Excursion to Imlil & the Atlas Mountains
The 5am call to prayer was quite the unexpected wakeup call. We quickly learned that every mosque throughout the city played this call to prayer five times a day through their loudspeakers. And if you were out of earshot of the speakers, you would hear various phone alarms going off at the same time with that same exotic sound as a reminder to pray. We enjoyed a nice Moroccan breakfast at our riad complete with Crepes (Morocco was once a French territory), fresh orange juice and greek yogurt.
Before arriving in Marrakech, I booked 2 excursions with Trek in Atlas Day Tours. Hassan, our tour guide for today, promptly picked us up from the riad at 9am and we were on our way to Imlil and the Atlas Mountains.
Along the way we stopped in Asni and walked through their Saturday morning market. Let’s just say that this was not your everyday Farmers market that would meet FDA approval. We passed various carcasses hanging outside of the butcher’s shop that I’m rather certain did not contain a refrigerator. We saw grain piled sky high on tarps, buckets filled with colorful spices and even a medical healer treating a local woman’s broken wrist with what I swear looked like Voodoo.We had people whispering in our ears… “Silver for the lady?” “Hash?” “Spices?” It was complete sensory overload. And since we were in a local village where tourists would not normally venture on their own, we might as well have had “TOURISTS” tattooed on our foreheads. Hassan led us to a row of puebloesque huts that each contained a mini “restaurant.” When you walked inside the room, there was a man who you paid to use his stovetop and water boiler (a camping stove on top of a propane tank) it was about 5 feet wide and 15 feet deep with benches lining both sides where people were eating. Hassan bought the fresh ingredients and we made a pot of mint tea. The higher you pour the tea the better! On the way out, an old man with a charming toothy smile gave me a bundle of mint as a gift. Too sweet! I’m sad to say I left this little market with only one photo because that was all that I was brave enough to request!
We got back in the van and drove to Imlil, the “Switzerland of Africa”… I wasn’t expecting to see snow covered mountains! We were told in advance that buying rugs outside of Marrakech and “closer to the source” would get us a much better deal so I intended to purchase a rug in Imlil. We were greeted by the store owner with a cup of mint tea and the history of the various types of rugs. After a VERY long and exhaustive haggling session over several different rugs, we came out with one long runner. I think the owner was attempting to make his entire winter profit off of our one purchase and it was at this point that I was ready to call it quits on all shopping (and I know Kelley was too)!
We then began our walking trek from Imlil to Hassan’s village on the opposite side of the gorge. I was not properly prepared for that hike. Narrow walkways, no railings and around 50 feet up!
Hassan took us to his home and we had a traditional Moroccan lunch in his Berber house. We learned that Berber houses are generally 3 stories; the bottom floor is for the farm animals, the second floor is for the family and the third floor is for guests. His house is in the photo below at the far left.
Following lunch, we drove back to Marrakech completely exhausted. Dinner that night was at the Le Foundouk and it was fabulous!