26.09.2015 - 27.09.2015
Leaving the desert, we headed for the Anti-Atlas, one of Morocco's many mountain ranges. As mentioned previously, there's a Middle Atlas and a High Atlas as well. At some point we stopped at a village called 'El Khorbat Kasbah', a Berber village that has been tirelessly restored in order to preserve evidence of the Berber way of life. For those who aren't aware of what 'Berber' is, the Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco. They have their own language (only officially recognised as a language by Morocco ten years ago) traditions, cuisine (heelloooo tagine!) and architecture. Moh, our guide, is Berber, and offered a unique insight into a culture we would otherwise have known nothing about. We visited a Berber museum that showed traditional farm equipment, clothing and pottery, all the while, Moh explained how everything worked and commented on how weird it was for him the first time he saw the small museum, as most of items on display were still in use at his grandparents' home.
We then drove to our hotel in a small village situated near a gorge. The next morning, we went for a walk in the gorge, however it was starting to rain, so we didn't get far. It rained for most of the day, as we drove through the beautiful mountains before arriving at Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Situated on the side of a hill, this fortified ksar sits along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. It's made up of six Kasbahs (a place of dwelling and defence with high walls and generally without windows to the outside) and nearly fifty ksars, which are individual Kasbah, and is a beautiful example of earthen clay architecture. There are only five families that now live in the city, with most civilians living in the village below. Many films have been shot there, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. Despite the occasional rain drop, we walked from the village to the city, only to be met by an onslaught of rain at the cities base, so we ran through the streets laughing, finding occasional cover under bamboo porches until a voice called out to us in Arabic, inviting us to take shelter. We were shown into the traditional and fully authentic Berber living room of an elderly lady who insisted on making tea for us. The room was furnished with rugs and cushions, all handmade from a variety of natural and recycled materials. Despite wires and light switches having been installed there isn't any electricity in the city; apparently a failed attempt by UNESCO to improve the quality of life of the civilians that they never finished. As tea was served, Moh began to tell us the story of the city and the role it played in the history of Morocco. That day in the living room will long be one of my favourite memories of Morocco, largely because of its complete spontaneity. Having ran through the rain only to then be served hot tea and sit in on an intriguing history lesson is not something you get to do everyday.
For dinner, we enjoyed another delicious tagine of beef and potatoes at the hotel restaurant.