Marrakech Half Marathon Weekend- Part Two: High Atlas Adventure

The highlight of this trip to Morocco was the day I spent traveling through the High Atlas mountains, visiting small towns and dining with Berber families. Morocco Inspiring Tours was recommended to us by friends, and we could not have asked for a better guide than Abdul. He was patient with our questions and incessant need to stop at roadside stands for shopping, and was so willing to share with us his culture and history. I would highly recommend any tour run by Abdul and his brother!

Our first stop was the weekly market in a town called Tnin Ourika, which is located in the Ourika Valley. Not only were fruit and vegetable vendors in full force, the livestock trade was strong at this market. Men bought and traded sheep and donkeys. A sheep and her lamb went for about 900 dirham (90 Euro), and a donkey could range from 250-350 Euro.  The produce available was unbelievable- huge piles of succulent, delicious looking veggies actually tempted me to eat them. I don’t even LIKE carrots but I could practically feel the crunch just looking at them.

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We headed to another town in the valley called Amrar, where we were welcomed into a Berber home for tea. Our hosts gave us a tour of their traditionally built house and then we enjoyed tea and a light breakfast. The king of Morocco is very popular, as is his red headed wife- their pictures were in every room of the house.

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Entrance to the Berber home.

Let’s talk about mint tea— is it so good! Hot, fresh, and you can put as much sugar in it as you like! A specific ritual exists to make proper mint tea, involving the right mix of herbs depending on the season, as well as pouring the first couple cups back into the pot. In the winter, when the mint is typically weak, sage is often added to the tea.

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Our next stop- the waterfalls of the Ourika Valley! Here, Abdul 1 left us in the capable hands of Abdul 2, who bounded up the rocks and we tried to follow. The river is lined with restaurants that have tons of tables and chairs all along the riverbank, and each has its own little bridge to get there. We crossed one of these bridges and began our hike through the seven waterfalls. Although there were many other tourists along the way, after a ways we lost most of them, probably because somehow Abdul and my friends thought this was a race? And so we were running and jumping and sweating? I thought we were going for a walk, not a mountain climb/trail run. Whoops. One rickety ladder, a couple of wooden plank bridges, and several stream crossings where somehow I managed not to be clumsy and fall in, we made it to the top! The views were stunning and I loved this part of the adventure.

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Thanks, Abdul!
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The views were awesome!
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Abdul 2!

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Guess we are going up.
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Sometimes I am scared of heights and sometimes I am clumsy.
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Keeping all of the Cokes cool.

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After this mid day exercise, we settled back into the van for a scenic drive up the mountains to a town called Ismir, which is high up in the Ait Fares Valley. We stopped for a little shopping on the way, which is where I found the perfect Moroccan lamps and KL found a giant teapot.

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Crossing the river to get started with the hike.
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There is a woman behind the loom weaving this rug.

Lunch at the Berber home was delicious. Home cooking, no matter where, is always the best. Again, our hosts were friendly and gracious. My favorite part of the meal was moving outside to enjoy our tea in the sunshine overlooking the rest of the valley. After lunch we piled back into the van and headed through the last of the mountains back into the city.

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Y’ALL. This salad.
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Soup, salad, bread, tagine, fresh fruit…
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High pours make the aroma travel better.
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Tea outside!
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View from inside the house.

I cannot recommend Abdul and his company enough- our day was perfect and we loved it!

Our last day in Marrakech was for shopping and the hamman. The Hamman experience was fun, if a little awkward. The main steam room and bathing room had beautiful dark tiles and a grand light fixture- it sort of looked like a club or a lounge. Only difference is you are sitting in there almost naked with your friends having hot water poured on top of you, and then being scrubbed down by a couple of ladies. One of my friends on the trip summarized it perfectly: “Now I understand how my dog feels when I give him a bath in the sink.”  My skin did feel soft afterwards and it was a fun experience.

We visited Hamman de la Rose and I would recommend it as an accessible hammam experience, as everyone spoke English and it had good TripAdvisor reviews.

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