Our Moroccan Road Trip – Part 1 – Over the High Atlas Mountains

After several days in Marrakesh we began the next phase of our trip through Morocco, a 5-day road trip over the High Atlas Mountains to the Sahara and then north to Fes. For the road trip, Holly had arranged a car and driver and hotels through Your Morocco Tour LLC, www.your-morocco-tour.com .

Mohammed, our driver for the 5-day road trip picked us up at our Marrakesh riad. We packed ourselves and our bags into Mohammed’s Hyundai Mini-van and we headed up the foothills towards the High Atlas Mountains. Along the way we passed several villages and saw many people working and hauling loads, sometimes with the help of donkeys and many times hauling the loads themselves.

Here is a woman carrying a load of branches:

This is a view from the road up the Atlas foothills looking back towards Marrakesh (with Rebecca and Holly in the foreground).

Here’s a view of one of the many villages we passed as we headed toward Tichka Pass:

Rebecca and Kate in front of a portion of the Atlas Mountains.

We couldn’t resist taking a family picture under the Tichka Pass sign. Altitude is expressed in meters:

Some other pictures taken along the road:

The first sight we stopped to visit was the Glaoui Kasbah at Telouet.

From Fodor’s Morocco: “…Most of the Kasbah looks ravished, as though most of the useful or interesting bits had been carried off when the Glaoui reign came to its abrupt end in 1956. This sense of decay is interrupted, however, when you get upstairs; here, from painted wood shutters and delicately carved plaster arabesques, exquisitely set tile and broad marble floors, you get a taste of the sumptuousness the Gllaoui once enjoyed. Because it was built in the 20th century, ancient motifs are combined with kitschy contemporary elements, such as traditionally carved plaster shades for the electric lights. The roof has expansive views.”

Here’s an example of the tile work and carved plaster that still remains at the Glaoui Kasbah:

Here’s the view from the roof of the Glaoui Kasbah:

Holly and I enjoy the roof:

A view from an upper floor room:

Natalie and Rebecca in front of the Glaoui Kasbah at Telouet:

We then continued our journey along the Ounila Valley towards our next destination. As we drove was remarkably green valleys with rivers and streams fed by run-off from the Atlas Mountains. Along the edges of these valleys we saw many villages and dwelling that looked like this:

Ait Ben Haddou

Our final site the first day was Ait Ben Haddou.

From Fodor’s Morocco –re: Ait Ben Haddou: “The ksar (fortified village) at Ait Ben Haddou is something of a celebrity itself. This group of earth-built kasbahs and homes hidden behind defensive high walls has come to fame (and fortune) as a backdrop for many films, including David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, and Oliver Stone’s Alexander. Of course, it hasn’t always been a film set. It got going in the 11th century as a stop-off on the old caravan routes, with salt heading one way and ivory and gold heading back the other. Strewn across the hillside and surrounded by flowering almond trees early in the spring, the red-pise towers of the village fortress resemble a sprawling, dark-red sand castle. Crenellated and topped with an ancient granary store, it’s one of the most sumptuous sights in the Atlas. The ksar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The photo of Ait Ben Haddou is taken from across the river. The photo below is taken from the top hill within Ait Ben Haddou looking back towards the river:

Me in front of the gates:

We arrived at Ait Ben Haddou late in the afternoon and we ended our walking tour by crossing back over the river as the sun set.

As the sun set, the top of the hill of Ait Ben Haddou was lit up into a golden color. We stopped for a final family photo.

Next up: We continue toward our rendezvous with camels and sand dunes in the Sahara Desert.

1 reply

  1. The green vs. brown contrast is what I’ve always kind of imagined that part of Africa to look like but it’s really striking to see the palm trees up against Ait Ben Haddou like that. I always picture palm trees as “Miami” or “Southern Cal”, but not as “Ancient Africa”. Great photos!

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