Thursday, 2 October 2014

Atlas Mountains and Berber Villages

Leaving Marrakesh bright and early in the morning with our new friends Garry and Marie from London, we were soon out of the city heading toward the Atlas mountains. Our driver Abdullah explained as we went that the people in the small villages in the Atlas mountains were Berber rather than Arab. Driving through these villages is like stepping back in time to when people lived much more simply. While tourism has its drawbacks in these types of villages, there is also a significant economic advantage, as the locals have created cooperatives which help them to collectively benefit from selling their handcrafts.

The first village that we stopped at was in the Argun Valley. This cooperative showed us how argun oil is made from the argun nut. First it is pounded by hand between two rocks to crack the nut.

Then it is ground on a wheel to squeeze out the oil.

Argun oil is reknown for its cosmetic properties, promising beautiful skin to those who use it. We shall see! It is only available in the Argun Valley, as this is the only place in the world that it grows.

In true Morrocan tradition, we were given a cup of delicious sweet mint tea, and only after social niceties have been exchanged were the different kinds of oil explained...lemon for tired feet, lime to help you sleep, and rose to keep your skin beautiful. We wanted to buy one of every kind, but the restrictions on our luggage helped us to exercise restraint!

Climbing the stairs above the shop to the roof gave us terrific views of the village!

Driving through later Berber villages, we saw women washing rugs in the river, and hanging them out to dry.

Garden patches irrigated by hoses run from the river higher up in the mountains

And villages built on the side of the mountain.

We set off on a hike to see the waterfall. Across a very rough and rickety bridge. Don't bounce, whatever you do!

Through delightful little oasis where comfortable sitting areas had been created

and the oranges are kept cool by a hose carrying water from high in the mountains. These made me think of nomadic people coming upon an oasis as this surely was, and by placing a few carpets and cushions on the sand, creating lovely resting places.

We climbed over huge rocks, and after an hour of climbing, finally decided that the trip to the top was too dangerous to attempt wearing flip flops.

On the way down we passed village women leading their goats

and stopped for a short camel ride.

This land of mystery, magic and memories will stay with us forever!



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