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Mindat.org Conference 2012 - Morocco

Last Updated: 22nd Nov 2015

By Jolyon & Katya Ralph

The Second International Mindat.org Conference - Morocco, November 2012

After the great success of our First International Conference (see here, here and here) we decided on a more ambitious destination for our second conference - Morocco! Needless to say places filled up quickly.

So, on October 31st, I found myself en route to Morocco on the EasyJet flight from Gatwick. Three other mindatians were coincidentally on the same flight, but sadly my wife, Katya, was not one of them, as due to continued delays with the UK in processing her Leave to Remain visa she was unable to travel. It was very difficult to enjoy this trip without my wife, but I did my best to help keep things running smoothly, and most importantly, document it with photos and video (video coming soon).

October 31st - Arrival Day

It's raining outside the hotel as we wait for people to arrive.

Pu Tzu and others in the hotel reception after registration.

Mindat manager Amir Akhavan and Ben Youssef, local organizer who helped make sure everything ran smoothly.

First dinner for all participants.

November 1st - Visit to Sidi Rahal

The first field trip day was an excusirsion to the quarries at Sidi Rahal, famous for amethyst geodes, agages, pseudo-stalactites
and epimorphs/perimorphs.

Minibuses line up outside hotel ready for the trip.

Penny and her minibus group get ready to depart.

Off we go...

Huge piles of waste rock at Sidi Rahal due to extensive digging - all for mineral specimens.

A small agate embedded in Triassic basalt.

Local children soon came to see us - and to try Amir's camera.

Epimorph after ?

Lunch was prepared by the local dealers and their families.

And then we looked through their stock of items for sale.

Quite a lot of stock.

In the evening, returning to Marrakesh, we went on a tour of the souk, a labyrinthine street market. Here are orange juice sellers.

November 2nd - Drive through High Atlas

We said goodbye to our luggage which travelled separately from us, and left Marrakesh for the last time on a seven hour drive to Ouarzazate, our next destination. Every stop en-route had locals with stalls selling minerals and fossils.

Leaving the city.

First stop, some rather gaudy mineral fakes.

Fake galena geode - even the geode is fake! It's made out of some kind of clay wrapped around a ball.

Climbing through the mountains to our next stop.

Mountain dwellings in the High Atlas.

Next stop for a photo opportunity.

Very nice view!

Chief organizer Tomasz and his girlfriend Asia, who sadly could not be with us for the full trip.

And, of course, mineral sellers.

Fantastic fake fossils!

Next stop, some mineral dealers with real shops.

Plenty of minerals and fossils available.

Break for lunch, spectacular views.

Another view from the restaurant.

On outskirts of Ouarzazate is Morocco's equivalent of Hollywood. Gladiator, The Mummy and Lawrence of Arabia were shot here.

Visit to the Kasbah in Ouarzazate.

Incredibly ornate ceilings.

View looking out from the Kazbah.

November 3rd - visit to Bou Azzer

Our luggage is loaded again to be taken to the next hotel.

We start another long drive to Bou Azzer.

In convoy, the coaches now insist in going in numeric order.

The mining center at Bou Azzer.

Road sign.

Aghbar dumps.

Mike Rumsey finds cobalt minerals.

Collectors hard at work.

Jamie Newman found this super cobaltoan calcite.

Jan Erik Larsen shows some roselite/roselite-beta samples.

Next stop, Agoudal quarry and dumps.

Mine workings.

Collecting from the dumps was good.

But it was so much nicer collecting in shade!

Cal Graeber found this excellent Roselite-beta specimen.

Liam Schofield found this erythrite.

Time to depart to our last collecting stop of the day.

Oumlil Est quarry.

Lots of green and blue streaks on rocks.

Some green.

Some possibly weird and unusual stuff that Liam found.

Another long drive to go to our next destination.

9pm arrival at Hotel Kasbah Meteorite, and a welcoming committee to greet us.

The more hardy of the group (or those like me who had no choice) stayed in tents.

November 4th - Fossil localities

Tent city awakes.

I decide that a new look is required for my Moroccan field trips.

First stop, fossil dealers in a nearby town.

Plenty of fossils. With care you can tell the genuine ones.

Later, we leave to a nearby Trilobite locality.

The trench follows the horizon which has been extensively dug by the locals

Pieces of trilobite.

I'm not ashamed to dig for fossils now and then.

Best find of the day - Colleen Thompson's fish jaw with teeth.

We load up and head on to the next stop.

Organizer Ben Youssef's home - for lunch and fresh orange juice.

Also an opportunity to buy from dealers. This particular dealer had some great value meteorites.

Drive on to our next destination - and we finally see the 'real' sahara - the dunes at Erg Chebbi.

We'll be staying at Hotel Yasmina (and two other nearby hotels) for two nights.

Beautiful setting, desert oasis.

And at night, stars are incredible (30 sec exposure, ISO 3200)

November 5th - Visit to Taouz

Early risers went for a walk on the dunes.

After breakfast, we loaded up into 4x4 vehicles for our next trip.

There are no roads with 4x4s in the desert.

Arrive at Taouz, again local dealers are waiting for us.

In the dry river bed - yse the red-brown bits are all vanadinite crystals.

Nice specimens could be found both overground and underground.

Exploring the dumps.

Amir decides to take video from the top of the 4x4 on the way to lunch.

We come to a remote outcrop where we have packed lunches waiting.

Ancient rock carvings (est 10,000 years old)

Can be seen better when wet.

Drive back to Hotel Yasmina past the dunes.

The group boards camels for a trek to the top of the dunes.

Heading off to watch sunset.

Mike and Amir on their camels. I missed the trip as I was unwell.

November 6th - Visit to Jorf

We left again, this time heading north on the long route to Midelt.

We stopped at a "fossil factory" where fossils are prepared.

Polishing fossil items.

Dealers had interesting things - huge plate of crinoid heads.

Rob Woodside explores the local markets.

Next stop Hameda Quarry (also known as Jorf)

Fluorite and Baryte are main minerals to find here.

We continue our long drive.

And we just manage to make it through some treacherous roads.

Finally we're in the Hotel Taddart - our Conference venue.

November 7-9th - Conference Days

Presentations are made at the hotel. This is Cal Graeber talking about Mexican minerals.

We visit the Mineral Museum and shop of the owner of Hotel Taddart. Here are Peter and Nadya Lyckberg examining specimens

A feeding frenzy as 100 mineral collectors descend on the specimens.

For lunch on the first day, we visit the town of Mibladen where local people have prepared a special mineral show and banquet feast.

Tom washes his hands before eating.

Everyone enjoys lunch, provided by the people of Mibladen.

Vanadinite for sale.

A fine cerussite crystal purchased at the show.

Next day, this insect tried to gatecrash the conference.

I give a presentation about gemdat.org

Gemdat.org home page.

Liam helps me to demonstrate how to calibrate Gemdat for life-size photos.

Sitting in front of the hotel, my unattended camera decided to take a photo without my assistance, this is it - one of my favourites of the whole trip.

Miro Ng gives a presentation on types of Jadeite Jade.

Our final party on the evening of 9th was a big surprise - a party in a mine!

The mine had been cleared out and decked out with tables, carpets, lights and live music.

Conference organizers.

Participants wait for the meal.

After food, the inevitable 'Gangam Style'

Ben Youssef and Ali Baba

Mood lighting in a mineralized vug.

Of course, some people wanted more than just food.

November 10th - Visit to Mibladen

Our minibuses await.

We descend on a cold and windy Mibladen.

Where we see dinosaur footprints.

And have plenty of photo opportunities.

And yes, lots of local dealers.

Dealers offering minerals.

We prepare to look underground.

This particular area is famed for cerussite and wulfenite.

A large piece with (broken) wulfenite crystals.

More footprints - this time pterosaur footprints.

More underground workings.

Entrances to the underground workings.

We visited the small home of a local miner, he had been digging his hole for 8 years to find Vanadinite specimens. We each took turns to go down and see - an incredible experience.

We leave Mibladen to head back to the hotel. For me this was my last day in Morocco as I had to return home, but most people enjoyed two more days.

I want to thank everyone who helped with the organization of the conference, but in particular Tomasz Praszkier, without whom this would never have happened. He worked tirelessly over 18 months to make this event happen, and along with his team of helpers in country and outside, he did an incredible job. This is why we're giving him next year off as a break, and we're holding our next conference in June 2014 - click here to see where we are going next time!

Article has been viewed at least 34926 times.


Well done mate, thanks to you and Tom for a great trip. Look forward to Madagascar.

Trevor Kitto
21st Nov 2012 12:09am
Well done Jolyon! very nice photos too. Shame that Kate didn't make it.... I hope to see you both in Madagascar :-) And do not forget about "unofficial" meeting in Lwówek next year - we already started preparations ;-)

Tomasz Praszkier
21st Nov 2012 12:12pm
Terrific report, Jolyon - thanks for the all the work to present a great photo essay.

Maggie Wilson
21st Nov 2012 1:26pm
Great report!!!

Peter Andresen
22nd Nov 2012 8:24pm
Very nice photos and information . Thanks for sharing Jolyon

Nauroz Nausherwani
22nd Nov 2012 8:54pm
Hi Jolyon
Your trip looked fabulous it was good to see you and Katya
at the C.C party Saturday
all the best Christine and Steve

Steve Rust
2nd Dec 2012 11:35pm
Thanks so much for this. It really was a blast!!!

Rob Woodside
16th Dec 2012 7:22pm
Thank you Jolyon, for all of your hard work and for this report.

Linda Smith
17th Dec 2012 1:16am

Thank you Jolyon
Most enjoyable seeing the trip from your perspective.
Krupnik and Cerussite
Interesting association . . .

Liz Fodi
30th Jan 2013 1:21pm

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