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Berber Villages and Atlas Mtns, Morocco

Today we started our day with a home cooked breakfast on the rooftop of the Riad El Wiam. It was just as delicious as the morning before. We scheduled a guided tour to visit outside the city of Marrakech and our tour guide, Adil came to pick us up. Today was national worker's day in Marrakech so most businesses were closed. We took about a 30 minute ride to outside of the city and stopped at a Berber Village Daily Market, where they sell everything from clothes and shoes, to cooked meat, to live stock, to butchered meat, they have a barber shop area, an area for vegetables and fruits. Adil told us to be very wary of taking pictures.

After Adil purchased the largest bunch of mint I had ever seen we were off on our way through the countryside of Marrakech, heading towards Gueliz to meet with Rashid and have our first Camel experience. We met our Camels; I was acquainted with Aisha, Frank with Fatima and Doug with Shakira, which we found pretty appropriate.

After the camels we were sat under an authentic berber tent and had mint tea. Mint tea is there social drink, Morocco is a predominately muslim country and alcohol is not served so they call their Mint Tea the Whiskey of their people. We had it so far at every meal or social gathering.

I am pretty sure at this point, the boys were so done with me taking pictures of everything but there was nothing I was not going to capture. Everything was unique and beautiful from the handmade rugs to the stucco buildings. After we left Rashid we drove up to the Atlas Mountains and stopped a long the way at a few places where we were greeted by all the children. They were the highlight of our trip and giving out high fives like no ones business.

We stopped at a Women's Co-Op in Essaouira where they make and sell Argan Oil from scratch. They pick the fruit of the argan tree, they let them dry out, remove the exterior pulp to obtain the argan kernels on the inside. They then grind and press them all by hand, the mash expels pure unfiltered argan oil. The oil is left to rest about two weeks so that solids suspended in the argan oil settle to the bottom.

They then take this oils and sell it pure as argan oil good for your hair nails and skin or anything. They create honey, butter, soaps, I mean everything. The best part about these women's co-ops is that they only employ women, coming from displaced homes or widowed.

I ended up purchasing some of the pure argan oil and then a small jar of the honey made from argan oil. We got to try everything they made and it was hard not to want to purchase all of it, especially knowing it goes to women who need the work. We got back on the road getting closer to the Atlas Mountains still stopping different areas along the way. At one point we stopped to help Adil gather large rocks to place in the road and hang out with some more kids. Adil brings pens and small school supplies to them when he comes through and they just love it!

It was about a 2 and a half hour trip from the city with all of the stops. We talked politics and the way of life in Morocco with Adil. How tourism has been a major boost in the economy but so many still are unsure of how they feel about it. He also told us that the markets in the medina aren't healthy to eat at and to not drink the water from the taps, even brush our teeth, which we had been doing the WHOLE time we had already been there. So that was a goo warning we weren't expecting.

When we got to our lunch location, it was an authentic berber house with handmade rugs everywhere, stools, cushions, throws. A woman was making bread and you could smell it as soon as we got out of the car. They had a garden going with all the ingredients they were making lunch with. We had a butternut squash soup for an appetizer in handmade and painted dinner wear with hand carved wooden spoons. We had mint tea and bottled water. For the main course we had chicken tangine with squash and tomatoes, full of spices and serious flavor. Then dessert came, sliced oranges and honeydew with cinnamon on top.

All while looking out to the beautiful scenery of the Atlas Mountains.


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