From Taroudant to Tafraoute through the Anti Atlas Mountains
It was hard to say goodbye to our friendly host Hassan, at the Palais Saguia in Taroudant, and know that we will no longer enjoy Malika’s fabulous cooking… But we just had to do it.
We looked at the only other couple that were staying at this place, and we fully understood why they did not leave the place but stayed day after day, enjoying this flowering haven, the pool, the fabulous cooking and the hospitality.
This French couple, would take their breakfast outside under the flowering vines and drink their coffee and smoke cigarettes, as most French people do.
Then they would change into bathing suits and sit by the pool reading.
By EXACTLY noon, they would change their clothes, to new outfits and sit for a long lunch on the wooden outdoor furniture in the sun.
Their lunch was a delicious affair of a grand fresh salad and main courses, accompanied with a bottle of wine.
Then they disappeared into their chamber for an afternoon sleep and emerged in the late afternoon in yet again new outfits, for drinks in the living room.
This was their pre dinner cocktail hour and they would have them with an array of canapés, olives and nuts.
At that time they would play cards, enjoying their own company while drinking and smoking.
By exactly seven thirty, they would move into the dining room and enjoy a lavish dinner, with wine and desserts, prepared by the one and only chef Malika.
After dinner they moved again into the living room, where they took their brandy and smoked.
We observed them and noted that despite eating all day, (and rich food with butter, bread, Crepes Suzette, and desserts,) they seemed so content there…… And both of them were skinny.
Alas, unlike them, we still planned to explore the mountains and the stretch of southern Moroccan beaches, and so we parted with our heavenly Palais Saguia and drove into the Anti Atlas mountains.
For most of the day we were almost the only car on the narrow mountain roads.
The mountains were rocky with jagged boulders and sharp pointy protruding mountains range.
Along the road, we saw the amazing sight of “goats in the trees.”
The goats climb these trees to eat the high berries, and often sit there and relax.
I tried to take some photos of some of the trees that had five or six goats climbing on the branches, but the weather turned foggy and my photos did not have the correct angle of light.
It was still an amazing thing to see with our own eyes…. Goats in the trees…..
Along the road, we visited small villages where old ladies clad in blue indigo fabrics, waved at us and smiled warmly.
We saw women dressed in the same indigo, plowing the fields with a wooden and iron plow, tied to a donkey or a small horse.
They worked their rocky fields in the rain, turning behind their donkeys and slowly plowing their lots.
Many Berbers are farmers who grow wheat, barley, fruits, nuts, vegetables, olives and Argan for oil.
These farmers graze flocks of sheep and goats in the mountains during the summer.
Their fortified villages are often located high on the mountain ridges and are composed of houses, a mosque, a fortified kasbah and a gathering place for the assembly of elders (Jama’ah) which controls village life, and solves disputes among people.
Today most Berbers are Sunni Muslims of the Maliki school, with Sufi orders very popular amongst them.
The Berber people that live in the area of the Anti Atlas Mountains, the High Atlas and the nearby Souss Plains, are called the Shluh.
The Shluh live in stone or adobe villages in houses that are often built in steep terraces, dominated by the Kasbah, the communal fortified granary and in this area, round threshing and grain drying platforms.
They use the mountain slopes for pasture and cultivation.
Lower lying land is irrigated by diverting water from the wadis and can yield two crops a year (cereals in winter and vegetables in summer).
The shepherds migrate seasonally with their sheep and live in temporary stone huts.
In the winter they graze in the lowlands, and in the summer they move upland.
The Shluh language is called Tashilhait and has many local dialects.
The Souss plain was a famous centre of Berber poetry and literature.
In recent times, poverty and hard work, had caused many Shluh Berbers to migrate to the larger cities, especially Casablanca, where they are now active in trade.
In some of the farming villages, we saw that the exterior of the houses were painted with symbols of growing grain.
Tall stalks of barley wheat and corn, were painted in white lime paint on the houses, as a way of offering prayers and asking for protection and blessings from God, to ensure a safe growing season and an abundant harvest.
Passing through a foggy and rainy part of the mountains, we came upon a lone cyclist who peddled hard up and down the mountain ranges in the rain.
Being cyclists ourselves, we felt for him, but as we stopped to photograph the beautiful mountain range, he passed us at high speed on his way down the mountains.
Farther down the road, we saw a pack of wild dogs.
They are common in the mountains of Morocco.
These unwanted dogs live in packs and they have learnt to hunt and to care for themselves.
We thought about the cyclist and hoped that he was OK….These dogs can pose a threat to a lone cyclist.
As we started going down the mountains, the fog lifted and we came upon some of the most beautiful sights of mountains peaks and valleys dotted with small villages.
A large rainbow stretched across the sky and the peaks of the mountains were shrouded in mist…. It was beautiful…. We entered the Ameln Valley.
Ameln Valley is nicknamed the Paradise Valley and it is filled with villages that hug the bottom of the steep mountains.
The valley is a landscape of towering cliffs, fertile palm forests and picturesque villages.
Six miles before the town of Tafraoute, we came upon a roadside festival.
Both sides of the road were filled with people and vendors selling housewares, clothing, gifts, and a long stretch of food stalls.
There were makeshift restaurants made from nomadic tents, filled with plastic tables and chairs.
In front of them, on the side of the road, were tables full of fried fish and grilled meat.
We stopped in front of one of the stalls, which had a round clay oven built on the ground, which was being fed with sticks and small pieces of wood.
Inside a nomadic low tent, sat a man kneading fresh dough, baking it in the clay oven and making large round flat breads.
I bought two pieces of flat bread.
They were warm and tasty with crusty edges.
Tafraoute is a mountain town located in the Amelm Valley.
It has the feel of an isolated mountain town, surrounded by mountains on all sides.
We got into town and enjoyed the unique architecture.
The buildings were painted pink or light terra cotta colors, with geometric edges painted in white.
We found a decent hotel in the middle of town (Hotel Salama) that had an airy suite room and we went for a walk around town.
Tafraoute is a small town, which is famous for the craft of shoe making, where artisans make the famous leather Babouche slip-ons.
The streets of Tafraoute are filled with small workshops and stores selling Babouches.
We ate dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, after inspecting all the other cafes and restaurants in town, and deeming it the best and cleanest place to eat.
We ordered some vegetable soups, a salad and a vegetable Tajin.
The food was fresh and tasted fine, but nothing special……I do miss the amazing cuisine of Malika that we left behind in Taroudant….
Oh…. Malika, Malika… Where are thou…
Oh… Malika, Malika…… Why have thou forsaken me……
Good night world…. Sleep well….