High Atlas Mountains

There are a many activities outside Marrakech that are worth considering. On this trip we chose to experience the High Atlas Mountains in two ways. One involved a 1.5 hour drive to the north side of the mountains to visit a Berber village. The other was a much longer drive over the mountains to the Sahara side to see two casbahs.

Berber Village

One day we drove about 1.5 hours to the village of Imlil, situated on the northern banks of the mountains, a distance of 60 miles. Imlil is a small village which is the starting point for climbing Jbel Toubkal, the tallest mountain in northern Africa at 4167 m. We were meant originally to hike one hour up the mountains to a small village overlooking the valley. Once the hosts saw our ages, the plan was to carry us on donkeys to lunch, again up the hill. When we had difficulty mounting the donkeys, the decision was to call on a very old 4 x 4 to drive us up a winding, switch-backed narrow road to the lunch place.

We arrived at Auberge Roches Armed, a ten room Berber hotel and restaurant perched atop the hillside with magnificent views of both the valley Ait Mizane and the mountaintops including Toubkal. Interestingly one can make bookings at this facility through Booking.com and other sites.

We were greeted warmly, led to a rooftop table complete with table, table settings, carpets and the like, all awaiting the presentation of a Berber meal. The meal included two tagines, one with lamb and another with vegetables, and both were delicious.

After lunch we returned to Imlil village and drove back the Marrakech. Shortly after leaving Imlil we went past a large tourist vacation facility owned by Richard Branson.

Over Tizi n’Tichka Pass

Another long day we drove from Marrakech over the Tizi n’Tichka pass, one of the most scenic in the country. A series of hairpin turns carves its way up the valley rising to the 2260 meter summit, with impressive views over the rugged, rocky mountains below. On the downhill side we visied Telouet Kasbah and a local market there, then on to Ait Ben Haddou.

Telouet was once the fortified home of the Glaoui family, who ran the trade routes to south Morocco. It is estimated that the decorations on the ceilings took 300 workers 3 years to complete. Unfortunately Telouet has been left to decay and is almost abandoned today.

The local market was quite fascinating, including all kinds of locals vending various foods, equipment and other things.

The scenery was quite different and interesting at the same time.

After a lengthy drive we arrived at Ait ben Haddou, a fortified town on the banks of the Ounila River. Built from local mud bricks, it’s one of the best places in Morocco for a captivating sunset. It has been partially rebuilt for iconic films such as Gladiator, Jewel in the Nile and Jesus of Nazareth.

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