I’d fallen for Marrakech pretty hard within about 24 hours of setting foot there. So, I would have been fairly content to have spent what minimal time we had knocking about the city.
However, I’m a sucker for a good mountain range, which London is somewhat lacking in. Which is why the Atlas Mountains of Morocco were rated quite highly on my “must-see” list.
Organising a day trip out to the mountains was a simple process. We made our booking with the housemistress of our Riad, who was both knowledgeable about the trips and a great help when we were picking what to do. I was pretty gutted that we couldn’t do a trip out to the Sahara desert – I love me a dry barren landscape, but the trip was an overnighter. Oh well. Let’s hope there’s a next time.
That sorted, we met our driver at 10am the next morning and began our tour of the Atlas Mountains.
The mountains are about a 45 minute drive from Marrakech. I can’t be completely sure as I tend to fall asleep instantly when I find myself in a moving object. I shut my eyes and then we were pulling up outside a traditional Berber house, to be shown how the indigenous people of North Africa live.
As we got out of the car, a couple of men ran over, necklaces draped over their arms and crystals clutched in their hands. As we made our way up the stairs toward the house, they fell in line next to us.
“No thanks,” I said repeatedly to the fellow who had chosen to target me, hurrying to keep up with Aziz, our guide and driver.
“Maybe later?” He sounded so hopeful.
“We’ll see,” I replied.
Inside the house we were introduced to the family. The man of the house rushed forward to greet us and introduced us to his wife, who was standing at the kitchen sink cleaning. She had a baby girl strapped to her back – Fatima, who smiled and gurgled as she saw us.
We were led through the house, introduced to the family cows and led into the living room, where the matriarch of the family sat preparing tea. We watched her go through the process, where I somewhat unhappily learned how much sugar Moroccans tend to dump into the sweet tea I’d been guzzling by the gallon all week. A basket of bread appeared, which was laid out with dipping oil and the softest, creamiest butter that has ever passed over my lips. It pains me to think that I’ll probably never again consume the likes of it in my life.
Kristy and Aziz picked at the bread, leaving me to down the share of at least two people (because BREAD oh and also I hate seeing food go to waste). We asked questions and took in the views. I made a quick visit to what was a decidedly modern toilet. Then we bid farewell and it was down the stairs and out to the car.
We were waylaid once more.
“I have necklaces… I have a crystal, you see here.”
“I really don’t want anything, thanks.”
He was persistent.
“I give you good deal. 100 euros!”
“No really, I don’t like necklaces.”
“You said maybe later!” He said, indignantly.
We drive on, stopping once more at a shop which employed women to make and sell Afghan Oil. They say you learn something new everyday – I learned that the oil can be used as both a beauty oil and be consumed, depending on how it’s prepared. A little Moroccan girl who came up to my elbow talked us through every single product that they sold, then followed us around the shop. I gave in, picking up a bottle of oil mixed with jasmine that I figured my mother would like.
“Is that all you want to buy?” She seemed quite disappointed.
“It’s all I can afford” I replied in my head.
Our finally destination was a Berber village, where we had been promised a trek up a mountain (something I hadn’t realised… I have to learn to read the fine print). We were handed over to a new guide – Brahim, who led us down the street.
And then the climb began.
We were about 10 metres up the mountain when I realised two things:
- I was not in appropriate shape to be doing this.
- I was not wearing appropriate footwear to be doing this.
We had been told to “wear walking shoes” and I had obliged – slipping on the runners I had bought in 2013, which I would have replaced two years ago, had I still been living in Sydney. My life in London consists mostly of riding a desk and doing yoga, which is of course a barefoot affair. I had resolved to get out and about a bit more this year, but that hadn’t extended so far as going out to buy new shoes.
I somehow made it up without twisting an ankle. Here, Brahim led us to the sight we’d come to see.
It was… a small waterfall. Nice. Yet, maybe not worth climbing a mountain for.
After discussing whether or not we wanted to go up further, we decided against it. However, what goes up must come down, so we began the perilous ascent to the bottom of the mountain.
Hungered by our little adventure, we had some lunch by a nearby river (I had eaten my quota of tajine for the year by that point, so I opted for lemon chicken), before finding Aziz and driving the 45 minutes back to Marrakech – stopping to take some snaps on the way.
Were the Atlas Mountains worth it? Definitely. There’s no denying they are beautiful and it’s interesting to even get a faint glimpse of how indigenous communities live their lives. Although I would have liked to do something a little more in-depth, time unfortunately did not allow it. However, if I ever make it back to Marrakech, I know it will be the Sahara Desert that ends up calling my name…