Morocco – The Toudra Gorges, the Dades Gorges and a bit about Adobe

We spent two days in the Atlas mountains at the foot of the Toudra Gorges, in a beautiful remote guest house made entirely from local stone.

The Auberge Le Festival is situated in a remote location on a narrow road that passes through the Toudra gorges.

It is owned by a Dutch person who runs it as a lovely accommodation and restaurant.
They even offer cave rooms, that are carved into the mountains.
We stayed in one of the tower rooms which was large and airy.

The Auberge is run by solar power, so it has the minor details that comes with it, like limited lighting, and no Internet or cell signal.
But all of this is minor in comparison to the warmth and hospitality, the good food and the amazing peace that this place radiated.

I mostly rested, read, and slowly overcame my exhaustion generated by the flu.
Jules took a long hike by himself, into the uncharted rocky mountains and came back hours later.
I sat on the patio and searched for his figure…….. looking from a distance into the monotonously colored mountains, hoping to see him….. I must admit that I was a bit worried since sunset was fast approaching…

They served us a wholesome dinner in the main building.
A homemade vegetable Harira soup, and a baked vegetable moussaka.
For dessert we ate a fresh and juicy pomegranate.

We were tempted to stay in this paradise in the mountains yet another day, but we had itchy feet and ahead of us lay the rest of Morocco… With so much to see and do….

We left and drove west through the arid desert towards the Dades Gorges.
The road turned North and we saw beautiful adobe villages, date palms and fertile valleys.

As we approached the narrow mountain road leading to the Dades Gorges, the towns seemed cleaner, and many of the houses were converted into guest houses, restaurants, cafes, and small stores selling products made from roses, as the Valley of the Roses lay just farther west from here.

The high elevation and the majestic beauty of the mountains, the Gorges and the river running bellow, were all breathtaking.
We stopped often to photograph and to take it all in.

From the Dades Gorges, we drove through the Valley of the Roses, where they grow the roses for all the products that contain rose extracts in them, like facial creams, rose waters used for desserts, rose essential oils and rose perfumes.

It was getting dark and we decided to look for an accommodation in the town of Skoura.
The first few recommended choices on the TripAdvisor website looked pretty shabby.

One of the places people loved, had no one in sight.
A man materialized and called the owner, who was doing construction work nearby and was covered in cement and mud.
He washed his arms in a a wooden barrel filled with stale water, mumbling that he did not expect anyone to come today….

He showed us two tiny rooms, which seemed clean but very tiny.
I had my doubts that the shower would work at all….

We thanked him and drove down the dusty road to another place that was recommended.
A teenage girl opened the gate for us.
She led us into a large smoky home, where a few scary looking women sat smoking and talking on their cell phones.
It was obvious that they lived there, and rarely got any visiting guests

One of the ladies, with orange henna hair and dark eyeliner makeup, showed us the rooms upstairs.

She opened the door to a musty room, overly ornate with curtains and frilly bed cover.
We asked to see a bigger room…
She showed us a bigger room, but it was stuffed with five single beds.

We wanted to get out of there…. her scrutinizing eyes were piercing towards us… So we mumbled in French that we will look around town and decide….. And fled outta there.

We decided to give up on this town, and started to drive out of town, when we stumbled upon a 1800’s renovated Ksar adobe hotel, situated in the Palmarie outside of the town of Skoura.

The place was owned by a Spanish man who renovated it and created a beautiful garden around it.
We were the only guests and they gave us their best suite for the price of a regular room.

We had drinks laying on white garden beds on the terrace, overlooking the Palmarie which was a wide stretch of palm groves dotted with old Ksar adobe castles.

The chef came over, to consult with us about what we would like for dinner, which is usually included in the price of the room rate in most remote locations.

We chose some Moroccan salads as appetizers, and a spicy aromatic Vegetable Tajine for a main course.
Dessert was a sweet fresh melon.
We had Moroccan pink wine, which was a first on this trip, in this alcohol-free Muslim country.

The wine was light and fairly good, but it did not mix well with my congested chest, and so that night I slept tossing and turning.
Strange dreams entered my mind and I coughed often.

Beside my congestion, these Ksar adobe buildings can be very dusty.
We once owned an adobe mud home in New Zealand, which we renovated extensively.

When we bought it, we knew very little about restoring crumbling adobe, and it was in bad shape and needed much restoration of both the interior and exterior adobe walls.

Adobe requires periodic maintenance, and not much was done to the house that we bought in many years.

I did a lot of research about adobe, and sent many emails to adobe experts to consult them about how to repair it and what to do, since the local knowledge in our village in NZ was minimal and also seemed to be very incomplete.

After restoring the cracks in the walls we applied a layer of finishing coat which was a mixture of lime, mud, some cement mix, powdered coloring and binding agents.

What is not done here in Morocco, and was the last step that we had to do in our house in NZ, was to apply a coat of diluted wall paper glue to all the interior walls, in order to prevent the little dust and mud particles from getting into the air and subsequently into our lungs.

I only noticed the difference between sleeping in a properly restored adobe home, and one which was only restored to high aesthetic levels, after spending a night here in this Ksar, where Jules who was not carrying the burden of flu, coughed all night just as much as I did.

In many of the restored Adobe Ksar buildings in Morocco, they use on the interior walls a mixture of marble dust, plaster and paint which is called “Tadelakt” and is very similar to Venetian Plaster.
It offers an attractive smooth finish which is a bit shiny, and a good protection from the dusty adobe.
Tadelakt is also used in many houses that are NOT made from adobe.

It is funny how some hotels no matter how charming they may be, and how beautifully situated they are, just do not feel luxurious at all…

I noticed that this charming high-end hotel, which was run entirely by seriously looking men, was perfectly restored, had immaculate gardens and was very clean, yet….. All the sofas, surfaces, beds, were hard and covered in rough fabrics.

The shower offered only tepid warm water and offered no place to put toiletries or to pamper yourself…

I told Jules that in my opinion, this amazingly restored Ksar needed the soft touch of a woman….which was nowhere in sight…..

Jules jokingly said that this hotel would have benefited greatly NOT from the touch of a female……. Because earlier we had seen plenty of hard looking scary women… But from the soft and elegant touch of……..A gay man!

I had to agree…

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