were gaining recognition among a restricted clientele. During these years, the Ministry in charge of Tourism began to organize specialized geological institutional framework of geotourism in Morocco tours to the most fascinating and well-known geological sites in the Anti-Atlas and High Atlas as part of its program “Saharamaroc”.

6. Geological Highlights of Different Regions

One of the most famous geological features in Morocco is the High Atlas Mountains, which were formed fairly recently (about 50 to 20 million years ago) by uplift along a major fault that juxtaposed crystalline rocks of the African Plate to the southeast with sedimentary rocks of the Moroccan Plate to the northwest. The uplifted Moroccan Plate was then subject to severe river downcutting to form the numerous gorges and canyons. Today, the High Atlas Mountains display dramatic fault-related features such as cross-cutting alluvial fans and block tectonics like those in Death Valley. The coastal region also presents some unique geological features like unaltered continental crust. When visited in conjunction with some of the Islamic-Arab monuments of Marrakech and Fes, the open-air markets, the parks, the lush valleys and river resorts, skiing, and Moroccan cuisine and interesting local music, these areas will become part of a memorable Moroccan vacation tour.

The forerunner of the present-day Atlantic Ocean developed along what is now the Moroccan continental margin during the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous Periods, when several successive phases of extensional faulting and rifting down-faulted numerous tectonic blocks, which were then gradually eroded and infilled with a variety of sediments. The majority of Morocco is a tectonic block, or terrane, that originally formed by accretion along the northern margin of the African Plate during the Paleozoic Era. These rocks now crop out across much of Morocco’s central and eastern parts and are famous among geologists for their wealth of Cambro-Ordovician-era Silurian fossils of trilobites, brachiopods, and other diverse marine organisms that may be collected with a bit of effort. The western and central parts of Morocco are famous for mountainous terrain bounded by faults that are a part of the system that forms the Alpine mountain belt and seems to be still active today since the region experiences frequent earthquakes.

7. 2.1 The Atlas Mountains and Their Formation

In general, what might we notice? A ridge of mountains that has an east-southeast to west-northwest line, superposed on the remains of a very ancient earth’s crust. Three reliefs stand out: the Greater Atlas, the Central Atlas, and the Anti Atlas. The region extends over approximately one thousand kilometers in length and two hundred fifty kilometers in maximum width. The Taza Fault marks its eastern boundary while the Atlantic Ocean overflows its western threshold.

Since the Paleozoic, the period during which the older African continental shield had been covered by a series of thin layers of impure lime, clay slate, and sandstone sediments, an orthophenomenon has gradually formed in the African plate. When the African ocean opened in the Mesozoic period, flooding the Sahara Continental shelf, and then the seaport was the Tethys Ocean, all from the remnant of the Alpine Mountains. Then in the Tertiary period, it gradually formed the Atlas Mountains, which today are not very pronounced from a geological point of view. However, these mineral bands favor the formation of rainy basins such as Ouarzazate.

8. 2.2 The Sahara Desert and Its Geological Wonders

The formation of the Western Saharan Basin occurred during the Jurassic period, 150–195 million years ago, associated with normal faulting which led to crustal thinning and the subsidence of the area to sea levels. The Jurassic rifting was followed by little subsidence in the Tertiary. If you have a chance to drive along the southern parts of the Moroccan Anti-Atlas and Grand Scollier de Tafilalet ranges on a visit to the Sahara, you may see some Eocene sediments and basalts in the Tertiary section. Periods of sea incursion and regression dominated this region during much of its history and a magnificent fossil mollusk record can be found in those tapering layers. The Late Tertiary, 2–10 million years B.P., witnessed the rising of a few anticlines and some minor normal faults, and a recent rejuvenation of some of the Proterozoic-Palaeozoic structures.

A tour within the Sahara desert is considered one of the highlights of Morocco. In this part of the country, the immense landscapes are infinite as well as timeless. The desert is situated within the boundaries of Earth’s largest desert and ties the country to a long geological history. The huge sand dunes which build up in the Southern part of the desert are thought to form the northernmost extension of the West African Basin. This basin runs from the north of Nigeria to the north of Algeria and in ancient times was flooded by the sea as a result of plate movements. Due to an increase in humidity brought about by global warming or by the interaction of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, this region running from the southern part of Mauritania to the Agadir area was laden with swamps covered by dense mangroves.

9. 2.3 The Atlantic Coastline: Cliffs, Caves, and Fossils

The present stage of the coastline’s shaping continued the steps of a long preceding phase where there was an imperative lift of the surrounding bordering land that led to the principal lines of nature, the alimentary rivers, the contented terracing, the protective dikes, and the continental raised platforms. The coastline’s infra and sub-aquatic morphologies provided two aspects of its own plan; they revealed two different signs where the surrounding land’s history could be read. The maritime and subsea changed the inhabitants’ clear evidence and the development of the vertical and also related to the Holocene period and the less well-known morerene regressive and transgressive post-Wurm climatic stages. Three different types of limestone developed thanks to the seas after the Riffian-Anisic stir-up and the Meso-Cenozoic basaltic magmatism. Each of the three groups of limestone constitutes sequences of fossilization that offer unique illustrations that throw light on various biological episodes during these periods of time. Throughout the hard phases and the preceding calm stages, the shoreline’s caves bore witness to the population’s continued presence. These gave ideal conditions for settlement, occupation, fishing, and trade.

A succession of different colors from northeast to southwest, the Atlantic coastline is situated on the western side of the Hercynian and the Anti-Atlassic, lying between approximately latitudes 34° 30′ and 29° 30′ N. It extends for about 1500 km from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Vecijo. The coastline’s geological segments extend not only southwest of Lixus, Laraiche, and Emporium, but also southeast of the peninsula and the Atlas. It is one of four major geological zones that characterize Morocco. The others are represented by the cliffs and the strand line that are mainly of marine erosion, followed by the cliffs that were formed in earlier harsh phases, and the sectors of calcareous fossils that were formed by a combination of the limestone deficiencies’ deposits, fossil shell piles, and calcareous shell oyster rings.

10. 2.4 The Anti-Atlas and the Rich Mineral Deposits

The significant mineral deposits associated with the Anti-Atlas consist of copper, lead, and zinc which are mined between the region of Tazenakht and Agdz. However, many other minor deposits of fluorite, barite, and other base metal ores, including gold, are known. These deposits have been formed in almost 580 million years, during the late Precambrian period, 400 million years in the Carboniferous period, 112 million years in the mid-Cretaceous to the present, due to the appearance of several tectonic events and geological phenomena. Other mineral deposits of different types, such as the Jurassic banded iron formations south of the Anti-Atlas, were exploited in many pre-Roman, Roman and less well-known medieval times. With many flights from the UK and less than four hours time difference, Morocco is now within easy reach for a geotourism weekend or even daily trips from Europe.

The Anti-Atlas extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the south to the High Atlas in the north and from the coastline in the west to the Sahara in the east. The sedimentary rock in this region is young, less than 250 million years, having been deposited during the Carboniferous period and Mesozoic era. In fact, the Anti-Atlas is a continuation of the uplift of the Saharan Platform which was quite flat and located close to the equator. Between these two occurrences, the North American Plate’s subduction beneath the Eurasian Plate resulted in compressive forces which formed the Anti-Atlas Relief. Similar tectonic processes have also played a part in the formation of the Andes and the Himalayas.

11. Types of Geological Tours Available in Morocco

These geological features include Jurassic basins that have extensive coal, gypsum, and phosphorite deposits. Morocco has a high density of mesoscopic magnetic dikes along the entire Atlas Mountain extent, with areas where the magnetic dikes are very dense. Located along the Atlantic shore are volcanic islands. These islands are the remnants of the same magmatic complex responsible for the Cape Juby Fault. The Southern Atlas front contains compressive tectonics associated with the NNE Pamir-Hindu Kush collision. The collision has mandated counterclockwise-rotated stress trends relative to the NNE collision direction. These few examples give some idea of the geological heterocyclic features available in Morocco for tours by interested groups.

Morocco is a land of much geological interest to both scholarly and lay minds alike. The country’s varied geological landscape hosts many different types and classifications of rocks. In addition, Morocco has several recorded volcanic episodes. The Rif Mountains have been traced by geologists since the late 19th century as being the product of a classic Andalusian-style orogeny. The Atlas Mountains, running through the northeastern half of the country, are mainly the result of Tertiary orogeny, that is, uplift and folding, with preferred thrust faulting. The Anti-Atlas and the Sahara Desert have seen several episodes of uplift and folding as well.

12. 3.1 Guided Tours to Key Geological Sites

The most accessible sites and several of the major Morocco geological features of interest to geologists are presented. Two-week field trip details suggest how a concentrated, cost-effective, agate/polychrome jasper/wavellite-tourmaline tour could be assembled. There are many secondary geological features of interest and importance besides the major ones presented. It’s the trip planner’s suggestion to enrich your tour by supplementing or modifying their suggestions with local guides.

Morocco has an outstanding diversity of geology and landscape, and many of its geological sites are of world class. The richness of this heritage reflects a long and varied geological history. Frequent mountain building, rift faults, and an unusual combination of geology provide an extensive range of scenery and geological sites. The combination of colorful mineral deposits, desert sands, impressive mountains and beaches, and a first-class road infrastructure makes Morocco an excellent educational venue. The petrographic and macroscopic features, geological context, genesis, thermal history, and field relationships of the mineral deposits in Morocco can all be readily observed and studied. Minerals of sedimentary, magmatic, and metamorphic deposit varieties are abundant and readily accessible for study in the relatively undisturbed deposit settings of many areas.

13. 3.2 Self-Drive Geological Itineraries

The Atlas Mountains reflect a relatively recent phase of mountain building, forming the result of the collision between Nubia and Morocco in the end stages of the Alpine-Late Hercynian orogen – some 45 Ma ago. This response, of raising the mountain chain escarpment and of profusely folding and faulting the lithosphere that lies beneath these strong layered rocks, is exactly the phenomenon we should experience, but this is not explained on other geological tourism ventures. However, with the beach standing in for erosion, they cover the exposed rock outcrops and, metaphorically, the conclusions drawn by geological research. As such, the tale is incomplete, and so are the post-tourism discussions. This is the gap that we and our geological contributors hope to fill with the geological features we are proposing for your visit to Morocco.

We have drawn up a selection of geological features and itineraries that can be self-driven in 4x4s and 2-wheel drives. These one-day drives often start from tarmac roads, with a limited number of km on rough tracks. They offer a series of geological points of interest and an opportunity to appreciate the landscape of this beautiful country, and crucially, the chance to buy a good lunch. They do not require any specific geological knowledge, but a keen eye and an enquiring mind will be important. In fact, some of these itineraries can be a helpful first step for non-specialists who wish to learn more about geology and can offer excellent additional opportunities in terms of Morocco’s cultural and natural heritage.

14. 3.3 Specialized Tours for Geology Enthusiasts

If you want a truly unique insight into a destination, then it’s good to turn to local experts who really know their stuff. Geology enthusiasts will be amazed by the variety of geological phenomena genesis, the given sediments and formation context. The Tafraout region is one of the most diversely rich in geological formations and the landscape reflects that. The common local fiery red granite boulders are a geological wonder in themselves. As experienced geology enthusiasts, you may request visits to identified formations seen in national parks, nature reserves, national geological reserves, or even private areas. These can be a unique opportunity to better understand the geological formations in the Tafraout area. You can see a wide variety of esteemed outcrops and geosites of interest. Our area is rich with fossil sites, ammonite beds, and many other elements that may seduce the most demanding geology and archaeological enthusiasts. But also to the easy discoverer who will be likely amazed by the visible and keen geological opportunities.

Specialized tours for geology enthusiasts are sometimes organized – but not often. We invite people to let us know if they are interested in such tours and what topics they would like to have covered. Opportunities are numerous. Many of the geology tours are in areas covered with Paleozoic, Jurassic and Cretaceous formations, including marine and continental deposits and even marine calcareous and reef complexes. Some tours combine geological and cultural themes: the geological wealth has left its imprint on local communities to the extent that a festival has now been set up to link this geological wealth with the local culture, art and crafts. Among the many archaeological, natural and geological enjoyable sites and features you may visit: Marine deposits near the major cities, Devonian and Mississippian locations, Triassic outcrops, Cretaceous outcrops, volcanic deposits, structural features like the Inverted basin of the Argana Anticlinal, marine oceans terraces, Examples of infiltration galleries and qanat techniques dating back to centuries from now.

15. 3.4 Educational Field Trips for Students and Researchers

It could be advantageous to climb again with the international standard of education and culture of certain tourist guides and the responsibility of the local and national government to defend, protect, value, or devalue the national archaeological and geological heritage. In most geological courses, the earth interior of the quarries or in the pertinent sectors of the examined territory by tourism operators should be the object of support for lessons and scientific tourism. The extractive industries also considered here must be required to answer these requests to allow the most advantageous objective report/ratio of well-being. If this tourist behavior was widely known, then one could expect that only the organized professors of dreams would come to degrade our land. Then also, by integrating some of the results obtained directly in these attractive activities.

Scientific excursions to the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas geological myths (Astro-geological myths, geological and socio-geological myths of the Moroccan desert) are presented at the authors’ sites, and the duration changes according to the interest in the curiosities to be realized. Each scientific tourism (cultural, industrial, and commercial tourism) excursion in the southern region is detailed. The question of the environmental behavior to adopt for lasting tourism, a vector of peace, calls to the public. To illustrate the tourist resource in the region of Ouarzazate, a list of the most representative geological stations of the geological tours is proposed. In the different proposed excursions, the questions of walk supports, the pageant plan, the accommodation and restoration means, rescue means, and pictures of the visited places are developed. Three cultural tourism outings “A day in the neighborhood of Ouarzazate” and six classical tourist dislocations are described at the end of the communication. The themes treated by the proposed short guidance are diverse and can respond to a competent public of high connoisseur’s tourist guides.

As an educational field activity, Moroccan and foreign students can initiate tourists and network users in general on some key geological and sociological concepts by facilitating the understanding of certain theoretical educational content. Moreover, this article quotes the different excursions and lectures of the geology field organized to start in Ouarzazate with high school students, as well as certain officers’ companies and networks and foreign students of different human specialties. These are the same documents and company reports on these courses taken out since 1992 that were used as support by students and researchers of any nationality. The field excursion reports were evaluated by the visitors who appreciated not only the cordial reception and welcome but also the quality of the framing and transfer, the originality of the topics covered, and moreover the interest of the reports.

Geological and geophysical studies in Morocco, particularly in the region of Ouarzazate, must have a substantial impact on improving the scientific foundations of teachers, researchers, and students in many scientific fields such as geological engineering, tourism, and educational leisure. This province offers a unique opportunity to practice short and long educational field courses that can collaborate to avoid the trivialization of scientific disciplines by the target groups and indirectly encourage tourism and raise money for the population in a region criticized by many geographical, economic, and social problems.

16. Sustainable Practices in Geological Tourism

Geological resource tourism appeals to a wide public, within which are the schools and academic environment, natural environment enthusiasts and scientists, and most often consists of conducting activities around places that contain geological elements or points of geological or paleontological interest, without prejudice to the use of other places of interest for the natural or socio-cultural environment. It is closely associated with advancements and new public uses in the area of Geo-conservation and Geoparks that promote and valorize its tourist potential. It consists of a special interest and thematic tourism, based on the viewing or real experience of geological, geomorphological, paleontological, and genetic elements of the Earth’s history, types of rocks, minerals, deposits, fossils, living organisms, land uses, and natural hazards. The geological factor can have varying degrees of importance compared to other aspects considered fundamental in Environment Tourism. The development of geological tourism activities can intersect as a priority in rugged terrains or mountainous altitudes, in geothermal fields, volcanic areas, fault lines, complex hydrologic, historical and geo-mining, and paleontological sites.

Society is more and more concerned about the environment we live in, and that includes also the one we only visit as tourists. The interest for a sustained practice of tourism appears much before, but became obvious only in the seventies and the mentioned UNCTAD (1976) document also states, “geographical balance of natural facilities and the protection of areas of special scientific, historical, or cultural interest against excessive trampling by tourists.” Sustainability carries four main principles: Integrate three fundamental components of human existence – environment, economy and social, both intra-generation and inter-generation. Taking that into account, sustainable practices have been applied to several types of tourism and in particular to “Geological Tourism”. In this type of tourism, the main focus must be given to fully integrate each of the three other existent dimensions: academic, environmental, and cultural and above all, to identify factors inhibiting or supporting it and to contribute to and promote good practice.

17. 4.1 Conservation of Geological Sites in Morocco

During the last decades, groups of protection of the geological heritage were created in Western countries, called the Pro Geo. Project of UNESCO in protection of geological heritage also published some specialized booklets. Although each territory has a unique geological heritage worth of conservation, the identification of geological sites and their conservation are still in a rudimentary stage. Countries in the East are only coordinating activities and education in the field of the protection of the geological sites are virtually absent. In Southeast countries, the field is unsupervised and data on the damage and mining problems are being widely reported to UNESCO headquarters.

Sites with beautiful geological features are very difficult to conserve. The visitors to the caves may damage the speleothems, the engravings in the cave leave black traces. Ovens, pottery kilns, olive, and grain presses destroyed sensitive limestone mineralogy after which the roof collapsed. The scrapers have more important value than the calcarenites of Ras Hrairiya in NW Tunisia. Also, the funerary monuments or any cultural and ethnological symbols are more important than granites with exotic minerals. As with any world region, geological sites of special scientific interest and spectacular scenic values are also threatened everywhere in North Africa.

18. 4.2 Community Involvement and Benefits of Geological Tourism

Given this complexity, what can be the role and importance of geological tourism in country-wide conservation and development? Geological sites received attention as such or within the concept of nature-based and geotourism. For this kind of tourism in undeveloped natural areas, support for publicly protected lands and increased funding for their management is engendered. Good conservation debts from geological tourism such as tour fees, concessions fees, and royalties can assist in the expansion, maintenance of conservation debts, and local development. The attraction of parts of the population to extraordinary geological formations or particular landform types and the desire to visit unique geological sites in general support conservation and contribute to the preservation. Scientific literacy can result, which promotes geological conservation. The study of geologic sites can reach a level of awareness and appreciation of these special places, perhaps through the influence or the education of future generations. From the stresses of modern life, contact with nature affords retreat and a chance for relaxation. The benefits of geological tourism are expected to preserve the economic and environmental well-being of the community and attract a new and needed local economic base. The development of a local workforce can also lead to a source of long-term commitment for conservation.

We can define the geological tourism value as the measure of each site’s potential to attract or satisfy tourists in terms of geological or geomorphological elements (geodiversity). Given the growing demand for geological tourism, we can establish arrangements to satisfy the basic needs of visitors and local communities. Good natural resource management can help the local actors to gain benefits from the tourist trips. This leads to community involvement and support for conservation and sustainable development, with direct and indirect economic, socio-cultural, and ecological benefits. However, too much meaning can be considered as a risk leading to unsustainable tourism development, with loss of quality and significance, congestion provoked by mass tourism, and finally, a decrease in local support for conservation and sustainable development. Social justice and the distribution of the benefits of tourism are important. Ownership and control of tourism assets by the powerful few can be addressed, and the economic benefits of geological tourism can be distributed. Increased income and employment opportunities from geological tourism can also, on the other hand, be favored by the devolution of ownership and control. This would also help to improve the overall protection of the site.

19. 4.3 Balancing Tourism with Environmental Protection

Tourism areas must be developed alongside the principles of decentralization and be matched with an environmental approach that considers both the social and the productive components for marginal regions. The education and training of populations in the protection and enhancement of the environment is a very important factor. The media and tourist operators play a fundamental role in this task. Their impact on people’s environmental conscience and knowledge is significant, as is their influence on the tourist’s experience. The Atlas must target a high-quality tourist, a simplified product with positive virtues: a real and humanized proximity, peace of mind, authenticity, the great outdoors, and soft adventure; respect of the eco-state, the carrying capacity and regulations in place; human quality at the service of the client with a view to providing him with the greatest satisfaction. All the small, operational, scientific projects presented here strive towards realizing this type of tourism, which puts the priority on the quality of the professional product and the greater satisfaction of the visitor, while at the same time ensuring the protection and balanced and sustainable development of the region.

The demand for tourism is an incentive for preserving natural heritage, since it valorizes the regional and local economy. In the Atlas region, for example, this has transformed the old methods of survival by agriculture and shepherding. However, tourism can have a negative impact on local populations by disturbing the social balance, lifestyles, cultural identity, and the region’s natural system. Tourism can serve as a powerful lever for development. Environmental protection is crucial for any tourism project. Morocco should adopt an integrated strategy, which involves the relevant areas of the public sector, to preserve the natural and cultural heritage through sustainable management.

Balancing tourism with environmental protection

20. 4.4 Best Practices for Responsible Geological Tourism

You are encouraged to obtain further advice from national institutions and local agencies, such as the Ministries in charge of Energy and Mines; and Tourism, Monuments and the Environment Agency. In addition, it could be extremely useful to make contact with the universities of your choice, and take advantage of their cooperation in the realization of your project. There are also numerous foreign institutes that provide relevant services in this field, such as the Geological Institutes in the visitors’ countries, which provide travel information that can help to promote Moroccan single-day and/or package tours.

Let us now inspire you to organize a geological visit by way of a synthesis tour that ensures that you gain the most from Morocco’s immense geological heritage. You should now have some idea about how to combine some specific interests or themes to suit your geological background or that of your group. Before proceeding any further, let us draw your attention to the concern of the academic community and the Moroccan people for sustainable development of Morocco’s geological tourism and its geological assets. Being aware of the shortage of information historically available to geotourists, its impact on the nation’s heritage, whether you operate in the academic, tourist or any other sector, and attempt to link academic, local and visitor activities through formulation and application of best practice.

21. Planning Your Geological Tour of Morocco

Getting to remote sites is easier with long-range weapons like motorbikes or quad bikes or simply by walking. It is possible to hire a specialized adventure travel agency to organize your geological tour of Morocco or bike rental agencies. There are excellent local biking options with accommodation provided in traditional guesthouses. The classic round trip would be Marrakech, Zagora, Foum Zguid, Taznakht, Tafraoute, Agadir, Taroudannt, Taliouine, Foum Zguid, Zagora, and back to Marrakech. Local gîtes offer accommodations and decent meals. In Zagora, several organizations can help you organize your desert motorbike or quad bike tours or simply rent one.

It is easy to hire long-range 4-wheel drive tour vehicles in the cities of Marrakech, Rabat, Casablanca, or Fez. Although taxis or 4×4 vehicles are more comfortable, both vehicles can negotiate most of the off-road terrain in the field guide. To rent a 4×4 vehicle, contact the various car rental agencies in any of the four main cities. Most of these agencies can deliver the vehicle near one of the airports or at your hotel.

22. 5.1 Choosing the Right Tour Operator

These operate in a very competitive market, and it may be worth inquiring with a variety of tour companies before deciding on the one that most closely matches your preferences and budget. Here we offer some helpful tips and good advice about questions you should always ask tour companies no matter how big or small they are. We describe what we think a good tour includes and aspects that should ring alarm bells. Our ‘valuable tips’ are based upon our considerable experience gained by working in the travel industry in Morocco, both from the inside as tour operators (with our well-established travel agency Desert Detours) and working with other tour companies from the outside. Our experience and expertise are offered especially to those clients looking to focus upon or prioritize the geological aspect of the tour. As with all good tours, these expert services with knowledgeable geologist guides can be tailor-made to suit all requirements from birdwatching, botany trips to trekking, 4×4 overland, buggy boarding, etc., to name just a few.

There are a number of tour companies offering tours in Morocco, from large international agencies with a worldwide reputation to large Moroccan agencies working internationally and selling their products to the international market, to consultant agencies based in Morocco offering both standard and specialized tours. The size of companies and the numbers and types of tours each offer are almost as diverse as the geology of Morocco itself. Even for standard 4×4 tours with English-speaking drivers/guides, services and prices vary, and before choosing a company, it is worth taking the time to find out more about each company and what they have to offer.

23. 5.2 Essential Gear and Equipment for Geological Tours

A variety of specialized equipment is almost mandatory for studying or looking at meaningful geological outcrops and deposits. A specially equipped 4-wheel drive vehicle is the basic requirement for mobility as well as the capacity to carry all other necessary gear. This could include food, water, fuel, safety items, road maintenance tools, camping and communications equipment, geology gear, and field tools. Geology gear, such as a trowel, geological pick, chisel, and brush for cleaning mud off fossils; rock and mineral sample collection bags; hammer; acid test kit; and small sample and specimen storage boxes. For the field laboratory, electric or vibratory sand-sieving machines with assorted sieves capable of at least 32 to 500 mesh size. In addition, access to an energy source, lab bench, water, cleaning and sawing equipment, sample separation mechanisms, vacuum desiccators, and other needed analysis or laboratory equipment are essential to do any meaningful laboratory analysis of the collected samples.

24. 5.3 Safety Measures and Precautions in Geological Sites

Flash Floods: • Always camp at least thirty feet above a dry wash. • Try to park your car fifty feet from a dry wash. • Remember to keep your engine running if you have to leave your car and cross a wash full of rapidly moving water. • Do not enter canyons, dry washes, or depressions when rain is falling. Run-off water can become a deadly torrent without warning and without any sign of rain nearby.

In the Desert or in the Mountains: • Make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. • Walk in the cool of early morning, try to avoid the heat of the day.

When Driving: • Always drive carefully and courteously. • Try to avoid looking at road logs or maps when you are driving. • Try to avoid driving in dark and lonely areas at night. • Observe the speed limit and traffic regulations. • Learn the meaning of the signs. • Always have extra water, food, soap, and warm clothing in your car or truck. • Use caution at all times because rocks may be falling or hundreds of hidden bumpers stick out above the road.

In the Mountains or the Desert: • Pick a well-marked trail if you decide to go for a walk. • There may be barbed wire to keep hikers from trespassing or to protect wildlife that is sometimes difficult to see with the naked eye. • Be prepared for the dry and hot (over 100°F, 38°C) desert and mountains. • Always carry more than adequate supply of water to drink, but also to cool your car.

General Precautions: • Be particularly cautious of slippery rocks and steep cliffs, and wet bedrock surfaces. • Do not walk along the edges or at the bottom of a cliff. • When in a fault zone, be observant of possible sudden movements. • Be careful of overhanging rocks. • Climbing caves for geologic studies is very dangerous. Even experienced cavers can have accidents underground.

25. 5.4 Cultural Etiquette and Respect for Local Customs

In general, try to be aware and observe the actions of those around you. Quickly adapt your actions to synchronize with the internal clock of the inhabitants of the country in which you are traveling. Moroccans are offended by rude behavior and disrespect, and they value honesty and integrity. They are more likely to offer compassion to those who try to make a positive effort in all their interactions. It is quite acceptable to ask the way to a certain place and then thank those who sedulously offer assistance. Try to take the time to ask for directions and a few words of conversation rather than just relying on your map or GPS. When you are with someone, it is impolite to look at your watch or PDA frequently. Moroccans love to greet each other, and a smile and a final wave when separating, particularly when leaving on a positive note, are most appreciated.

One of the most rewarding parts of traveling abroad is the time spent interacting with the people you will meet. Arriving at the beginning of a trip with an open mind and curiosity about new people, new customs, and a different way of life will serve you well. It is often the differences in customs and etiquette that provide insight into a different culture. Moroccans are known for their hospitality and their good nature. Learning and respecting a few basic local customs will make your trip more enjoyable and rewarding. Although Moroccans are very understanding with tourists who are not familiar with their customs, tourists who do make an effort are more likely to be treated warmly.

26. 5.5 Recommended Itineraries and Duration of Tours

In conclusion, the mineralogical and stratigraphic quality of the mentioned sites is attractive, and a significant number of tourists can be accommodated concurrently; in most cases, several subjects can be shared during the same visit. This tourist sector could also be valued by requesting a link to other sites not considered in the proposal (mining, landscapes, oasis, etc.). This value is not subject to international boundaries, which are too present. The geographical location of tourism is not shown and can be explained by the request’s scope: mineralogists’ personal interest whose field is finished rock containing information about Earth’s active processes. Tourists recognizing the mineralogical value of rocks will find the most accessible sites.

The content of itineraries proposed here has been built mainly from a General Assembly of the Moroccan Association of Amateur Geologists in Rabat in April 2015. Proposals were made only by the President and consultant of this association; his purpose is not to value the rock in the vicinity of Meknes. After Dhafar, Al-Wajh, Riyadh, Taif is the last Tuwaiq kars. The general observation is that accommodations are acceptable to good, except for a tent camp on the lakesides of the volcanoes of the Tazarine sugarloaf and lack of local workers. The quality of the guide service is variable, depending on the demand. Management of sites needs to be improved (signs, natural protection against trash, park rangers, etc.), and many enriched sites and museums are worth a stopover.

27. Conclusion: The Future of Geological Tourism in Morocco

In addition to improving the local population’s standard of living, the revenue generated favors the necessary protection of the geosites and their surroundings and contributes to the development of additional complementary activities around the geosites. Moreover, and more importantly, the development of geotourism is representative of the development of a more global environmental thought. It should increasingly integrate geological heritage as a social and economic asset. It is an essential support for educational, scientific, cultural, and local development objectives. In any case, the exploitation of this geological heritage must be carried out in full respect of the environmental conditions and in a sustainable manner. With or without consideration of the geological tourism sphere, the real challenge and moral duty of the scientific and environmental community is to strive for the sustainable development of our society. Our present fate and that of the generations that will succeed us will steer the future of geology.

This volume brings together some further studies of geological heritage in Morocco as an emerging educational medium, including the scientific and didactic interests of several geosites. These contributions concern the employment of geological heritage as a medium of education and popularization to enhance the interest of local populations, tourists, and students of varying levels in earth sciences. Encouraging nature-based tourism (rock tourism) and enhancing its potential contribute positively to regional socioeconomic development. The scientific and didactic handling of geosites can benefit everyone interested in the natural environment component. The more accessible geological heritage can have significant qualitative consequences in a specific area. A local development strategy (or even wider) based primarily on the conservation of the often ignored geological heritage, while adapting secondary human activities, demonstrates significant economic benefits.