Alnif, Morocco

In April of 2016, we visited Marrakech, Morocco for two weeks.
As part of the trip, I planned a three day introductory excursion to Alnif to hunt for trilobites.


Alnif is a small village of about 3000 inhabitants, in the south east of Morocco in the middle of the Ma'der Basin, known by some as "trilobite heaven".
The trilobite localities are widely spread around Alnif and unmarked, thus a local guide is essential. We arranged for an English speaking guide over the
internet based on a recommendation from an acquaintance. As a courtesy, the guide arranged our local hotel accommodations and the rental car in Marrakech.

Route from Marrakech to Alnif

Alnif is in the "Anti-Atlas", an 8 hour drive from Marrakech and similarly distant from any other large metropolitan city in Morocco.
In Marrakech, we rented a Dacia Duster which was an all wheel drive diesel powered small SUV. It got 38 MPG.
We found the roads to be quite good passing through many small towns with services available along the way.
In places, the national police do enforce the speed limits with radar guns and cameras. There are also occasional check points where the police
are stopping traffic for control and for inspection but we were never stopped or questioned.

Atlas Mountains

The Atlas mountains separate the coastal part of Morocco from the Sahara desert. The road "N9" is generally in
very good condition and was being extensively improved in the area of the pass at the time we went through.

Tizi n'Tichka Pass

The scenery along the is worth the trip in and of itself. One should not hesitate to stop for pics.


At the half way point, Ouarzazate is a great place to stop for lunch and a break. It has grown from a small desert town to a modern city due the film industry.
There are two massive film studios that specialize in location settings for films set in the desert.

Local Wildlife

After leaving Ouarzazate, the terrain is quite arrid and resembles the western US except for the oases and these guys.
Actually, most camels belong to someone, typically nomads. They are loose to graze.

Local Folk

There are still nomadic people living in this part of Morocco. The raise goats, camels and other livestock for a living.

Approach to Alnif

Alnif is about 4 hours out of Ouarzazate. We took the southern route through Agdz and Tazzarine mostly for scenic purposes.

Ihmadi Trilobite Center

Upon entering Alnif, we easily found the shop of our guide, Mohand Ihmadi.
His shop is right in the middle of the town on the route to Arfoud and is one of many trilobite "shopportunities" in Alnif


There are hotels in Alnif but our hotel was located about 6 miles out of town on the road to Tazzarine.
It does not have much "curb appeal" but inside, it was a pleasant surprise.

Kasbah de Meteorite

This family run hotel is very comfortable and clean. A few of the staff speak some English but French is more common.
The room rate is about $35 "per person/per night" and includes breakfast AND evening meal.
Enjoy the Berber hospitality!

Dining Room of Kasbah de Meterorite

Swimming Pool at the Kasbah de Meterorite

The food was excellent and they have a bar and a swimming pool.

Our Guide, Mohand Ihmadi

Mohand is a degreed geologist and shares his knowledge of the geology of area as well as the fossils, which I especially appreciated.
Over the three days in Alnif, Mohand took us to seven localities, spanning the Cambrian to the Devonian, where we hunted for fossils, primarily trilobites.
We let him pick the localities to visit and he did all of the driving. He also provided lunch each day and hammers for splitting rocks.
In late April, the temperature was mild, in the 80's during the day and quite sunny. Proper clothing is essential as shade is not an option!

About Moroccan Trilobites

In many of the Devonian deposits, the trilobites are deeply embedded in the stone matrix. This makes them somewhat difficult to recognize
as they are only visible as a thin black line or trace on the surface of a freshly split shard. If a trace is seen, then you must
carefully inspect the other shards to make sure you have all of the pieces that show any hint of the trilobite inside.
Once gathered, the loose pieces are set aside for later processing, called "preparation", to bring the trilobite out from its stony prison.
Proper preparation of these trilobites requires rather sophisticated tools and a good deal of skill and experience.

Our Excursions

Click on each photo in the table to see a description of the locality

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Tinjdad - Akantagres Couche
Tiskaouine - Calymene Couche
Atchana - Dicranurus Couche
Tougach - Acadoparadoxides Couche
Serdrar - Othoconic Nautiloid Limestone
Ihmadi Trilobites
Tizi n'Tfarakhine - Paradoxides Couche
Sedrar - Ceratarges Couche
Prepared Finds

Thoughts and tips for a Moroccan Excursion

Bring CASH. The ATM's in Alnif did not work and everything is cash basis. Dirhams (Moroccan money) are best, some will take Euro's.

Determine your objectives up front, do a little research. If you have a favorite trilobite you want to find, then make that known to your guide up front.

Unless you hire a digger, you will likely not be doing any excavation on a casual visit. It is hard work and you won't have heavy tools.

Bring your own crack hammers. A standard rock hammer supplemented with a lighter cross pein hammer and a 3 pounder should suffice.

Bring with you proper collecting gear and materials to properly document, transport and store your finds.

If you do not have the equipment to prep your finds, then consider focusing on localities where the fossils do not require preparation.

Keep your expectations realistic. Rare trilobites are unlikely to be found on a casual visit to any locality.

Be prepared to buy trilobites. They are quite reasonable and irresistible. You will have to dicker on the price. Know what you are willing to pay.

All shops also sell unprepared trilobites. Your guide should assist you in evaluating the quality. Price is negotiated by you!

There are some reproductions in nearly all shops in Alnif. Buyer beware.

Mohand Ihmadi

Again, I want to recognize our guide and friend, Mohand Ihmadi. If you want an introduction to Morocco, you cannot do any better.

Mohand Ihmadi's Website

E-Mail Mohand:

E-Mail me:

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