A Drive Through Morocco’s Mountains

After several days amidst the multitudes in Marrakesh we were ready to see a quieter side of Morocco. We decided that the Atlas Mountains would be our next stop. In order to really get the feel for them we felt we would need to rent a car. Acquiring a car in Morocco is easy; all of the major rental companies are here and a U.S. driver’s license will suffice.

The actual driving part is another thing all together, though not for the reason you’d expect. The roads are in great shape, everyone drives on the right, and after Spain and Portugal I have a good handle on navigating the roundabouts. The issue is that once we were outside of the major population centers and into the mountains the road narrowed to one lane. One. Lane.

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Trapped behind a truck on a one lane road in Morocco. It’s less annoying and more terrifying when they’re coming at you, especially around a blind curve. Photo by Ryan.*

This winding mountain road is the only way to get from one village to the next, so it’s used universally by cars, trucks, donkeys, herds of goats, and pedestrians. I was as likely to slam on my brakes for a toddler running into the road (this happened) as I was for a stray cow. As for the cars, well, it was a game of chicken every time I encountered oncoming traffic – who’s going to take to the shoulder first? (Hint: It was me. It was always me.)

But it was worth every sphincter clenching moment of it for the chance to see the beauty of the Moroccan mountains, gorges, and oases.

Here are a bunch of pictures we snapped when I pulled over to breathe:

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Almond trees in bloom along the N-10. Photo by Ryan.
kasbah
We stopped for tea at the Tizourgane Kasbah, which once acted as a storage facility for thirteen Berber tribes before becoming a fortified housing complex for 25 families. Today it’s a boarding house and restaurant. Photo by Tricia.
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A hillside village and oasis near Tafraoute. It was amazing how well the villages blended into the hillsides. And the landscape itself is gorgeous. Photo by Ryan.
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The Afella-Ighir Oasis just outside of Tafraoute. We met a guide here named Abdou who showed us the old watch towers and taught us about the local herbs. He also cooks up a delicious omelette . Photo by Ryan.
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“That’s the imam’s car,” Abdou told us. In many of the villages, and even in the big cities, donkeys are still a major mode of transportation. Photo by Ryan.
oldmosque
A bit outside of Marrakesh is the old Tinmel Mosque. It’s in ruins now, but at one time Tinmel was the capital of the Almohad Dynasty. Photo by Tricia.
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Arches in the Tinmel Mosque. Photo by Ryan.

We found easy lodging in Tafraoute, including a restaurant that caters to tourists (read: they can serve a bottle of wine with dinner). This was a lovely drive. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of coming to Morocco.

*Our friends and family are using our names in their comments so it seems silly to keep being coy about who we are. (We aren’t mad). I’m Tricia. He’s Ryan. We’ve been traveling since May 2016 and we seem to still like each other.

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