On our recent trip to Larache, I discovered a side note in my DK Eyewitness Guide for Mzoura. If you haven’t tried the DK Eyewitness Guides, you should. They are my favorite guidebook by far, particularly when you go to larger cities and can get the Top 10 guides.
Mzoura is an archeological site containing 167 monolithic stones in a circle. It’s the North African Stonehenge! I was excited to see it but finding it was quite the adventure. The drive was lovely down back roads and through fields and over hills. After stopping several times to ask for directions, we finally found the site.
Unfortunately, it was in a poor state with weeds and wildflowers overgrowing the stones. There was a locked gate, but as we approached, a man came out to let us in. There were goats grazing on the site.
Still, you could make out and walk around the distinct circle of stones. One of the stones was about 6 feet tall and stood pointing directly to the sky. The circle of 167 stones is about 55 meters in diameter and is, according to legend, the site of the tomb of the giant of Antaeus.
There is much controversy around the age of the site, but it is believed, based on some items found nearby to have been created in the 3rd or 4th century B.C. This would align with the rise of Mauretania and the first kings there.
The middle part, which is the tomb, was excavated in 1936 and no report was published, nor was the site left in good condition. I found one good aerial photo of the site from that time, which you can see here.
The site is located between Asilah and Larache towards the tiny town of Sidi el-Yamani. Be prepared to ask for directions!
Lixus is an ancient village located just minutes outside of Larache. It is located high on a hill between the Loukkos River and the port. The ruins here date back to the 4th century B.C. Among the ruins, you will see Roman baths, temples, ancient walls, a mosaic, and some remains of Capitol Hill.
The archeological site is huge at 160 acres and only about 20% of it has been excavated. Excavation began and ran continuously from 1948 until 1969. In 1989, the site was partially enclosed and today work continues on the property and making it more tourist friendly. Some of the mosaics located here have been moved to museums in Tangier, Rabat, and Tetuoan.
When we arrived, we found some young men at the entrance who work there as security and as informal guides. They must accompany guests on the site to ensure the security of the archeological artifacts and buildings. It was helpful to have the guide lead us through the path and answer questions that we had about the site, uses of different buildings, and the excavation process.
It took us about 3 hours to tour the site. The path to climb the hill is cleared and fairly easy. We stopped to look and take in the views at a variety of altitudes. The location between the river and the Atlantic Ocean proved to be strategic for the early communities.
Lixus was first settled by Phoenicians in the 7th century B.C. It was annexed by Carthage and eventually fell to the ancient Romans. Lixus was at its prime during the Roman Empire.
It was one of the few Berber African cities that boasted an amphitheater. In the 3rd century, Lixus was almost entirely Christian and there are ruins of a Paleochristian church overlooking the site. The Arab invasions destroyed the city.
We went to this area specifically to see this archeological site and we weren’t disappointed. The site is not pristine as many archeological sites in terms of clearing brush and foliage around the areas, but for me, this contributed to the mystery and potential for future discovery of this site. I enjoyed imagining what else might lie below just waiting to be uncovered.
One spring day, we decided to take a little trip to Larache to get out of the city. We’ve been traveling a lot this spring. The weather is lovely in Tangier with high temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s during the day and around 50 in the evening. The sun is hot and you can burn easily already. It’s the perfect travel weather as far as I’m concerned.
We rented a car and headed out towards Larache. Larache is an important harbor town located on the Atlantic Coast about an hour away from Tangier. The Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabs have inhabited it, and Berbers as they all tried to gain control of the harbors strategic location. They have all left there marks there and in surrounding areas.
Larache proved a great place to base ourselves to explore the area. In Larache, you can visit the Plaza de Espana, the Loukkos River, and the Storks Castle of the Old Kasbah, the Medina, Lixus archeological site, and the Port of Larache where you can eat some of the freshest seafood.
The trip to Larache was specifically to see the archeological site of Lixus, which is fascinating. Stay tuned to read about it on Friday!
There are only a few hotels in Larache, but we stayed in an apartment that we rented on Bookings.com. The apartment was fine, but if I go again, I will stay in one of the hotels because of the locations right on Plaza de Espana.
We rented a car because we had some other places we wanted to see and weren’t sure about transportation to Lixus. Next time, we would take a bus from Tangier and then it’s an easy taxi ride to Lixus. We are finding that if you can get to a nearby village, arranging transportation from there is relatively easy (if you speak Darija, French, or Spanish).