A journey throught the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

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A journey throught the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Right after going out of the plane a waft of hot air reminded us that we were in Africa. Marrakech is just 2h30′ flying from Valencia, but its exoticism immediately catches the traveler. We were five friends who decided to go to the depths of this country on a budget.

Igor and Lara were already in Morocco. They went to Imlil, a village at the mountainside of Toubkal, the second highest mountain in Africa with a height of 4,167 meters, in a Dacia Logan they had rented to pick us up in the airport. This small car cost  14 euros per person for 3 days.

Spices - Morocco

We could say a lot of things about Marrakech: a city full of smells, which reminded us of the spiciness of Arab cuisine; the souks, which in spite of being dimly lit offer much needed relief from the heat, are so colorful; or the labyrinthine streets of the Mellah, the Jewish quarter, a special corner that gave us a clear example of coexistence and hospitality. We could talk at lot about Marrakech, but we will focus on other places off the beaten track, which are really worth it.

 Ouzud - Morocco

Tajin - Morocco

The next day we went to Ouzud, some waterfalls located 158km to the east. We could see everybody knows about its beauty, since the place was packed with tourists. On the way to the waterfall there were several restaurants so before continuing the trip we decided to eat a Tajin made in a stone oven to give us energy to undertake the journey through the Atlas.

Atlas Mountains - Morocco

Our next destination was Ouarzazate, a town located in the south of the Atlas Mountains, considered the door of the Sahara Desert. Before starting the trip we checked Google Earth and saw that there was a regional “road” (R-307) that directly connected the waterfall with the city, without having to go back to our starting point, Marrakech. The direct route was 60km less than the other. Despite these advantages we do not know if we dare to recommend it. It didn’t take us 3h30′ to do 223km, as it was said on the internet. We drove eight hours through horrible roads, with few asphalt and a lot of bumps. We did not have GPS. Our little French was the only resource we had to reach our desired hotel room.

Some of the locals, of the villages we passed through, were shocked when they saw a car full of strangers with Maria, the blonde girl of the group, driving and appearing from the middle of nowhere. Later we were surprised by the cold when we were 2,000 meters high, a sunset earlier than we would have liked and almost without petrol. Whilst everybody was mad at Roger, the one who proposed this way, luckily we could see some of the lights of Ouarzazate. We should not recommend this journey, but we don’t regret the experience.

The Residence Rosas, with a cost of 12 euros per night surprised us with a very generous breakfast. At the south of Ouarzazate you just can see the desert, while in the other side the mountains with their snowy peaks. The city really left us a bit indifferent. We were not captivated by their ruined studios, where some scenes of Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars or Gladiator were filmed.

Aït Benhaddou - Morocco

Children Aït Benhaddou - Morocco

Aït Benhaddou was just 30 km away. It is a village built in adobe on the banks of a river that at the end becomes an oasis in the desert. Wandering through its streets was one of the greatest pleasures of the journey. Aït Benhaddou is a Kasbah, an ancient fortified Berber village, in this case, still inhabited by a few Berber families. They make crafts and sell minerals to tourists. Some of the neighbors opened the doors of their houses for us disinterestedly so we could see their way of living. They also made beautiful paintings with saffron and a strange blue stone. It is not surprising that this town has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

After that, we went back, this time through the national road, to Marrakech, enjoying the magnificent imperial city the last two days.

Roger Moreda & María Bengochea

Thank you to Robyn Guyton for proofreading this article.

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