Morocco - Atlas Mountains Getaway

The Atlas Mountains are located an hour and a half outside of Marrakech, the 4th largest city in Morocco, and separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. After having stayed the night in Marrakech, a tour company 4X4 Camel picked us up at our hostel bright and early. We departed Marrakech and drove along the Ourika Valley and through some Berber villages. The Berber people, known for living a more tradition way of life usually opting for donkeys or horses over cars, and simple homes built out of the natural resources surrounding them. 

Marrakech market and city center.

Marrakech market and city center.

Our hostel for the night, Riad Dia. 

Our hostel for the night, Riad Dia

Heading towards the Atlas Mountains with sheep scattered along the side of the road. 

Heading towards the Atlas Mountains with sheep scattered along the side of the road. 

One of the first stops of the day was at an open air market. These markets are where the Berber people get together to buy and trade vegetables, livestock, household items, and services. Whether you need to purchase a donkey or reset a broken arm there is someone that can help you. 

Smoke fills the air as food is prepped and sold at the Berber market.

Smoke fills the air as food is prepped and sold at the Berber market.

Dentist?

Dentist?

Fresh nuts weighed and sold. 

Fresh nuts weighed and sold. 

Baby chicks for sale.

Baby chicks for sale.

Fresh donuts.

Fresh donuts.

Cow leg ready to be carved up. 

Cow leg ready to be carved up. 

Fresh vegetables from the local farms.

Fresh vegetables from the local farms.

Parking.

Parking.

After visiting the Berber market and eating one of those fresh donuts, we continued our trip taking in the view of the mountains while our driver waves to kids playing on the side of the road and tells us about growing up in Marrakech. We pulled off the main road and onto a farm where there were camels and hot tea waiting for us. A 20 minute camel ride and my legs were sore for days!

Camel guide.

Camel guide.

Chelsea getting set up on her camel.

Chelsea getting set up on her camel.

Grumpy camel.

Grumpy camel.

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Red clay soil and cactuses where the landscape of this area.

Red clay soil and cactuses where the landscape of this area.

The Ourika Valley as we approach the Atlas Mountains.

The Ourika Valley as we approach the Atlas Mountains.

The next stop on our trip was to a women's argan oil co-op. Here, widowed and divorced women are given a unique economic opportunity and help make argan oil by crushing seeds from argan trees. This oil is then used to put on top of food like couscous as well as for cosmetic products. This co-op gives these women a new way of earning a livable wage after their unfortunate situations.  

Chelsea learning how to crack the argan seeds.

Chelsea learning how to crack the argan seeds.

Hand turned, the nuggets are crushed by the stone to produce the oil.

Hand turned, the nuggets are crushed by the stone to produce the oil.

Shells of the argan seeds. 

Shells of the argan seeds. 

As we continued further into the Atlas Mountains we drove through numerous Berber villages until we made it to a high point where we stopped for a homemade, organic lunch of fruits, vegetables, couscous, chicken tagine and mint tea. Pure relaxation is all I can say about this stop. A welcoming home with an unobstructed view of the highest peak of the Atlas Mountains, Mount Toubkal, 4,167 (13,671 ft) meters high. 

A view of the snow-capped Mount Toubkel from the home..

A view of the snow-capped Mount Toubkel from the home..

View of the Atlas Mountains and our cook.

View of the Atlas Mountains and our cook.

Chicken tagine.

Chicken tagine.

Hot tea.

Hot tea.

You can also stay at the house and take cooking classes.

You can also stay at the house and take cooking classes.

With our stomachs full and a sense of complete relaxation we hopped back into our 4x4 to continue through the red clay roads along the Atlas Mountains. We finished up our day hiking along an overlook with the almond, peach and walnut orchards of the Asni Valley below. We continued to take in the breathtaking landscape as we worked our way back to Marrakech, exhausted and wishing we could only have stayed longer. 

A Berber village blends into the landscape. 

A Berber village blends into the landscape. 

Berber farmers carry their supplies on horses and donkeys.

Berber farmers carry their supplies on horses and donkeys.

Almond and Walnut groves line the valley.

Almond and Walnut groves line the valley.

Farmers make flat plateaus to plant crops on. 

Farmers make flat plateaus to plant crops on. 

Clay soil ranged from yellow to red and even black. 

Clay soil ranged from yellow to red and even black.