Expedition Completes 1200 km Journey Along Draa River in Morocco

A team of explorers and adventurers has wrapped up a two and a half month long expedition across Morocco this week, after traveling more than 1200 km (745 miles) along the Draa River. The group, which included BBC presenter Alice Morrison, set out back in January to follow the path of the river on foot and by camel in an effort to observe the importance of water on the environment, even as climate change threatens to make it an increasingly important commodity.

The journey began at the El Mansour Eddahibi Dam, which was built in 1972 and has been instrumental in providing a ready supply of clean drinking water for the local populace. Unfortunately, it has had an adverse effect on conditions downstream, where the land has dried out considerably, having a dramatic impact on the plan and wildlife. When the journey began it was from a lush, vibrant landscape. But as it went along, the environment turned into an arid desert with fewer and fewer signs of life.

The idea behind the expedition was to explore what happens to an ecosystem when its water supply begins to fade away. Climate reports indicated that by 2020 more than 30% of the world’s population will be under some sort of water distress and by 2030 over half the world’s population will suffer a water shortage. Morrison’s plan was to explore the Draa River basin to see for herself just how a dwindling water supply effects the landscape.

The BBC personality and “full-time adventurer” was joined on the journey by three companions from the local Ati Bougmez and Ati Atta tribes. They have served as her guides through the desert, which may be dry and arid but hasn’t been especially warm. Cold weather dogged the expedition throughout, with temperatures often dropping dangerously below freezing at night. Morrision says that even her -30ºC (-22ºF) sleeping bag struggled to keep her warm.

The journey hasn’t been without its charms and mysteries however. At one point, when the team stopped for the night and set up camp near a village, Morrison wandered up a nearby hill to search for a cell phone signal. While at the top, she stopped to read her text messages and check in with friends and family, only to realize she was standing above the ruins of a 4000 year old city. Apparently, the city is well known to the local bedouins and villagers, but it isn’t on any maps or in guide books, making it an even more interesting discovery.

Yesterday, Morrison and her team reached the Atlantic Ocean, bringing an end to the Draa River expedition. She intends to write about the trip and share her thoughts and findings regarding the impact of water –– or the lack there of –– on the environment. Obviously that should be an interesting story to hear more about.

Kraig Becker