2008 Morocco Tour Group Journal

Day 05    Nov. 14, 2008
 Atlas Mountains, Midelt, Ifrane, Azron, Rif Valley, Erfoud 

Submitted by

Atlas Foot hills

Left Fez and started the climb into the Atlas Mountains. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been recording this day since it was my second day of dysentery and I wasn’t thinking clearly. At some point along the road, I asked for a bathroom stop and a scrubby bush was my only cover. As I started to get up from squatting, I lost my balance and fell over, hitting my forehead on a rock. Haji came running up and got me back to the bus where Fred got a bandage on the cut. From then on, I must say, my ability to remember scenes was diminished. After the bus had gone on a little ways, I realized that in the confusion after the fall, I had left my purse back at the bush. Tomi made a really tight turn on the narrow road and back we went. Once we got to the spot, several people went out looking. Haji talked to some young men who were nearby and quickly determined that the man walking away down the road had my purse. Off he ran to catch up with him and brought both the man and my purse back to the bus. We were all most appreciative and rewarded the man for rescuing the bag. Haji was wonderful. My trip would have really ended there if I had lost the bag containing money, credit cards, and passport. Why I even thought it necessary to take the bag to the bush is an unanswerable question.



The shepherd returned Kristie's bag



So, on with the journal. As we climbed the Atlas Mountains, we saw a group of Bedouin women and children at the side of the road with their animals. One young woman was carrying a baby lamb. With some dirhan changing hands, we could take their pictures. There were no men in the group – we assumed they were off tending the sheep. Further on we spotted a black Berber tent and stopped to investigate. The tent itself was being used to shelter farm and household equipment – very rustic. There was a man in front of the nearby small stucco house and with more dirhan exchange we could go through it. It was very rustic with a propane or kerosene stove on the kitchen floor for cooking and another room covered with rugs for sitting and sleeping use. The Bedouin are here now because there has been rain and the grass is green. There is no regular water supply and they have to bring in water weekly by truck.

Meli had asked us to save extra bread for the wild dogs in the mountains, and at 6,000 ft. we found a few along the side of the road. As we passed them, Yunus and Tomi threw bread out the bus window and doors. Some pieces were caught by the dogs in mid-air. We also looked for wild monkeys that in previous tours had been found in cedar groves along the road, but this time they were absent.

The Atlas Mts. are famous for their cedar trees. Meli told us that pollution is killing the cedar trees in Lebanon, so the trees in these mountains are really important. Meli also said that the area is good for growing herbs. A Chinese doctor comes regularly to harvest herbs and then takes them back to Casablanca for processing.

We climbed further into the High Atlas, reaching 7,000 ft. (the peaks above us were snow-covered at 12,000 feet). We reached the resort village of Ifrane that by its architecture could have been located in the Bavarian alps. It seemed very bizarre in Morocco. Land seems to be cheap here, so people only have the construction cost of acquiring a vacation home.

There is a University in Ifrane for the children of the wealthy. There are 3,000 students studying to be doctors and engineers at a cost of $2,000 a month (????? is this right)?

Haji told us more about social norms in Morocco. Women marry at age13-15; men at 15. For a woman, being a virgin is a big deal. If it is discovered that the bride is not a virgin, she will get sent back to her family. When a couple marry, they live with the boy’s parents and the bride brings the household furnishings and her clothes.

Coming out of the Atlas Mts., we visited a Bouran village family that Meli had come to know. The man of the house greeted us with a very warm welcome – hand over heart. It was a plain stucco house on the outside, with a well and squat toilet inside. The rooms were spacious and spotless. The kitchen seemed quite modern (in a 50s style) with stove, sink, and refrigerator. (Is this right???) We were served tea in a very comfortable room lined with couches along the wall. There was another room of couches, which may have been for sleeping.

We stopped for lunch in the city of Midelt at Hotel Ayashi. I will always be grateful to Haji for getting me a room to lie down in for an hour.

Valley of  Ziz

We entered the valley of Ziz – a trade center and fertile growing area. Bottles along the side of the road signaled the presence of beehives and honey production. People would know where to stop to buy honey. The road that wound up and down the mountain and through a gorge had been built by the French in 1935. The French built roads and houses for themselves and did not care about integrating with the rest of Morocco, although a primary French education was offered to Moroccan children. Since Berbers have their own language and Tuaregs and Arabs spoke Arabic, I assume French was a learned language. It was pretty clear that Moroccans, especially Berbers, have a great affinity for picking up languages. There is no conflict between the Berbers, Tuaregs, and Arabs. There is conflict with Algeria because of oil.

Just outside Erfoud we came to a large lake at the edge of the desert. A lake and sand dunes was not what I had expected to see. That night we were at the very restful Palm Hotel in Erfoud. The next morning brought the end of my story as I took my first dose of Cipro and immediately started to improve.

  Next Page  Day 06        Morocco Tour itinerary    Home Page