On tour exploring the Anti Atlas Mountains
Continuing our road trip with Wild Morocco we spent a few days traversing the Anti-Atlas Mountains from Taroudant through to Tiznit over near the east coast. We saw barely another tourist during the entire journey, and felt both privileged to see this little-visited area of the country, as well as rather conspicuous and clearly marked out as foreigners by our western clothes and cameras. Whilst we were a bit uncomfortable in the towns, feeling the eyes of the locals on us at every corner, it wasn’t at all threatening and simply (and understandably) curiosity on their part. Out on the Anti Atlas Mountains roads and open agricultural areas we were waved at by children, held up by herds of goats and taunted by thick mists. A true Moroccan adventure.
We arrived in Taroudant after a spectacular trip through the High Atlas Mountains over the Tizi n Test and spent a night at Dar Al Hossoun Garden Lodge and Spa just outside the city. Next morning we had a quick wander around the city, known as the sleepy smaller sister of Marrakech.
In the markets we were followed by a chap offering very politely to guide us around. Rather than finding this frustrating or intimidating, it was actually quite endearing that he hadn’t quite got his sales patter down to a fine art like they all have in Marrakech, and being suddenly presented with a couple of tourists clearly lit the opportunist spark inside him. He was nothing but persistent though, and although we managed to loose him in the souks, somehow he popped up again in the square to work on his powers of persuasion. I guess it is a small town so it wouldn’t take a genius to work out where we were heading.
Daily life in the Anti Atlas Mountains seems to consist of shopping and chatting in the street. No-one is in any hurry and it is so much more relaxing to wander around the alleyways of Taroudant than her larger counterparts further west.
Driving south out of Taroudant on the R109 towards Tafraoute, the Anti Atlas Mountains are beautiful in a different way from the High Atlas. The agricultural terrain is much more open here, and often you can see for miles across the undulating mountains. Argan and almond trees clutter the hillsides giving a welcome splash of colour to an otherwise red and rocky landscape.
The feeling of remoteness is very apparent in the Anti Atlas Mountains, although several Berber villages nestled in the valleys remind us there are thriving communities hidden away in peace in these hills. Well, peaceful apart from the donkeys braying in the fields, one setting all the others off like a bullet ricocheting off the cliffs.
Village life in the Anti Atlas Mountains remains very traditional. About 90% of men still wear djellabas and women are hardly ever seen in the settlements. Instead they were out in the fields, working hard at harvesting whilst their husbands smoked, chattered and tinkered with tractors back home. I hope hubbie doesn’t get any ideas.
Our Wild Morocco guide Salah couldn’t believe that despite several previous trips to Morocco, we didn’t actually know what the fruits of an argan tree looked like. So with thousands of them lining the road, he was soon able to stop and put that right.
As the road wound higher into the Anti Atlas Mountains, the slopes became barer. We really felt the heat of the sun beating down in the middle of the day.
The road then slowly snaked along the barren hills, inching it’s way towards Tafraoute. I have to admit this section was rather less scenic than what we’d already seen, and indeed what was yet to come.
There were a few hardy plants battling it out though…
And then it really begins.
Just past the village of Zaouit on the R106, is the top end of the famous Ameln Valley, with it’s sweeping line of sun-blushed cliffs overlooking a long valley of palm tree heaven.
We could have easily spent an hour or two stopping every few meters to photograph the approaching Ameln Valley, but as we were spending a couple of nights here at Chez Amaliya to do some hiking and to visit Ait Mansour Gorge, we made do with just ‘a few’. We’re slowing falling in love with the Anti Atlas Mountains.
After our stay in the valley it was off once again, this time to the town of Tafraoute. Famous for it’s leather babouches, Tafraout is a quietly colourful little town. We received a few disdainful looks and curled lips from groups of elderly men hanging out together on the street, and conversely a few giggles and shy smiles (and even a Salam in greeting) from groups of younger females.
This butcher was amazed to be offered a dirham in return for a photo of his stall in the market (by hubbie as I was too much of a chicken to ask!). We all had a good-natured, if less than comprehensible chat, with him about his meaty goods.
I’d love to be able to tell you about the Anti Atlas Mountains drive from Tafraoute to Tiznit over near the coast, but to be honest, I can’t.
All we saw was this…
High up in the mountains once again, mist is very common in this area, and even became so cold that Salah put on a thick winter jacket! We were still in our sunglasses and shorts but agreed it was decidedly chilly considering the day before we’d been suffering temperatures of over 40 degrees celsius! Salah tells us the scenery is much the same as what we’ve already seen through the Anti Atlas Mountains, so we’ve not really missed too much. I have to say he did a superb job keeping us on the road, and avoiding all manner of trucks laden with cows, goats and hay that came hurtling out of nowhere towards us.
Finally we arrived in the city of Tiznit, a huge and more industrial place known for it’s silver jewellery and dagger making. Founded in 1881 by Sultan Hassan I as a garrison town, Tiznit is a good place to stop for supplies and fuel, although there isn’t much to see in terms of tourism.
It was here that we encountered more beggars than ever before in Morocco, no doubt because we were the only western faces in town. We wandered around the local market and skirted around the edge of a protest by a group of college students, but to be honest were quite thankful to return to the relative anonymity of the car.
A few miles further down the road was our next, and much anticipated destination. The coast.
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