From Marrakech we embarked on a long drive into the Atlas Mountains. Within half an hour we’d left the cacophony of the city behind and were completely surrounded by countryside. As we got closer to the base of the mountains the greenery increased and forests (which had been planted to serve as a hunting reserve for the king) began to spring up around us as if by magic. The mountain roads are long and winding and the ascent is truly spectacular. We stopped off regularly, keen to capture sweeping shots from spectacular vantage points and to take a closer look at the rural Berber villages that can be seen dotted along the mountainside. En route we discovered the wonders of argan oil at one of the many co-operatives that have been set up to provide work for the local Berber women. Watching as the women worked with the produce from the argan trees, we were taught how this nut can be put into oil, butter, moisturisers, sun creams, perfumes, honey and soaps.
Back in the car we quickly reached the pass to the other side of the mountains. As soon as you begin your descent, you’ll notice that the landscape has completely changed. No longer were we surrounded by lush greenery, instead we were driving past parched and sun-blanched hills and rocky outcrops. You really get the feeling that you’re entering desert territory with the mountains splitting the country in two. The sharp contrast of orange mountaintops against clear blue sky is utterly breath-taking.Read more
By mid-afternoon we had arrived at Kasbah Ellouze, our charming accommodation for the duration of our stay in the Atlas Mountains (for more information on this hotel, please click here). This Kasbah hotel is like a desert oasis with simple yet beautiful rooms and a refreshing pool. The food here was most definitely the highlight. Serving delicious traditional fare, the restaurant is perfectly situated overlooking the surrounding mountains and desert landscapes.
We filled our days here exploring historic sites and roaming on camel back. Kasbah Telouet especially is a stunning ancient structure. Now just a ruin that’s been left to crumble into the red sands of its Atlas Mountain home, this labyrinthine development of vast rooms, secret passageways and beautifully carved interiors provided an insight into decadent Moroccan history.
From here it was back to Marrakech for one night and then we were to move on to Essaouira, a beautiful city by the sea that would prove to be a watery contrast to the desert plains of the Atlas Mountain region.