Todra Gorge to Aremd

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Jan 06, 2011

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Flag of Morocco  , Meknès-Tafilalet,
Saturday, November 13, 2010

We drove into the Todra Gorge and were all blown away by its beauty and grandeur. This is where Aziz, our awesome guide, was born and raised. The hotel we arrived at had no roads in, and set amongst the cliffs in the gorge and next to a river. We went for a long hike in the Atlas mountains and had visited some Berber nomads for morning tea. Lunch was with Aziz's family – in the house where his mother, father, 6 married brothers and their wives and about 6 children, and 2 unmarried brothers live. We had an amazing lunch consisting of fava bean soup and Berber pizza, followed my mandarins for desert and I got some henna on my hand and foot as a welcome gift from Aziz's niece. The Todra Gorge was beautiful, and it was very enjoyable playing the drums in front of the fire and chatting more to Aziz, his youngest brother and his nephew (who is one year older than him). I have learnt a lot about Islam and also about the Berber culture from these few days, so I am very happy.

On the way to our next stop, we stopped at a souk, the market that takes place once a week, and got badly ripped off for a bracelet that I purchased. The few days from now is the Islam festival to celebrate Moses’ willingness to sacrifice his son to God, where at the last minute God allowed him to sacrifice a sheep instead. Everyone has been preparing for these few days of festivities – sharpening their knives at the local markets, the women going en-masse to the hammams and everyone out and about at the souk to buy their supplies. We will apparently be partaking in the festivities over the next few days – watching the slaughter of the sheep as a sacrifice. It is a public holiday today and tomorrow, so it should be good to see more people out during the week, as the kids have to go to school 6 days a week.

The movie capital of Morocco is Ouarzazate where an actual film studio has been built where a ton of movies have been filmed. This didn't really take my fancy so I lazed by the pool while others did a short tour of the studios before leaving for Ait Benhaddou which is the famous Kasbah town that has featured in films such as Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven (now I have to watch Gladiator again). Mr Action Houssain (self-proclaimed title) gave a Tagine and Cous Cous cooking demonstration. Mr Action has apparently featured in around 40 films in the region as an extra and is very proud of his achievements, and was most willing to give us his autograph (which I passed on). The Kasbah however was very interesting - built in the 900's and still home to 6 large families (it is too hard to maintain this UNESCO Heritage listed site - so locals have generally moved to more sound houses made from concrete (as opposed to mud). Ann and I woke early to watch the sunrise over the Kasbah before we set out to our next Berber stopover which took us over the Tizi n Tichka pass, the highest in Morocco at 2260m a.s.l.

Aremd is a little village tucked away in the high Atlas mountains. Daypacks were once again packed for our overnight stay with a local Berber family. After driving through many chaotic souks, we arrived at the starting point of Imlil for our hike to the village. The village is nestled amongst amazing mountains, apple trees and a small river. This is the base camp for a lot of hikers climbing the highest mountain in Morocco - Jebel Toubkal, which sits at about 4800m above sea level and takes to 2.5 days to summit. Aremd lies at 2000m above sea level and is quite picturesque again with donkeys and chickens having free roam. We had another night of fire side chatting and learning how to play a Berber card game called Hababa. The next day was officially the Aid Eladha, the festival I mentioned before where each family sacrifices a sheep or goat. Islam has its own calendar based on the moon cycle, and today was the 10th day of the twelfth month in their twelve month calendar. We have figured it is the Islamic version of Christmas – a very special day to go to the Mosque and be with family. Family come from all over Europe to spend the day with their families. After an early morning hike through the village and the apple orchids, we came back and found the goat being slaughtered. It was a great experience watching the skinning and gutting of the goat (I know... everyone is thinking I am crazy for saying that, but you don't really get to see that very much in your life). We left the family hosting us to continue their celebrations of their special day to head to Essaouria on the coast, ready for some fresh seafood and horse riding on the beach.

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