Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ten Days in Morocco: The High Atlas Mountains

From Marrakesh, we headed towards the High Atlas Mountains where we stayed three nights in the village of Tigzah with Mohamed and Carolyn of Homestays Morocco (which, by the way, we highly recommend if your travels ever take you to Morocco). The journey to Tigzah took us the better part of the afternoon -- over the Tizi N'Tchika pass, with some incredible views of the mountains and countryside, through the town of Telouet, and finally to the village of Animeter, where we parked the car. The road to Tigzah is not paved and we had been advised against trying to drive in, so we walked the 5 km up the valley to the village. Or, I should say, Rusty and I walked. Alex got to ride on a donkey, which also carried our bags, and Stephen rode in the Kelty on Rusty's back!

We so enjoyed our time in the mountains, and it was one of the best parts of our trip. Excerpted from my journal on our last morning there:

We have spent the last three nights in the small village of Tigzah, up in the Atlas Mountains. Yesterday, we explored the kasbah in Telouet, which was fascinating in all its faded, crumbling glory. But by far, my favorite part of our time here has been the homestay iteself, experiencing village life in this remote corner of Morocco. It is so quiet and peaceful here, and I like to imagine that not much has changed here in centuries -- where the passage of time is measured only by the seasons, and the days follow the rhythm of the rising and setting of the sun, punctuated periodically by the call to prayer from the village minarets.

The road to the village is not good, so we left our car at a small town on the main road and hiked up. Alex rode on a mule that also carried our bags. As we were walking in, the sun was setting, and the hills caught the last light of day in a way that reminded me of embers in a fire -- they almost glowed, rosy and golden. The road followed the side of the mountain, and below us, a small mountain stream meandered through a valley, green with trees and fields. The rocky, brown hillsides, and the lush valley was a study in stark contrasts. After awhile, we were walking in the dark, and we arrived in Tigzah after nightfall, so our first real look at our surroundings came yesterday morning.

Breathtaking. That's all I can think to say. Little villages clinging to the slopes, looking as though they might have been carved from the rock, spilling down to the valley below in all its verdant beauty, the hills encircling it all in a protective embrace. We were completely surrounded by the rocky hills on all sides in a way that made it seem as though we were cut off from the rest of the world. And in a way, I guess we are. Only one road in and out... one link to the outside world. I was reminded of the little mountain village in "The Last Samurai," how it's hidden from outsiders, a secret well-guarded by the villagers.

I am struck by the simplicity of life in this farming community. I love watching the people going about their daily lives... the shepherds with their flocks, the women toting baskets heaped with fresh vegetables, the men riding their donkeys, the children gathering apples or carrying water. Everyone working, everyone contributing. When I look back on these few days, I think it will be the little things that stand out -- like the brilliance of the stars, the whiff of fresh herbs as we passed the fields, the best, fluffiest cous-cous I have ever tasted, the sound of the wind whipping through the gorge, the feel of the Berber carpets we saw and touched at the carpet shop yesterday. I'll remember how the first day was warm and gentle and sunny, and yesterday was cold and gray and windy. This place is a land of extremes, and it is somehow so beautiful to me. It speaks to my heart in a way that I can't really explain.

I know I'll probably never come back to this place, but I hope that one day, I'll be able to call home a place that has some of these same qualities. I hope I'll be able to cultivate simplicity and peace in my life and my home in the same way that people here seem to.

Mountain village seen on our drive

First time to ride a donkey

The last leg of the journey to Tigzah

Tigzah valley at sunset

View from Mohamed and Carolyn's house

Tigzah valley

Where we stayed

Walking through the village

More village exploring

The three of us trying to ride a donkey together. Stephen wasn't impressed.

Lunch in Telouet with our new friend Nina, also a guest at the homestay.

Inside the Telouet kasbah with our guide

View of Telouet from the kasbah

The Telouet kasbah

A lesson on Berber carpets

Stay tuned for... the desert!

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fabulous. Thanks for letting us participate vicariously through you. You will get the home some day, Laura. God will provide. Love you, Mom