Architectural contrasts in Morocco

Old kasbah architectural building

Old kasbah building in the Dades Valley

 

Over recent weeks, I have been sharing many of my photos taken during a tour of Morocco. You can look back through these posts to read them, or you can use the archives to search for them – the link is above the title of this post.

Kasbahs

Over the two weeks of our tour, we saw many magnificent buildings, especially those featuring mosaic tiles. These really caught our attention and we enjoyed visiting such buildings. Part way through our tour we spent two nights in the Dades Valley, a predominantly Berber region of the country. Here the architecture was quite different, as shown in today’s photos. One part of  this area is the is known as the Road of the Thousand Kasbahs on which we travelled on our way to Skoura.

Adobe buildings

One of the architectural features of this region is the adobe buildings of the Berbers, as shown in today’s photos. These old kasbahs are mud structures, either made from mud-bricks or rammed earth. (If this is wrong, could my readers please enlighten me. Our guide was not forthcoming on this matter, and I didn’t ask.)

Many of the old kasbahs are no longer inhabited. A more modern building style in this area is also shown below. It may also be made from mud bricks, but the outer walls have a rendering which makes it look very stylish indeed. I suspect that this modern home may also have been made using local stone which is plentiful in this mountainous region of the Atlas Mountains.

Old building in the Dades Valley set in farming country

Old buildings in the Dades Valley set in farming country

Modern building in the Dades Valley

Modern building in the Dades Valley

Dades Valley in Morocco

Opposite our hotel in the Dades Valley

Opposite our hotel in the Dades Valley

Over recent posts, I have been describing our experiences in the Dades Valley of Morocco. During our two-night stay in the Hotel du Vieux Chateau du Dades I never found out what the structure shown in the photo above was meant to be, or why it was there – apart from being advertising for the hotel where we stayed, which was across the road. It was similar to several other buildings nearby, so it could well have been simply an example of the typical local architecture. The builders obviously used the common building material available at this location. Further down the valley, the predominant building material was mud, as seen in the last few photos below.

A great breakfast feast

Our tour guide, Said, promised us a Berber omelette for breakfast. He came good on this promise. On the downside, however, he reported at breakfast time that he had been up very early that morning scouring the neighbourhood for enough fresh eggs to make omelettes for the whole group. I am pleased that he went to the effort because the result was delicious. They were actually cooked in tagines and I can still remember the taste sensation. Mine was followed by indulging in a delicious pancake.

We travel on

After breakfast, we packed the bus and headed off down the Dades Valley road towards the Road of the Thousand Kasbahs and the Rose Valley. Along this stretch of road, I took the photos shown today mostly from the bus window though we did stop several times at lookouts along the way.

Our hotel in the Dades Valley. Our tour bus is also in the photo.

Our hotel in the Dades Valley. Our tour bus is also in the photo.

A scene along the Dades Valley road.

A scene along the Dades Valley road.

A scene along the Dades Valley road.

A scene along the Dades Valley road.

The Dades Valley in Morocco

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On the terrace of the Hotel du Vieux Chateau du Dades

After our long four-hour walk down the Dades Valley – I wrote about that in my last post – we had a delicious lunch in the sunshine on the terrace of the Hotel du Vieux Chateau du Dades. Being at a high altitude in the Atlas Mountains, the air was cold and crisp. Sitting on this terrace (shown in the photo above) we enjoyed the warming sun as we ate. The surrounding cliffs gave a very grand view as we ate.

Enjoying the sunshine

After lunch, most of our touring party decided to walk up the road for half an hour to have coffee near the top of the pass on the road leading north. My wife, daughter and I were too tired from the morning walk to contemplate more walking, so we stayed behind, enjoying the last of the weak afternoon sunshine. After the sun went behind the nearby cliffs, we retreated inside  quickly to the warmth of the fireplace at one end of the restaurant.

A warm fireplace

The fireplace was also popular with other guests of the hotel and it was a matter of taking it in turns to get warm. I must say that all in our family really enjoy an open fire. The high cost of firewood makes this increasingly expensive in Australia, but we are pleased that we have a limited supply of firewood on our own property at our home in South Australia. We always have to supplement this with firewood bought from a dealer.

Writing

All through our six-week trip, I kept a diary, and parts of these blog posts originate from my diary. So in the evenings, I often spent a half hour or so updating my diary. I also decided before leaving home that I would emulate the achievement of a friend of mine. On an overseas trip, she decided to capture her impressions of her journeying by aiming to write at least one poem a day. I achieved my goal. My friend has since published some of these poems in book form. That joy still awaits me – stay tuned because that is in my plans too. Sitting near to the fireplace in our hotel was an ideal writing spot. Chatting with fellow travellers was another delight.

The view up the Dades Valley from the hotel terrace.

The view up the Dades Valley from the hotel terrace.

The view up the Dades Valley from the hotel terrace.

The view up the Dades Valley from the hotel terrace.

The view up the Dades Valley from the hotel terrace.

The view up the Dades Valley from the hotel terrace.

A walk through the Dades Valley

Part of our walk in the Dandes Gorge

Part of our walk in the Dandes Gorge

After our visit to the carpet and rug shop in Tinghir in Morocco, we headed off in our tour bus to our accommodation in the Dades Gorge for the next two nights. We stayed in the Hotel du Vieux Chateau du Dades.

This hotel appeared rather non-descript from the outside, but once inside we appreciated the warm and welcoming atmosphere, especially the warm fire in the dining room. To  be honest, the rooms were very cold but then, we were staying at a high altitude so that part was understandable. (In my diary written at the time, I recorded that it was over 2000 metres in altitude, but I think that must be a little off the mark. Although the surrounding peaks can rise as high as 2,700 metres, we were in a valley. The hotel we stayed in was somewhat high in that valley, but I doubt that it stood at over 2000 metres.)

On our arrival we settled into our rooms, showered and changed for dinner. Before that, we had been in our clothes for about 36 hours, sleeping in them in the Sahara the previous night. For dinner, we enjoyed a delightful couscous. One of the major highlights of travelling in Morocco was experiencing their foods. We were never disappointed. We slept reasonably well despite having to run the air-conditioner all night just to keep warm.

A long walk

After a wonderful breakfast, we set off walking down the Dades Gorge. This hike took us through several Berber villages along the way, though we did not see many people. I found that the walk was very interesting but I was disappointed not to see and photograph many birds. Along the way, we came across a shepherd watching over his sheep and goats on the hillside (see the photo below).

A shepherd was watching over his sheep and goats as they grazed.

A shepherd was watching over his sheep and goats as they grazed.

At the end of our trek we had one final challenge: a very unstable and rickety bridge over the river. I have included a photo below, taken AFTER I had successfully crossed over. We actually had a choice: cross on this bridge – or walk back up the valley for another four hours to our hotel. Not really much of a choice, in the end. As it turned out, by crossing one at a time, we all successfully negotiated  the bridge. Locals probably do it every day without thinking.

You call that a bridge?

You call that a bridge?

In the Dades Valley

In the Dades Valley

Rugs and carpets of Morocco

Moroccan carpet

Moroccan carpet

One of the features of Morocco we enjoyed was seeing the many buildings featuring mosaics. They are wonderfully beautiful and alluring to eyes not used to such artistry. Another feature of this magical country were the numerous carpet and rug outlets everywhere we travelled. Today I feature one of the Berber carpet shops in the town of Tinghir. This interesting town has a population of just over 40,000 and is near the Todra Gorge which I featured in my last post.

The shop was in the local medina and was a fascinating experience. On entering, we were asked to remove our shoes – a common practice in many parts of Morocco – and we were then seated on voluminous cushions on the floor. My old bones and muscles objected to this, but I managed both getting down – and getting up again.

Mint tea

As the owner regaled us with the significance of the symbols on the carpets he had for sale, we were served delicious mint tea. Eventually, four of our touring group purchased small rugs or runners to take back home. I would love to have done the same, but common sense prevailed. They would have made our luggage far too bulky and we were on the upper limit with its weight. Besides, my wife and I decided that there was nowhere in our home where they could be put to good use. The owner actually did a strong sales pitch on my daughter who nearly weakened; she was very tempted, but she resisted. I hope that she doesn’t regret this.

Carding wool

While we were in the shop enjoying our mint tea, my wife accepted the challenge to card some wool by hand (see the next photo below). This didn’t surprise me at all. She has had plenty of practice at home over the years. At one stage we had a small flock of sheep, with at least one of them with coloured wool. She enjoyed carding the wool before spinning it. Later she used the wool to knit garments.

In an earlier post, I featured my wife attempting to spin wool in the traditional manner in Morocco. You can read that post here.

My wife attempts to card some wool in the carpet shop.

My wife attempts to card some wool in the carpet shop.

A rug hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

A rug hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

Rugs hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

Rugs hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir