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The High Atlas Mountains of Morocco

I love mountains. My wife prefers sea level. For one day, I got my way. Well, she probably just objected to that dumb statement. Let us just say I wanted to go into the Atlas mountains, and we did.

I wanted to see where the Berbers settled. I wanted to see what was left of Berber culture before it is gone. I got my wish.

I think this may have been my favorite day in totally wonderful Morocco.

berber woman

As we entered the area, I managed to get this candid shot of a Berber woman coming down out of the mountains.

Since somewhere around the year 700, give or take, the Berbers have been of the Moslem faith. Hence the dress. However, they use a lot more color than the Gulf Arabs!

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These are two shots are of Berber villages as we progressed higher and higher into the mountains. Of course the minarets of the mosques are predominate. The  call to prayer here, as everywhere these days, is broadcast by speakers. We hear the call to prayer five times a day here in the UAE. It was very different for two reasons in the High Atlas. First, it is done in the Berber language, not Arabic. Second, it echoes off the mountains surrounding the villages.

428432439We were invited into this home. The woman made us Berber bread, in the Berber way. You can see she puts the dough in on the inside of the pre-heated oven. If you need to know, they burn Oak.  You cannot even buy this bread in a nearby city. It is intended just for local consumption. It is an age-old tradition. It is damn good bread  and I consider myself lucky to partake. This is a big reason why I travel.

berber meal

She served us the bread along with goat butter, olive oil and of course prunes. And oh yeah, great mint tea!  I gorged.

As we got higher into the mountains we finally got to see Mt......

As we got higher into the mountains we finally got to see Mt. Toubkal.

At 4,167 metres (13,671 ft), it is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains and in North Africa. I asked our guide, who grew up in one the villages we passed by, if he had ever climbed it. He was nice enough (and interested in his tip enough) to not say something like “What do you think,bozo”. It turns out he first climbed it when he was twelve years old, and averages 15 ascents per year. In the summer it is just a steep hike, of two days, return. In the winter it becomes a technical climb. He prefers the winter. He is one of the local guides you can hire. There is an entire industry built around people who want to summit the highest mountain in North Africa, close to 500 people do it a year.

Imlil

This is the village of Imlil. It is the last chance for climbers to get supplies, guides and mules. Of course they sell trinkets.

We were supposed to walk from here to the highest village in the Atlas mountains called the  village of Aroumd. There we would have lunch. Our sturdy vibrant mountain guide took one look at me and said “or we could drive”. We drove.

This is just part of the trail we would have walked on a leisurly pace to get to lunch. The guide said maybe two hours, I said maybe four

This is just part of the trail we would have walked on a leisurely pace to get to lunch. The guide said maybe two hours, I said maybe four.

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After what turned out be a long time in a 4wd vehicle on a sketchy road we arrived at this sign pointing us to the restaurant.

It turned out to be one of the best meals I ever had.

It turned out to be one of the best meals I ever had.

The first course arrived and Mary Ann took one look that said here we go again.

The first course arrived and Mary Ann took one look which implied “here we go again.”

This was the main course. About a half a side of tender beef buried in a kilo of fresh vegetables. I really felt bad about not being able to eat it all.

This was the main course. About a half a side of tender beef buried in a kilo of fresh vegetables. I really felt bad about not being able to eat it all.

Filled with wonderful experiences, views and food, it was time for us to say farewell to the mountains of Morocco.

I noticed this place near the bottom of the canyon on the way up. I asked to stop and take a look as we went back down. It is Sir Richard's Bransons resort in the High Atlas.   You know the past will not make it to the future when resorts like this pop up. So, go now.

I noticed this place near the bottom of the canyon on the way up. I asked to stop and take a look as we went back down. It is Sir Richard’s Branson’s resort in the High Atlas. You know the past will not make it to the future when resorts like this pop up. So, go now.

I always hope my blog encourages others to follow the path I have so valiantly blazed for you. If you get to Morocco, do the High Atlas!

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One Response so far.

  1. Please send doggie bag. I’ll finish it.

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