Tuesday Nov 27th was day 1 of our 4 day tour out into the Moroccan countryside on our way to the Sahara with Plan-it Fez. Our driver and guide Youssef picked us up at our Riad in Marrakech at 9am and we headed out into the High Atlas Mountains via Tizi-n-tichka pass at 2260 meters. Unfortunately the mountain tops were shrouded in clouds as it decided to rain today. Every once in a while the clouds broke and we could see down what looked like thousands of feet over the sheer cliff that was the roadway so maybe better we couldn’t see a lot. We did drive through some amazingly beautiful little villages that were basically cut out of the mountainside. Due to the red color of the earth and the houses, you couldn’t really see them until you got close and they just magically appeared. Usually the brightly painted mosque was the first thing we saw. All villages and towns in Morocco are based around the 5 basic necessities. A mosque, a fountain, a communal oven, a Quranic school and a Hammam (public bath)
After we cleared the summit we descended into the lowlands and stopped at the famous Ait Benhaddou Kasbah near Ouarzazate. This kasbah is over 300 years old and was a major stop along the old caravan route from the desert to the coast. It included stables for animals, houses, olive orchards and a mosque across the river. These kasbahs offered caravans some level of protection and rest during long treks in a time when warring tribes attacked travellers. This kasbah is built completely of mud and straw. Amazing that it still stands and there are still 10 families living in it.
Then it was onto our kasbah Sawadi for the night outside the small town of La Palmarie Skoura. In all it was about a 7 hour drive and we look forward to a good night sleep in the country. Tomorrow we have about another 6 hour drive to get to our departure point on our camels and then a 2 hour ride out into the Sahara. There is a full moon tomorrow so we are hoping for a clear evening. Stay tuned for day 2. The fun was just starting.