Crossing the High Atlas mountains from Marrakech to Taroudant, Morocco
We spent our last day in Marrakech exploring the gardens in the new city, created by the artist Majorelle. – (Jardin Majorelle)
Jacques Majorelle was born in 1886 in France.
In 1919 he settled in Marrakech to continue his career of painter, where he acquired land which was going to become the Majorelle garden.
In 1947 he opened his garden’s doors to the public.
Following a car accident, he returned to France, where he died in 1962.
In 1980 Pierre Bergé with his partner Yves Saint Laurent, purchased the garden and restored it.
The garden is small, but it is very diverse and houses a great collection of cactus, as well as a stretch of mature bamboo groves.
There are some pagodas and shaded areas, as well as some walls painted in the deep indigo blue that we saw around Morocco.
After our visit to the gardens we went for lunch, and when our lunch was over, the weather had changed and rain just poured from the sky, and did not stop until the next day.
We knew we could not continue sight seeing and since we were just around the corner from Cafe Du Livre, we found some shelter there.
We sat in their library with some good tea and read, did some research, wrote and observed the people.
The next day we left Marrakech early after breakfast.
We wanted to traverse some high mountain passes in the Atlas mountains, and we wanted to take our time and drive slowly, enjoy the scenery…
Our final destination was the city of Taroudant, where we spotted a lovely country estate on the outskirts of the town, that we could spend a couple of days in.
The previous night’s heavy rain, had washed away some of the narrow road, filling it with stones and layers of mud, making the passage through the mountains a bit alarming.
We needed to be very mindful of the holes in the road, and to navigate very carefully between the drop of the cliffs, and making sure not to get stuck in the mud.
Our little baby Suzuki car, which we have affectionally named Suzuki San, did very well and of course so did Jules, who drove us through some amazing views and vistas.
We drove over low bridges that were totally washed out by the river, and saw some small villages where it was obvious they rarely see tourists, from the fact that they stood stupefied by how we got there, and answered our waves with a warm smile and waves, and no kids came running to ask for money.
We saw some large lakes created by damming the nearby river, which looked like a blue precious stone, set in the middle of the mountainous landscape.
We got an opportunity to examine the different sorts of houses, farm dwellings, mountain cliff-hanging adobe or stone houses, the structures they built to shelter their herds in the winter, and how they farm by creating terraces in the mountains, and on the river beds, since the growing season is also the dry season, when
the river bed is mostly dry.
At the peak of one mountain range, called the “Tizi N Test,” a cloud descended on our road, and an almost mystical fog surrounded us.
I never fear the elements, but instead delight in the majesty of Nature, and so I felt as if this was one more exciting element of our adventure….
Navigating narrow washed out roads in a fog, with sheer cliffs and tumbling rocks…. And this time WITH other cars coming in the opposing direction….was a nice thrill.
The Tizi N Test is a mountain pass that was constructed over six years, from 1926- 1932.
It now offers a few remote roadside restaurants, and basic accommodations, in case you get to the pass at night, or encounter stormy weather and need to stop for the night.
The normal way tourists travel from Marrakech to Taroudant, is via the well maintained highway to Agadir and then east to Taroudant.
It is a wider road, which does not meander through the high Atlas mountains, on narrow roads which the tourist buses cannot navigate.
Plus there are no services along the road, which offer food, drinks and souvenirs, which the bus-confined tourists love to buy, as they get off the bus to stretch their legs.
It took us almost eight hours to drive through these mountains passes, with no break for lunch or tea. (we had some biscuits and water)
By early evening, we arrived at Palais Saguia, at the outskirts of Taroudant.
This country estate is a love project of a friendly couple Milka and Hassan.
After turning off the main road, our little Suzuki car with its baby size tires, drove over a rocky road and we came to a stand in front of a walled farm and rang the buzzer in the gate.
We called them our mobile phone, and speaking in French, Jules asked if there were rooms for the night and said we are at the front gate.
Hassan the sweet and friendly owner, escorted us around his labor of love and beautiful garden.
The rooms are charming cottages, clean spacious and comfortable, but not fancy.
Just a wonderful country estate in the middle of a farm of olives and citrus fruit.
Milka, the chef, was in the service of numerous artists and personalities – Chagall, Miro, Malraux, Farah Didah, while working at the “Fondation Maeght” in Saint Paul de Vence.
After running her own restaurant “ La gazelle d’or” in Cagnes Sur Mer on the French Riviera, where her couscous delighted many for over 30 years, she created the Palais Saguia with her husband Hassan.
To our good fortune, that night Milka happened to cook a couscous.
It was a feast with fluffy couscous grains, a huge bowl filled with vegetables, cooked in an aromatic soup, and some fried whole almonds, as well as some caramelized onion with raisins, to top it all with.
That night I had many dreams, which I will share in another post…and tomorrow we plan to explore Taroudant.