Into the Sahara desert and up into the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

We drove through the Middle Atlas mountains into the High Atlas Mountains.
There, in the valley, lay the edges of the Sahara Desert.

The houses are all made from bricks, covered with a mix of Adobe with hay.
The color of these Ksars, (fortified housing compounds) is the color of the local sand.

We drove through the Ziz Gorge, with a road that climbs and zigzags along the Ziz River, with beautiful views of the mountains and the fertile oasis below.

On a long drive through the desert, I looked to my right side, and saw something I have never seen before.
Right below the surface of the road, in what seemed like a wide river bed, was a large palm date grove, and in between the hundreds of palms, were adobe houses.

We turned a corner of the road and the fertile valley disappeared from view.
Nothing was visible on the horizon, the whole village was underground.

The next vista that opened to us, had a nomadic tent that offered food and drinks.
We stopped to check what they offer.
Their menu was too basic, just eggs and tea, so we decided to drive a little farther down the road to see if we can get something else.

The man from the tent offered me a a color brochure of a restaurant in another small village set in another fertile riverbed…. We had to check it out.

We drove down into the valley, filled with fertile date palms, and a small river that the locals use to grow their vegetables.
We drove over little bridges and into a charming adobe village.
The restaurant exceeded our expectations, and it was nicely decorated and the friendly owner offer to make us a large vegetable Tajine.

I was so happy that we got to visit one of these underground river bed villages.

Our drive into the Sahara desert revealed a vast stretch of dry landscape that the local people have learnt to adopt to.
Their villages were fertile and existed here for many hundreds of years.
The people of this region are very dark skinned, and most of the women are covered up in black from head to toes, with only the eyes showing.

There are many small guest houses and accommodations for tourists who come to enjoy the desert.
The most common attraction is to take a camel ride and spend the night in a nomadic tent (set up for the tourists- not really to live with nomadic people), to do a multi day camel trekking, to ride a dune buggy, or to motorcycle in the sand.

One of the charming things you can find in this area, is black marble stone that has real fossils embedded in it.
They make it into marble sinks, and tables, as well as all sorts of souvenirs.
I liked it so much, but could only take with me two small plates to remind me of this amazing marble.

Unfortunately, I started feeling sick.
My throat swelled up and I needed a less harsh climate…. The desert is brutally hot and the nights are freezing cold.

We spent the night in the nearby town of Erfoud, and the next day we drove West out of the Sahara Desert and into the high Atlas Mountains.

We passed by a stretch of desert filled with water wells, with nomadic tents offering drinks and rest. It was quite surreal to see this landscape dotted with many mounds of dug water wells, we just had to avoid running over the nomadic men, running into the road trying to capture our attention so we will have a drink in their tent.

The views of the landscape and the villages along the way were so picturesque and beautiful.
This adobe Ksar architecture is just beautiful.

The road runs along the river, and offered many spots to enjoy the landscape, but I was too achy to enjoy the day…. I just wanted a clean bed and a hot shower….
We spent the night in a simple but clean guest house in the town of Tinerhir, half an hour away from the Toudra Gorges.

The next morning I woke up feeling a bit better.
We checked out of our little hotel in Tinerhir and drove into the Toudra Gorges.
Tall sheer rocky cliffs extended up from the river bed.

This is untouched wilderness… Quiet and breathtakingly beautiful.
We decided to spend another night here, and to give me a chance to recover and rejuvenate.

Our choice of guest house is the remote “Auberge Le Festival”, which stands by itself in the middle of the rocky mountains, with nothing but cliffs and goats in sight…there is no Internet or mobile phone signal here, and the Auberge is run by solar power.

Our room is surprisingly cheery and light, and there are vast terraces overlooking the view with outdoor furniture to relax and enjoy.

Jules plans to go for a hike in the surrounding mountains.
I am too achy and too weak to walk.
My plan is to stay and drink copious amounts of mint tea with honey and hope to heal soon…

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