Going off the grid is not something many of us get to do too often, but every once in a while an opportunity presents itself and the rewards for taking yourself offline and into the moment are certainly worthwhile! One of the most popular day trips from Marrakech is to visit the nearby Atlas Mountains – about a one hour drive away – and experience village life outside of Morocco’s big cities. But with more time in Morocco, I was able to venture to the High Atlas Mountains for an overnight experience and truly get to understand and appreciate local village life with a trip to a private home, requiring a two and a half hour ride on a mule to even get there! Here’s how it all played out…
Into the Atlas Mountains
A trip to the High Atlas Mountains will likely start off in Marrakech, a city that is unlike any other and will leave you speechless, in awe, and in a world of thoughts all at once! Marrakech is so full of life, colour, sights, sounds and smells, that a few days there will easily leave you longing for silence and solitude. And thats exactly what you will find in the High Atlas Mountains!
The one hour drive to Ouirgane is as windy as a flattened rollercoaster, so be sure to eat only a light breakfast on the morning before you depart! The road creeps its way high into the mountains, showcasing the vastness of this incredible country. After passing through a couple of small towns, we arrived at Ouirgane, dropped our luggage, and headed straight off on an adventure to an authentic Berber village.
There’s nothing quite comparable to being welcomed into a home by a local to experience their culture, lifestyle, and of course…. the food! We were guided into the mountains by Mohamed, a local who has a passion for welcoming visitors to his home to experience the Berber culture. After a two hour trek on mules to reach his village, we offloaded (with sore limbs – riding mules isn’t the most comfortable experience!) and took some time to learn about Berber culture before our lunch meal was served.
Here in the mountains, Mohamed explained, “we work to live…”, and I couldn’t help but to finish his sentence with “…not live to work”. The stark contrast between his culture and my own certainly got me thinking… but this is what travel is about for me, taking a little piece of knowledge, wisdom, or difference and adapting it into my own life back home or sharing it with others so they can do the same.
Here in the villages it is a self sustainable system – locals grow their own produce and trade with other villagers for things they don’t grow or do not have. While we passed through the villages and surrounding areas we saw walnut trees, fruit trees, vegetables patches, and could even smell the fresh herbs.
Lunch with a Local
If there is one thing I will struggle to forget about Morocco, its TAGINE! Being a vegetarian this is the most common dish I was delighted to eat in Morocco – in fact I had it at least once a day and often twice! Luckily I loved it so no complaints here!
Mohamed sat down with us to explain more about the local food grown in the area and educate us on typical Moroccan food. We were served raw nuts as an entree, tagine for our main course, and local fruit to finish on a sweet note – all of which are typical for his daily family lunch, he explained.
It was an incredible opportunity to experience local life in a small Berber village and gain more insight into an alternative way of living.