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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.