The Dades Valley in Morocco
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.
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.
A walk through the Dades Valley
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).
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.
Rugs and carpets of Morocco
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.
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.
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.
Yasmina Hotel and the Todra Gorge in Morocco
On the next stage of our tour of Morocco, we visited the Todra Gorge. As we moved through this spectacular gorge I took the photo above of the Yasmina Hotel. I was initially amused by the access planks over the water. Not the usual grand entrance one might expect.
We didn’t stay in this hotel, nor did we stop for a meal. Just before writing this post I read some very disparaging reviews of this hotel. It seems that the electricity supply is somewhat lacking, or even non-existent. The showers were cold, as were the rooms. The food was also average in quality.
On our visit, however, we experienced none of these inconveniences. We enjoyed top quality hotels wherever we went with our tour group. The food was amazing and the people most accommodating and friendly.
Spectacular Todra Gorge
The main reason for our tour to take in this part of Morocco was to experience the spectacular Todra Gorge. The gorge is shown in the photos below. Although we didn’t walk far into the gorge itself, the views were amazing. I was also intrigued by several rock climbers in the gorge, so it seems that this is another attraction of this area. I also took notice of the variety of traders in the gorge. They had set up their tables at various parts of the gorge. Their wares ranged from carpets to rugs, utensils to kitchen wares, food and drinks, as well as the usual tourist knick-knacks.
Morocco is a land of contrasts
It was fascinating visiting Morocco. I really had little idea of what the countryside would look like. Every day seemed different, every turn of the road we took opened up new vistas and interesting glimpses of life in this magical country.
After visiting the deep colours of the Sahara – see my previous posts – we travelled in a south-easterly direction. I am not entirely certain as to where today’s photos were taken, but our tour pamphlet indicates this was in the Todra Gorge and the Dandes Valley. If any of my readers can enlighten me further, please leave a comment or two, thanks.
The photo above shows a beautiful stream flowing through a deep gorge. The surrounding country is harsh and dry, stony and wind-swept. This little oasis was a pleasant change from the stark surrounding countryside. The photo below shows the entrance to the place where we had lunch, another quiet, serene escape from the bustle of city life in the medinas further west.
As we travelled along we saw sudden drops over a steep escarpment into the valleys below. The people living in this valley were in verdant farming country, in many places only a short walk to the surrounding desert-like country all around. What a difference reliable water makes to an environment. We actually saw much evidence in many parts of the country of the efficient use of water. Perhaps many farmers here in Australia could learn from the Moroccans in the best use of a scarce resource like water. Just a thought.