The Atlas Mountains

Berbers, bracelets and Buddy Holly... Walking in Morocco

As I stood in line wondering what I was going to make for dinner, the cashier said, “That’s nice, where did you get it?” I looked down to see her pointing at my bracelet glimmering in the bright shop light.  Bought on my recent trip to Morocco, I had been promised it was the ’real deal’ - an authentic Berber piece.  At the time I didn’t quite manage to haggle for the knock down price I hoped for, and some of the ‘real silver’ had started to peel away, but I still loved it as it reminded me of the adventure I had enjoyed just a few weeks before...

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My week in Morocco had begun with my new found friends enjoying a guided tour through the dizzying maze of alleyways, medinas and palaces of Marrakech.  Sticking to our guide like glue we wound our way deep into the intoxicating souks, soaking in the colours and noise.  Snake charmers, acrobats and musicians filled the Djemma el Fna, the open-air central square around which Marrakech revolves and I wished for more time to explore.  Luckily for me and not so luckily for my credit card I knew we would be back at the end of the week, so I looked forward to the next stage of our adventure. Heading high into the Atlas Mountains, a range stretching some 2,500m through Morocco, we left the bustle of Marrakech far behind. For the next few days we trekked through landscape which at times reminded me of pictures of Mars.

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The ochre red paths led us through remote Berber villages and mountain pastures and lunches overlooked an enticingly blue lake or view point. Each day we were accompanied by cooks, men and mules laden with water and food. Each lunch time they never failed to surprise us with the delicious hot lunches created half way up a mountain. As the sun set we would head home listening to them singing an Arabic lullaby as they plodded down the valley on their trusty mounts.

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Our home for the week was a simple yet comfortable gite in Tijzha: a remote village nestled in a surprisingly fertile valley.  Since 2002 the village has been a focus for Responsible Tourism project by Exodus and, as a direct result, a water pipeline to the village has been installed along with a toilet block for the local school. Thanks to the donations from Exodus and their clients alike, improvements are still continuing and a trip to the school meant we were able to see the positive influence of this.

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Each night our group made entertainment either by simply chatting, star gazing or playing cards. One special evening we were treated to traditional Berber music performed by local villagers and our guide. In return they requested a song from us...I’m not sure if a rendition of a Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue was quite what they were expecting. Rejuvenated from our time in the mountains we headed back for our last night in Marrakech feeling refreshed. With just enough time to squeeze in a quick trip to a hamman and some shopping to purchase the ‘real deal’ bracelet, the sun set, bathing the city in a rosy pink glow.  All that was left was for us to sit back and enjoy a cocktail overlooking the city, swap email address and reflect on the week. Returning home I had one thing on my mind: who would have a Buddy Holly album I could borrow?

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