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MOROCCO - Atlas Mountains

 

Atlas Mountains

From Marrakesh we took a side trip into the Atlas Mountains by bus, an actual tour. The bus was practically all Germans with a few French couples.

In the Atlas Mountains Sahara steppes and red earth valleys mark the exact strata where tectonic plates shifted billions of years ago and civilisation surfaced from a rugged seabed.

The bus made a few roadside stops for photos. Right a women picks watercress from a creek running through the rocky wedge of the canyon.

The rough rocky flatland around the river was full of activity...camels, donkeys, horses, goats and dogs.


Pears for sale along the roadside

Morocco has been inhabited by Berbers for at least the last 5000 years. The Arabs conquered the territory that would become Morocco in the 7th and 11th centuries. Berbers are 70% of the whole population and speak a different language than Arabic state language.

The Atlas Mountains is very rural and primitive, and Kif is grown in abundance in the area.

Our destination, a little village in a green oasis valley cut deep between the high treeless barren brown shale mountains.

Children, dressed up in costume, paraded down the hill, singing and dancing when we arrived.

 

We watched a young man making decorative hangings and pots from the clay, using only primitive hand tools.

Otherwise the town was very sleepy, not even the usual line-up of souvenir shops!

Hike to Waterfalls

We did a 3 hour trek to 5 Waterfalls. It was an arduous climb and we got some serious exercise.

We had a guide that took us past the first waterfall on a trail that required assistance to climb up a steep rock face. Then it led us back into the mountainous range, void of tourists and other hikers.

We trekked along dusty paths amidst shale and lava rock. A distant village displayed its stacked rectangular houses in various dull hues of earthy tones. Suddenly the haunting call to prayer echoed through the Valley. Our guide stopped the hike and all conversation  immediately and bowed in prayer.
Later we were shuffled into a Moroccan (read "tourist") restaurant where the meals were 120 dirhams ($15) each. Seeing the price we promptly left the group and headed down the road where we ate the exact same meal for less than 1/2 the price!

The traditional meals in Morocco are couscous and tujine, a meat and potato dish cooked in special oven proof containers (right). We had a great lunch of chicken tujine.


 

Argan Oil

On our way back, the bus stopped to channel us into a Spice Centre, where a Medicine Man displayed his potents and spices; cumin turmeric, curries, garam marsala. He demonstrated many used for the spices and oils, many of which were made from Argan Oil.

Organic Argan oil is the "new olive oil" used to season salads with its nutty flavor. It comes from wrinkled Argan trees unique to Morocco, resistant to heat surviving temps of 50 deg C. Argon Oil has become vital to the local economy - firewood, fodder for goats, oils for cooking, and is used to make anti wrinkle creams. Berber women harvest the fruit in the spring, feed it to the goats, whose digestive juices dissolve the tough outer shell. The seeds are recovered form the goat's dung and the kernels are spit, toasted, pulped and pressed. To produce 1 litre requires 30 kg of nuts and 15 hours of manual labor.

 

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