Crossing the Atlas Mountains (March 16, 2018)

Wake up call: 6:00. Luggage out: 6:45. Depart: 7:30. When we turned in our keys in preparation to check out of the opulent riad, the staff surprised us with a farewell gift: a fez for each man and a scarf for each woman.

The day’s objective was to cross the Atlas Mountains and approach the Sahara Desert. We woke to the rain that had dogged us off and on yesterday which really wasn’t much of an issue because we spent most of the day on the bus. Rain turned to sun which transitioned to snow flurries before more sun switched back to flurries and then rain again. The landscape was just as varied as the weather. Rock, rock, and more rock; beautiful pine and cedar forests; seemingly barren landscape where scruffy vegetation has somehow managed to take hold; olive groves; rock walls; terraced farmland. Something different around every corner.

After being in cities, it was fun to see the small villages and lone farms scattered around. Shepherds, some with dogs and some not, were herding small groups of sheep and goats. Small rivers supported ribbons of dense green that came as a surprise in the arid environment. We drove through apple country and were surprised to see a roundabout with a huge apple sculpture in the middle. In fact when we stopped for lunch we had apple tart for dessert. We stopped in Ifrane, a charming university town with Swiss architecture, to see a carved stone monument honoring the last wild Atlas (or Barbary or Berber) lion killed in Morocco. We began to see women covered from head toe in black with only their eyes visible. Other women were dressed in modern clothing but wore head scarves. In certain conservative, traditional areas boys did not walk with girls, even in groups.

Toward the end of the day we stopped for the night in Erfoud. Our accommodations at Kasbah XalucaMaadid were just as stunning as the others but in no way similar. It was opulence meets the desert with mustard and yellow tiles on the floor and walls, cedar ceilings, woven window coverings, and stone sinks with fossilized sea creatures. Really stunning! We were offered mint tea and cookies upon arrival and were entertained by two dancers and three musicians dressed all in white. The thing that caught our attention right off was the use of rugs along the open air breezeways and in the courtyard by the pool and outdoor bar. I guess when the rug sellers say Moroccan rugs are sturdy and hold up under harsh conditions they are not exaggerating.

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the roof, had dinner in the dining room, and called it a day.

Laugh of the day: at one rest stop I washed my hands with a small piece of a mothball type bathroom deodorizer that had been inadvertently put in the soap dish.

Purchases of the day: scarves. Best buy: Cleone’s $5 scarf. Typical price: $7-$12.

The king’s wife is not a queen but a princess.

We’ve seen a few popcorn vendors popping and selling their product on the street. Obviously not reserved for movies.

The government has a successful program in place that helps farmers as well as other entrepreneurs get established. Today we passed apple, plum, and olive farms
that are worked by families who were set up by the government in return for
the commitment of farming and improving the land for a minimum of 25 years
and the agreement that they will employ others. We used a public restroom
in one town that was set up the same way.



4 thoughts on “Crossing the Atlas Mountains (March 16, 2018)

  1. What an amazing trip you are having!!! I loved your fun facts and your pictures are out of this world!! Josie even posted some on Instagram

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  2. What a fabulous adventure with so many diverse activities and experiences! Love all the fun facts and Dan comments too! 😊


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