Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.Jennifer Lee
I remember an amazing documentary on BBC earlier this year which showed the unique life of one ethnic group indigenous to North Africa – The Berbers. This Moroccan pre-Arab culture has ruled unperturbed and unconquered for hundreds of years. Having heard a lot about the Berber villages, Berber craftsmanship, their knowledge of the land, their indestructible heritage and much more, it was high time I visit the Berber settlements during a visit to Morocco.
On our second day in Morocco we decided to hike to one of these Berber villages in the High Atlas Mountains to get up and close with the Berbers and their way of life. We met our amazing guide Omar and another traveler Peter from Liverpool – a solo traveler doing the most of his retirement life.
We left the city of Marrakech and headed towards the Atlas Mountains through the Moulay Brahim Gorges, arriving at a main trail-head with streams and paths branching out in all directions. En-route we stopped at an Argan oil female cooperative where the ladies showed us how it was made and gave bread with Argan oil dips and showed us the wide range of argan oil products.
We then drove up to the Imlil valley passing through many Berber villages which seemed deserted and battling the dry season. Stopped by to pick some fresh apples offered by the locals – real tasty ones. Luckily it was Saturday and we stopped at one of the villages en-route where the local Berbers gather at the market with their produce. Quite a remarkable fresh produce open air market selling everything from vegetables, meat, clothes, olives, bread and everything else you can think of.
Read more about our list of the top things to do in Marrakech – Click here
Then we headed further up towards the Atlas Mountains. Luckily the weather was perfect – not too windy, not to hot or dry – perfect for a walk up the mountains later. Some tour operators do offer a camel ride which we denied and did not regret! Soon we arrived at the foothills of the mountains at Imlil valley. A small village where travelers gather before their hikes further up offering some amazing views of the Atlas Mountains. Soon our guide for the hike Hasan arrived and after resolving some confusion over Peter’s planned stay in the Berber village and after a glass of fresh mint tea, we were on our way.
The walk is fairly steep but not that hard even if you aren’t a seasoned hiker. Being a local Berber himself, Hasan told us a lot about the Berber culture and heritage, and in particular their way of life living high up in these mountains. The terrain was quite green to start with as we hiked through walnut trees and flowing man made canals before arriving at Azroul waterfall. You can try the fresh orange juice being sold here right under the waterfall.
The trek then gets into the open rocky path as we head further up the mountains under the North African sun. The landscape around you is really stunning with Berbers and their mule’s criss-crossing your paths along the way.
Read our Travel tips for Morocco which can come very handy – Click here.
We finally arrived at the Berber village of Ait Souka. A picturesque setting of houses and terraced fields of barley, corn and vegetables on the slopes of these mountains.
We decided against taking a lunch break here and headed further into the mountains. We soon arrived at the Taourirt waterfall. The hike can get quite slippery here and one of our fellow hiker suffered few cuts/bruises after a fall.
We head further into the mountains along the narrow irrigation canals with steep slope on one side and stone walls on the other. It can get quite tricky at times. As with any other hike, please hydrate yourself very well even though this isn’t a treacherous hike. It can get quite cool as you head up so will be good to carry a jumper or cardigan at the max. As advised by our guide, please be vary of clicking photos of people here – you do not want to hump the privacy barrier and they aren’t subjects of tourism – just normal people going about their very so normal life. Avoid clicking pictures of Berber women.
We make our way through few more Berber settlements with people going about their daily life with a smile midst the wrinkled faces. And then we arrive at our lunch pit stop – one of the best Tagines I have ever had in my life.
We then make our way down the mountains before taking our ride back to our hotel in Marrakech. Though exhausted, it was a day well spent seeing the Berber villages which I had always been excited to see after watching them in numerous travel documentaries.
Read more about our Morocco visit– Click here.
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