A Travellerspoint blog

Morocco - South and West

Berber country

semi-overcast 28 °C

Tuesday

We enjoyed a relaxed morning before Kamal and Mohamed arrived at 10.00am to drive us to the Dadas gorge and valley where we will be staying with a Berber family in their Kasbah (in Morocco, a Kasbah is typically a sort of fortress/home of a local leader, with high walls and a tower at each of the four corners).

Berber town along the way

Berber town along the way


On the way we were scheduled to visit the house of a cousin of the owner of the tour company for a tagine cooking class and lunch.
We were warmly welcomed to the home by Fatima. Fatima is forty one and not married – still waiting for Mr Right. She lives in the house with her father, mother and brother (still at school and speaks good English).

Fatima looks after the house chores and does the cooking while her father and mother work on the ‘farm’ (a small area of land alongside the irrigation channel below the village). Fatima said a good clay tagine pot is the key to cooking a good tagine. Not sure we will have the space to bring one back, however they can apparently be bought online from Amazon. The cooking class took place in their kitchen. Fatima had already cut up the chicken and vegetable and was very organised.

Fatima creating chicken tagine

Fatima creating chicken tagine

'Building' tagine

'Building' tagine

'Building' tagine

'Building' tagine

'Building' tagine

'Building' tagine


Once the tagine had been prepared and was cooking we were invited to share tea together. (Driver) Mohamed went through the formality of making and serving the tea (with a great show of pouring from above the head into a very small glass). Our eyes nearly popped when we saw the chunk of sugar he put in the (relatively small) teapot.

Mohamed showing off tea-pouring skill

Mohamed showing off tea-pouring skill

Berber hospitality

Berber hospitality


Fatima’s parents came in from the farm to join us and her brother came home from college for his two hour lunch break. After tea we were to go for a walk through the farm, but suddenly Fatima whisked Glyn off and they returned ten minutes later with Glyn all dressed in Berber clothing for the walk. When we returned to the house the tagine was ready and it was delicious. The best we have had in Morocco.

All dressed up - Berber style

All dressed up - Berber style


In a courtyard attached to the house is a chicken/turkey run, a goat pen and a cow stall, and they have their own well in the courtyard. It was very special to have been able to share time with the family in their own home.

Livestock pen attached to Berber home

Livestock pen attached to Berber home

Well - Berber home

Well - Berber home


We crossed the central High Atlas Mountains and arrived at our Kasbah in Boutaghrare mid afternoon. Our accommodation was basic. however it was comfortable with a great view and we even had an en-suite with hot water. To generate an income the family has turned a few rooms into guest rooms. Not too many visitors come this far, however it is fairly popular with mountain bike tours and hikes - not for us!

Berber village - Boutaghrare - old town opposite, new town this side - view from Kasbah window

Berber village - Boutaghrare - old town opposite, new town this side - view from Kasbah window

Comfortable room in Berber Kasbah

Comfortable room in Berber Kasbah


A local guide arrived to take us for a walk around the area and then to the local village where the families have very little. The Berbers live in small clusters of houses made of mud, and villages are often only accessible by mule or foot. On the drive to Boutaghare our guide suggested we stop at a little shop to buy a few treats for the children as in biscuits, yoghurts, wafers and lollies. The children were really lovely – with two boys about six years of age latching onto us until our guide sent them home. When we were planning our trip to Morocco with the tour company we had specifically asked that a visit to a local area be included in our itinerary so we can share time with the local people where traditional values are an important part of their life.

Berber kids

Berber kids

Guide handing out treats to a very orderly group - Boutaghrere

Guide handing out treats to a very orderly group - Boutaghrere


After a shower we were a served dinner of vegetable soup, chicken tagine and fruit salad. Besides the family we were the only two staying, so after dinner we relaxed with a beautiful views of the mountains and time to catch up on email. We have been surprised by the excellent WiFi and Internet coverage as we have travelled around Morocco. Mobile phones are everywhere and judging by the amount of screen time being used, mobile data would appear to be pretty inexpensive.

Wednesday

Today was a 300 km drive to Marrakech over the High Atlas Mountains, via the Tichka Pass which is one of the most dangerous roads in Morocco. Needless to say we didn’t know this until our guide casually mentioned it. (Tichka meaning ‘difficult’ because old-time caravans had difficulty crossing the pass in winter snow) We climbed to a height of 2,260 metres (6,670 ft). Mohamed our driver just took it pretty casually, at times with one hand on the steering wheel while we were hanging on with white knuckles in the back seat. Glyn had the big drop on her side!

Tichka Pass - through High Atlas Mountains

Tichka Pass - through High Atlas Mountains

'Snake' Road - on the way through High Atlas Mountains

'Snake' Road - on the way through High Atlas Mountains


At the bottom of the pass we drove through the Valley of Roses. There are a number of Women’s Co-operatives who harvest the roses from which the locals make soap and creams.

Testing the Rose creams made by a women's cooperative

Testing the Rose creams made by a women's cooperative

Rose-petal product shop

Rose-petal product shop

Glyn buying Argan oil-based eye-cream - supposedly a wonder cream

Glyn buying Argan oil-based eye-cream - supposedly a wonder cream

Argan oil production - roasting Argan kernels before grinding to extract oil - very hard work

Argan oil production - roasting Argan kernels before grinding to extract oil - very hard work

Argan tree - with tree-climbing goats - a bit of a staged thing perhaps

Argan tree - with tree-climbing goats - a bit of a staged thing perhaps


Our lunch stop was Ouarzazate (nicknamed the Hollywood of Africa) as the movies Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy and Gladiator, just to name a few, were filmed here. The film sets are still standing and a Moroccan movies are still shot here and there is a 5 star hotel where the stars stay during filming.

View from Ouarzazate over old town with a lookout hut at the top of the hill

View from Ouarzazate over old town with a lookout hut at the top of the hill


We arrived in Marrakech early evening rather weary and as we had eaten a good lunch at Ouarzazate we opted for a light meal at our riad (hotel) close to the medina and in the heart of the Old City – where a very nondescript doorway off an unattractive alley leads into a lovely courtyard surrounded by high-ceilinged bedrooms.

Thursday

Our driver and guide arrived promptly at 8.00 am to take us to Essaouira which is a seaside town on the Atlantic coast. At one time it was the major international trading port for Morocco however now it is a very busy fishing port. It is a very popular place for kite surfing and windsurfing as apparently the wind is always blowing. This explains the number of wind turbines we could see in the distance. It is quiet compared to many towns in Morocco so we could wander around the Medina without any concerns. We took a walk along the pier to where the fishing boats had come in and offloaded their catch for the day.

Fishing boats - Essaouira

Fishing boats - Essaouira

Fresh fish - Essaouira

Fresh fish - Essaouira

Fresh fish - Essaouira - King crab, squid, prawns, langoustine, etc.

Fresh fish - Essaouira - King crab, squid, prawns, langoustine, etc.

Eels etc. - Essaouira

Eels etc. - Essaouira


After a while the fish smell got us to and we took a walk along the beach. Lunch of grilled sole was at a restaurant on the beachfront. Apparently the temperature stays between 23C and 30C year round so it is popular with the Moroccan people during summer when the temperature can reach 45C at times. There are holiday apartments along the beachfront. We noticed as we drove into Essaouira people standing on the kerbside dangling keys. The reason being they are advertising that they have the key to an apartment which is available to rent.

On returning to Marrakech we made our way to the square for dinner where we found a restaurant with a terrace view and the weather was perfect. The square had been transformed into a sea of street-food stalls, fruit and spice stalls, people selling all sorts of stuff, and drummers and other musicians doing their thing. Quite a sight to see.

Marrakech Square at night - a sea of street-food stalls - all gone in the morning

Marrakech Square at night - a sea of street-food stalls - all gone in the morning

Marrakech street-food stall - anyone for snails?

Marrakech street-food stall - anyone for snails?

Marrakech street-food stall - no idea what's on offer

Marrakech street-food stall - no idea what's on offer

Friday

Our last day before we start our trip home. We took a walking tour of Marrakech with a guide, as it is very easy to get lost. Our first stop was Bahia Palace built in the late 19th century for the Vizier who was standing in as King because the heir was too young to take the throne. The Vizier had four wives and the palace is a marvel of beautifully decorated buildings.

Bahia Palace - Marrakech

Bahia Palace - Marrakech


Wall and ceiling art - Bahia Palace

Wall and ceiling art - Bahia Palace


Then on to the Saadian tombs which date back to 1578. The older mausoleum houses the remains of the Saad dynasty’s founder and Sultan Ahmed el Mansour’s parents. The main mausoleum, which contains the body of Sultan Ahmed el Mansour, is incredibly ornate.
Saadian tombs

Saadian tombs

Ornate work in Saadian Tomb

Ornate work in Saadian Tomb


There are 66 tombs between the two mausoleums, containing princes and other prominent figures.
The gardens have even more tombs in various states of beauty and detail. Many of these outer-lying tombs contain the remains of royal wives, advisers to the sultan, and other people who were important to the ruler. The gardens contain more than 100 tombs. The Tombs were only discovered in 1917 - having been covered over by a jealous successor - and were restored by the French Beaux-arts service.

After that - shopping in the Souk. We now have the challenge of packing our purchases into our suitcases and hope they survive the trip home. Fortunately our weight restriction of 15 kgs which we had on our Camino walk no longer applies.

You;d like some olives??  - Marrakech

You;d like some olives?? - Marrakech

Spices, sandalwood bark, incense blocks - Marrakech

Spices, sandalwood bark, incense blocks - Marrakech

Hamman - massage 'cream' made from olives

Hamman - massage 'cream' made from olives

Cats waiting for 'breakfast handouts' at chicken shop

Cats waiting for 'breakfast handouts' at chicken shop

Cat lady - walks the streets in the morning to feed city cats (who keep the rat and mouse population under control)

Cat lady - walks the streets in the morning to feed city cats (who keep the rat and mouse population under control)

Snake-charmer's pets

Snake-charmer's pets

Marrakech souk - note the variety of dates - up to 300 different types in Morocco

Marrakech souk - note the variety of dates - up to 300 different types in Morocco

There are tons of things we haven't been able to include in our rambling notes - we might publish a PS at some stage (more for our own benefit as a reminder) - and we do appreciate the comments, feedback, messages etc, over the past six weeks. Hope to see most of our friends and family soon.

Best Regards

Ivor & Glynis.

Posted by IvorGlyn 14:07 Archived in Morocco

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Comments

What a wonderful trip and experience you have had! Safe trip home, see you soon x

by Janet

What an amazing 6 weeks you two have had on your travels - Chelsea will feel a bit “tame” - this will probably suit you for a little while! Glynis, hope you have enough of the Argan eye cream to go round for your friends of a similar age at the gym - we could all use a bit wonder!! See you soon. Xo

by Gay

You are probably flying or soon will be...so many colourful memories. You have had some very special experiences to treasure. Loved all the photos but especially the ones showing how people live, the animals of all shapes and sizes, the kids both human and goat!! Also, the food, of course. See you soon. X

by Arlis

Just amazing team. Love the Morocco portion, that an experience through there. Looking forward to seeing all the photos soon!

by Kevin

Wonderful! Brings back memories of that beautiful oasis in the desert. Looking forward to catching up with both of you and your return. xx Deb

by Deb

What a fascinating time you have had. Have loved reading your blog and seeing all the interesting photos! Safe travels home, and see you soon xx

by Vickie

Thanks for sharing your amazing journey with us. It will be lovely to have you back home.

by Heather

You're so clever to have organised such a wonderful trip. We loved the Lawrence and Lydia of Arabia pictures. You certainly got right into it.
Kathy

by Kathy Burt

Wow, what a journey. The cultural and every other sort of diversity. We are worn out. We need another Bex. We are sure there are many more stories and experiences to hear about sometime. You have certainly visited some out of the way places few at home get to see. Will be interested to learn how you organised it all. Well done.

by Ken and Bev

Fabulous trip for you both well done so many memories. Safe travels home see you soon. xx

by Irene

You have made everything come alive and have really teased us with this wonderful journey. When is our next armchair trip?
Welcome home intrepid travellers.xo

by Brenda

What a fantastic trip you have had. Thank you for sharing your experiences and looking forward to catching up on your return and hearing more tales. Have a safe trip home.

by David & Margaret

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