10 November 2011

Marrakesh: Atlas Leaped

Yesterday morning, we rose soon after the first call to prayer and headed off on our excursion into the Atlas Mountains. It was a gorgeous day and the sun was so strong that even after we passed the 2,000-metre mark, I felt overly hot in my jeans and t-shirt. Our route took us into the High Atlas, over the Tizi N'Tichka pass and into the Ouarzazate region, with plenty of stops en route for potential retail opportunities, photos and, in my case, leaps.

The contrasts between the dry, rich red lands, the clear blue skies and the tiny, fertile green plains surrounding the river were impressive and as we looked back at the mountains from Marrakesh this morning, it was hard to believe we had been right up at the top of of the snowy, white peaks.

There were plenty of cacti and olive trees on one side of the pass, and argon trees on the other. I had hoped to see some goats in a tree but I think it was the wrong season, sadly. We did visit a couple of kasbahs (small, heavily fortified villages or castles), including the very impressive Aït Benhaddou, which has formed the backdrop of many films, such as Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia; the landscape also works well as a double for New Mexico and Arizona, our guide told us. In any case, the views were stunning.

We had lunch beside the pool at a hotel near Aït Benhaddou before beginning the long drive back to the city. Descending into the late afternoon sunshine and sunset was still impressive and the views were just as great as on the way up. Initially, I had thought our tour would involve more walking and hiking but as I was still under the weather, the car tour worked well and I would definitely recommend Your Morocco Tours' Ouarzazate excursion for anyone who wants to add a little diversity to their Marrakesh city break experience.

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