• AIT BEN HADDOU PART#2 – ENCOUNTER WITH LOUBNA AND HICHAM, ENGAGED IN RURAL AREAS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPPEMENT

    Read Ait Ben Haddou Part#1 - An edible forest part of a sustainable plan for the village’s future Half an hour later, we are comfortably seating in Loubna and Hicham’s house around a cup of coffee, while the cat and the dog are playing their best tricks to take part in the discussion. We have so many questions to ask that we don’t even know where to start! Let’s keep things simple and pick up from the beginning… How did this incredible adventure start? #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-2 { margin: auto; } #gallery-2 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-2 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-2 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Back to the roots « I asked my mother, tell me where I’m from. She answered that first, she would need to know where she was from! » Loubna « Many people have a vision, but very few have the willpower to implement it. Loubna and Hicham are one of those. » Mohamed told us when talking about them for the first time. They’re both airline pilots, a pretty impressive deed in it itself, and have a successful career, but this is far from being the only thing that defines them. For it is actually an opportunity to work on behalf of their vision, to engage their expertise in achieving something good.  Loubna explains that both of them were always involved in charities, principally with orphanages, but that everything changed three years ago when she felt the need to go back to her roots. That meant finding out about Ait Ben Haddou’s history, the village her family is coming from, and to which she is particularly attached even though she never lived there.  « I asked my mother, tell me where I’m from. She answered that first, she would need to know where she was from! » Loubna says. Thus started a pilgrimage in Ait Ben Haddou, first with her mother to meet with the elders, witnesses and carriers of an oral tradition as rich as it is fragile.  So on they went and met with a berber poetess, who recited the traditional poem used to welcome strangers. « It has been an eternity that I was waiting for you, that my salute longed for your salute » recalls Louna. A moment suspended in time, that made her heart sing and her soul shiver… The next day they found themselves immersed in Ait Ben Haddou’s history through the tales of a century-old man, who for an afternoon shared some memories, legends, stories and other anecdotes. An incredibly rich and relatively recent history that neither Loubna nor her mother new anything about. « This is when I realised that there had been a disruption in the oral transmission » explains Loubna.  « I don’t know how these walls can live again, but they must. » Loubna A month later, Loubna goes  back with her father, this time to meet with the ksar walls. The ancient berber fortress, though very touristic, is nevertheless neglected and falling apart. During the visit she was assailed with an intense flow of emotions and thought « I don’t know how these walls can live again, but they must. ». « It was a certainty, an obvious fact » she says.  #gallery-3 { margin: auto; } #gallery-3 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-3 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-3 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article A place rich in history of which the identity is still threatened by mass tourism Ait Ben Haddou is a place steeped in a powerful history, of which the ksar reflects the memory. Built during the 11th century, it is a true berber fortress with defensive walls and corner towers, that was home to a 36 jewish and muslim families community. This inheritance offers a precious glimpse of ancestral building technics in southern Morocco, always tending towards the best possible integration in this very specific environnement, and nevertheless replaced little by little with more « modern » materials.  In 1937, following a severe drought episode, men and women started to leave their fields to find work in the mines, thus provoking the traditional subsistence agriculture’s progressive disappearance.  But the walls remain, somehow, and from the place radiates an energy that inspired numerous artists, like the painter Majorelle who captured his vision of the village in 1929. Starting from 1960, the cinema comes in and Ait Ben Haddou becomes the set for movies like Lawrence d’Arabie, Babel, Gladiator and even the Game of Thrones TV show more recently. #gallery-4 { margin: auto; } #gallery-4 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-4 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-4 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article – Source : https://bit.ly/2KdhJm1 Ait Ben Haddou’s ksar, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, welcomes ever since hundreds of visitors everyday. But so far the way tourism has expended doesn’t impact on local economy, since it is mainly based on a day formula, bringing tourists in buses from Marrakech or Ouarzazate to take them back just a few hours later. How then can they feel what is so special about this place? We had the exact same experience since we find all of this out from Loubna and Hicham when we were there just a few days ago… Lesson learned.  Also, how then can its inhabitants find their place in the village’s present life? It is Loubna’s father, Ahmed Mouna, who will give them back a voice, creating with them the non-profit Ait Aissa named after the oldest tribe who lived in the ksar. His goal, accompanying the villagers towards a sustainable and dignifying development. His means, working on electrification, clean water and care access, and creating a daycare and a school. We Speak Citizen, the birth of a citizen collective « We come from the city, from another world. We couldn’t just come in and say, here, we will give you a model and it will work. » Hicham Loubna and Hicham are convinced of it, the development model must be rethought through and it is the villagers themselves that hold the solutions. « We come from the city, from another world. We couldn’t just come in and say, here, we will give you a model and it will work. » Hicham explains. And one question came up. How could they be supported in achieving what they wanted? For what Loubna and Hicham were trying to do was to offer them an opportunity to think about their own future, and that what makes this project so strong and coherent today! The first step, and almost the biggest according to Hicham, was to lead them to express their yearnings. « We had to take our time, because we rapidly understood that there was a big difference between what they were saying and what they wanted to say » Hicham continues. Education, cultural heritage preservation and promotion, tourism, agriculture… Together, first with the non-profit Ait Aissa’s members and later with the entire village, they elaborated and assembled brick by brick the elements constituting a new basis for their future. « We didn’t bring any vision, we accompanied them to find their own » concludes Loubna.  « It is, somehow, a translation platform between the rural language and the one from the city. For we all speak the citizen language. » Hicham And so the idea of We Speak Citizen was born, a citizen collective allowing to appeal to external know-how (urbanism, agroecology, marketing, etc) to rehabilitate Ait Ben Haddou, a rural area, in a vision setting the past and the future in the present. « It is, somehow, a translation platform between the rural language and the one from the city. For we all speak the citizen language. » says Hicham. #gallery-5 { margin: auto; } #gallery-5 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-5 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-5 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article An admirable view for ambitious goals « We gave ourselves ten years to set a fully functional and sustainable ecosystem up » Loubna But Loubna and Hicham’s vision, through their commitment within the We Speak Citizen collective, goes way further. Because the goal, beyond Ait Ben Haddou’s rehabilitation, is to offer a duplicable concept, to envision a truly fair and sustainable development model for rural areas. Thus, Ait Ben Haddou is kind of an idea incubator, a pilot project that will facilitate new social patterns to emerge, hence giving each territory’s social and cultural heritage new prospects for the future.   « We gave ourselves ten years to set up a fully functional and sustainable ecosystem » Loubna explains us. After that, the ambition is to duplicate the process in other rural areas, in the southeastern Morocco first, then in other places in the country and why not even abroad. « Let’s say that nowadays, it is during our free time that we are airline pilots! » Hicham In their minds it is crystal clear, this project took an essential place in their lives, but also in their life as a couple. It is a commitment they took on with the most serious, aware of what was at stake and of the level of personal investment it would require. « Today it became our life project » confides Loubna, and Hicham to add with humour « Let’s say that nowadays, it is during our free time that we are airline pilots! ». But what pushes them to go on, over all, is the change they witnessed in the people who are now leading the project, that’s to say everyone living in Ait Ben Haddou. For despite the resistance manifested at first, they took on the opportunity that was offered to make their voice matter to shape their own future…   ---------- ---------- ---------- This courageous action from men and women who decided to take their fate and their lives into their own hands is making Loubna and Hicham particularly proud, and is giving them the will to share their experience. Which is a chance for us, because together they gave a whole new dimension to words like commitment, fair and sustainable and we are so grateful to have crossed their path. « Talking about what we do can offer new prospectives to people, can tell them that it is possible » says Loubna. And we also believe that sharing is the key, a chance to highlight beautiful initiatives that give hope for our future…   Contact AIT AISSA Facebook: @Assoaitaissa E-mail: asso.ait.aissa@gmail.com   Contact WE SPEAK CITIZEN Website: http://www.wespeakcitizen.org/ Facebook: @WeSpeakCitizen E-mail: contact@wespeakcitizen.org  

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  • AIT BEN HADDOU PART#1 – AN EDIBLE FOREST PART OF A SUSTAINABLE PLAN FOR THE VILLAGE’S FUTURE

    After our encounter with Mohamed Aglagane and the saharan yellow bee, we’re now heading for Ait Ben Haddou, a village close by the mythic Ouarzazate, nested in the High Atlas foothills. There we have a meeting scheduled with Mohamed’s friend, Loubna, who has the fantastic ambition to create and grow an edible forest, the Wild Seeds Forest… And whose vision and commitment go much further, as we’re about to find out! Rendez-vous in Ait Ben Haddou Arriving in Ait Ben Haddou, we meet with Mohamed and his family who also came to visit the Wild Seeds Forest’s team and learn about their work. Lounbna won’t be able to come today after all, but she’s inviting us to come to Casablanca where she lives with her husband, Hicham. Which is perfect since we already have a meeting there with Mr Yaacoubi, a specialist in agrohomeopathy! So today it’s down to Abdallah and his team to welcome us. They are farmers and members of the local association Ait Aissa and just a few days ago, with Ralph’s help - a German agronomist - they launched the first tests for the plantation of the future forest. We leave our home on wheels behind and jump in with them to go and check it out. Some fifteen minutes later, « it is much faster on foot » says Ralph with a blink, we arrive on site… We have crossed the Mellah oued (which means salty river) and are now two kilometres away from the village in a completely barren area, at least at first sight. Looking closer, we can actually make out the few frail and young trees newly planted and fenced against the goats, that would otherwise eat everything on their way. Abdallah tells us that this is the first experimentation that will allow them to understand the land better, in order to be successful when planting the 40 hectares forest. #gallery-6 { margin: auto; } #gallery-6 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-6 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-6 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-7 { margin: auto; } #gallery-7 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-7 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-7 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-8 { margin: auto; } #gallery-8 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-8 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-8 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou valley – Morocco – Read the article In that regard, they started with some of the best suited species to survive in this environment. They chose them, among other things, for their ability to repair or prepare the soil for other targeted species (like fruit trees), for exemple by absorbing salt. For fresh water is a rarity here, and that running down from the mountains is absorbing salt as it flows (a phenomenon possibly due to the presence of old salt mines upstream). We discovered that very fact recently when using river water to make tea… Very bad idea indeed!! Thus the water available is found deep in the ground - but in limited quantity - and high in the sky. They will focus on the latter, setting up mini dams around the forest in order to collect and store water coming from the rains. In the meantime, each tree foot is covered with mulch, acting as a sponge by retaining moisture and therefore limiting watering to once every two or three weeks! « This is a multiple lifetimes project » Abdallah The challenge is huge, especially because of the rocky and extremely dry soil that makes the work harder. « You cannot imagine how difficult it is to simply dig a hole in these conditions » adds Ralph. But it is worth it, for soon there should be a forest here, able to produce enough fruits and veggies for the hole community to consume and use for a Garden Restaurant project, where people will be ale to seat in the middle of the gardens and forest and eat freshly collected products. « This is a multiple lifetimes project » explains Abdallah, while we’re heading back to the village through his permaculture garden. And in our minds, we already know we will have to come back to see the evolution of the Wild Seeds Forest… #gallery-9 { margin: auto; } #gallery-9 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-9 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-9 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-10 { margin: auto; } #gallery-10 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-10 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-10 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Summit-level meeting for Ait Ben Haddou’s sustainable development plan Astonished by the scale of the project led in Ait Ben Haddou, we now wish to know more about the people who made it possible. A few days later (for we are quite slow on the road), Loubna gives us a rendez-vous in Casablanca, in a coworking space dedicated to support social and solidarity economy projects. We land in the middle of an animated reunion, led by four determined students arguing their presentation point by point in front of Loubna and Hicham, founders of the We Speak Citizen collective, and its treasurer Hassan. The slide projected on the wall speaks of solidarity market, legal structure and governance… To understand, rewinding is needed. Marie, Camille, Peggy and Zakaria are now studying in Rabat and working on social entrepreneurship projects in Africa. For their final year mission and essay,  they were - sort of - hired by We Speak Citizen to evaluate the feasibility (it seems quite ok!) and set up a proper business plan for Ait Ben Haddou’s solidarity and social tourism development plan. #gallery-11 { margin: auto; } #gallery-11 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-11 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-11 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco – Read the article Thus Marie rewinds for us, and comes back to the presentation’s beginning. And we realise that we actually only had a small glimpse of the project in its hole. For it is the entire value chain that has been rethought here, the result of a vision that goes way beyond the « simple » plantation of a food forest… An innovative concept for a homestay experience, the redefinition of each village’s proper identity in the valley, a solidarity market to promote the local production, the creation of a food forest… All of it thought through and supported by the village’s inhabitants, which is this initiative’s true strength!   ---------- ---------- ---------- The meeting goes on for a long time, each point meticulously studied. We are impressed by the objectives held here, and buy the amount of work this incredible team has put in… After sharing a delicious couscous with everybody, Loubna and Hicham invite us to continue the discussion at their place around a coffee. No need to say that we gladly accept! Part#2 coming up soon 🙂   Contact Wild Seeds Forest  Localisation: Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate region, Morocco Website: www.lesgrainessauvages.org E-mail: contact@lesgrainessauvages.org   Contact Ait Aissa Facebook: @Assoaitaissa E-mail: asso.ait.aissa@gmail.com  

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  • ENCOUNTER WITH MOHAMED AGLAGANE, A BEEKEEPER COMMITTED TO THE SAHARAN YELLOW BEE CONSERVATION

    We’re in Skoura, a small town located in the Atlas foothills, at the Sahara gates. Our research on the saharan yellow bee conservation efforts have led us to Sawadi (read the article), an ecolodge run by people who sheltered several control hives. They were the ones to put us in touch Mohamed Aglagane, former President of the Albisher organzation, to which this ambitious project owes its existence.   Mohamed, a desert philosopher We meet Mohamed one evening after school, for in addition to being a beekeeper, he’s also a school teacher. We seat around the traditional mint tea and discover a man full of will and passion. « Saving the yellow bee is a loooooong term job! » he tells us with a sigh. But a hard work that is worth it, so much of a symbol of hope is this bee in an environment only getting tougher and tougher. Keeper of the ancestral knowledge linking Men and Nature, she is also the guardian of the unique biodiversity that makes this arid, but very resourceful area, so rich. « I could’t just sit there and watch, so I started to learn. » Mohamed Mohamed became a beekeeper ten years ago, when he realised that this very special bee was to simply disappear if nothing was done. « I could’t just sit there and watch, so I started to learn » he tells us. With the help and the support of numerous organisation and people*, Mohamed launches the non profit organisation Albisher, in order to support the conservation project. He is also involved in raising five sons, to whom he teaches that you have to reconnect to nature, not go against. His philosophy is full of wisdom and pushed him into exploring the technics of traditional medicine and homeopathy, that he now uses in his job, as well as his everyday life… HOW TO NATURALLY TREAT AGAINST VARROA? « Do you know about the principle of analogy? » he starts. It is one of the fundamental principles of homeopathy, that says that for similar afflictions, you can use the same remedy. For exemple, to treat the varroa, which is kind of the bee lice, one can use Staphysagria, a remedy issued from a plant called the lice plant growing in the Mediterranean area. He also mentions that it is what the elders used to employ, a method Albisher tested when working in Skoura with Homeopaths Without Borders to treat the almond tree aphids… *The Regional Office for Agricultural Valorisation in Ouarzazate, of which Mr Mohamed Benidir is responsible for the livestock services; The Science Faculty of Semlalia in Marrakech, from which Mr Ahmed Ouhammou, a botanist, helped a lot on the project; The Beekeeping Technics Studies Center of Moselle, of which Paul Schweitzer is the ecological laboratory director; The Regional Beekeeping Sanitary Organisms National Federation in France, of which Louis Pister is the administrator and organised and held a lot of beekeeping training cessions for Albisher; The Interprofessional Moroccan Beekeeping Federation, of which Mr M’hammed Aboulal is the President; The French Embassy in Morocco; The French Foundation; And the Algerian Beekeeping Organisations Federation, of which Mahmoud Lakhal is the President. #gallery-12 { margin: auto; } #gallery-12 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-12 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-12 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article He now wishes to share a little experiment with us. He puts a big spoon full of honey in a soup plate, and lightly flattens it out with the back of the spoon. He then adds a little water on top of it, and slowly moves the plate in circles for a few seconds. We’re asked to look into it and to tell him what we observe. To our greatest surprise, the surface of the honey is recreating a perfectly sized honeycomb pattern. We can’t believe what our eyes are telling us. He explains that it is a way to differentiate real honey (from nectar) from fake honey (from sugar), and that it is called the water memory… Ok… We’re all ears. The yellow bee and her challenge for survival In this barren environment located between the High Atlas mountains and the Sahara at the altitude of 1200 metres, the rocky landscapes seem deserted. Yet, they hold a secret. Watching closer, an extraordinary diversity of plants lies here, with an abundance of species specially adapted for these extreme conditions. The vegetation generally stays small, displaying thorns, a limited leaf surface to avoid evapotranspiration, and small flowers with shallow honey wells. #gallery-13 { margin: auto; } #gallery-13 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-13 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-13 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Western Sahara – Morocco – Read the article « You cannot do better than nature, The best you can do is to protect it, just like these bees, so perfectly adapted to their area’s climate. » Mohamed Mohamed says that it is because of this difficult climate that the yellow bee, or Apis mellifera sahariensis, is so remarkable. « You cannot do better than nature. The best you can do is to protect it, just like these bees, so perfectly adapted to their area’s climate » he explains. Her tongue is smaller than the other bees, giving her access to smaller flowers, she can gather pollen up until seven kilometres from her hive, against just three for the others, and she’s also capable of regulating her colony numbers depending on the food availability to ensure survival. A fascinating demonstration of adaptability, topped up by the fact that she has a very gentle behaviour… Making her a perfect companion for beekeepers! #gallery-14 { margin: auto; } #gallery-14 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-14 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-14 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Anti Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Nevertheless, her survival is threatened. Her existence was seriously compromised by the massive spraying of insecticide to fight the destructive cricket plagues and her population, although resistant, has become alarmingly low on numbers.  The bees are here in great numbers, but they are all almost black. « That’s because of the transhumance, and also the beekeepers buying black bees hives to replace the ones lost because of spraying » Mohamed explains. The beekeepers from the north and the west of the country work with black bees (called tellienne bee) because they are today easier to find, and move their hives following the flowerings. The yellow queens will meet with the black drones, and the genetic dilution will start, leading to the disappearance of the first ones. To find trace of the yellow bee, one now has to go deep into the Atlas valleys away from the transhumance areas, where a traditional beekeeping is still practiced. Comparison between a yellow bee and a black bee, also called tellienne bee #gallery-15 { margin: auto; } #gallery-15 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-15 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-15 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Anti Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Anti Atlas – Morocco – Read the article The honey memory « Someone one day said that this village holds the hives in its hands » Mohamed The next day Mohamed takes us into the yellow bee realm, in the heart of the High Atlas mountains. We’re heading to the berber village of Tagragra, where the community troglodyte apiary is still tend to according to ancestral techniques. « Someone one day said that this village holds the hives in its hands » he says when arriving at the foot of the hives, carved directly into the rocky wall a few meters away from the houses. #gallery-16 { margin: auto; } #gallery-16 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-16 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-16 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article The hives, of which the front facing us is sealed, are made of two distinct parts, partially divided by an inside partition. On one side are the queen and the brood, with the exit hole, and on the other side is the equivalent of the top box, where the honey is collected. #gallery-17 { margin: auto; } #gallery-17 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-17 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-17 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article « The work for the yellow bee conservation starts here, it’s tradition helping modernity! » Mohamed, quoting one of his friends, Paul Schweitzer In here, tradition is queen and the bees are an integral part of the family. Quoted in the Coran as good for the health, honey is one of the main ingredients in cooking, as well as in medicine. The women, often in charge of the bees, also learned how to use their venom to heal humans and animals. To treat a cyst on livestock for exemple, they use the bee to sting into the cyst, then empty the abscess that the sting helped to burst, and after that fill the wound up with honey to ensure disinfection and healing… They also use the venom against leishmaniasis, scorpion stings, migraine, eczema, and sore throat. And it also seems that honey is the best cure for haemorrhoids! « The work for the yellow bee conservation starts here, it’s tradition helping modernity! » Mohamed says, quoting one his friends Paul Schweitzer. Because it’s in here, in the depth of the Atlas mountains, that they will find the yellow queens that will repopulate the colonies in the valleys and palm groves such as Skoura’s one. #gallery-18 { margin: auto; } #gallery-18 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-18 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-18 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-19 { margin: auto; } #gallery-19 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-19 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-19 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Tagragra – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article The challenge, rearing yellow queens The process isn’t simple and requires time and attention. To sum up, the idea is to collect yellow queens brood in the remote mountain valleys, where the breed is the purest, and then to use it to raise new yellow queens that will replace the black ones in the targeted hives. Little by little, restraining drastically the presence of black drones, the yellow bees will eventually take over the black ones. But like Mohamed said in the beginning, it’s a long term hard work requiring full involvement. Yet the goal is worth every drop of sweat of it, and that’s why the non profit organisation Albisher, of which he is the spokesman, offers motivated young people beekeeping training courses. And the yellow bee is the perfect candidate, for she also offers, among all her other qualities, a far better efficiency regarding the actual average five kilos… That’s what we like to call a win/win situation! The organisation is by the way always looking for volunteers ready to share their knowledge. So if you know your way around bees and queen rearing, and have some time to offer, get in touch with Mohamed! Back from this expedition in the mountains, we’re invited to share the traditional Friday couscous. Between two couscous balls, he tells us that he has a surprise for us… He contacted two of his friends, involved in a food forest plantation in the desert, and another of his friends, practising homeopathy for plants, so we could meet them! Seeing our stunned faces, he adds with all the restraint and wiseness that defines him « I’m only giving nice flowers to forage upon ». We now know our next destinations! Thank you Mohamed. We came to learn more about the saharan yellow bee, et we now go knowing that we only picked one sand grain up… Contact ALBISHER Localisation: Skoura, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco E-mail: associalbisher@live.fr

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  • SKOURA, A LUXURIOUS BREAK IN AN OASIS OF HAPINESS

    Encounter with Catherine and Philippe at the Sawadi Ecolodge Our friend Ebi being on his way home, it’s now back to the two of us for the rest of the adventure. After spending a few days in the Valley of Roses (read the article), we decide to head to Skoura, where we hope to get in touch with a beekeeper working to save the endangered yellow saharan bee (read the article). Back home before leaving, our internet research had lead us to the Sawadi Ecolodge where Catherine and Philippe, the owners, had sheltered a few yellow bees hives. We had contacted them for more informations, and are now on our way to meet them. #gallery-20 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-20 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article The story of a crazy guy Our GPS leads us through the maze that is this designated World Heritage palm grove, and we finally make it to Sawadi’s gates where Catherine welcomes us with a quite surprised face… Let’s say that we don’t go unnoticed! When we explain who we are and why we came here, she’s visibly thrilled and offers us some tea before taking us into her paradise. The place is stunning, with its rooms spread over four hectares where olive and fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and many many colourful flowers happily grow together. While we’re walking, Catherine explains that they arrived here twelve years ago, on a happy whim. When a friend told her about his crazy brother, who had just bought a farm in a palm grove in the very depths of Morocco, Catherine takes Philippe to meet with this guy, she haven’t seen in forty years… « I like crazy people, they always have an interesting story » she says with a big smile. They fall in love with the place, and keep coming regularly for two years, until that day when their friend Bernard told them he was selling the farm. « We didn’t think, and better not to for it was all but reasonable, we bought it. And it was worth it! » « I like crazy people, they always have an interesting story. » Catherine #gallery-21 { margin: auto; } #gallery-21 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-21 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-21 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-22 { margin: auto; } #gallery-22 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-22 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-22 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article The Sawadi adventure Located in the Skoura palm grove, designated World Heritage and one of the last ones to be inhabited and cultivated, Sawadi is among the many guest houses and luxurious hotels scattered among the palm trees. But Catherine and Philippe wanted something different, and it’s guided by their beliefs that they started to build the Sawadi project. Four hectares dedicated to well-being, permaculture and the conservation of local animal breeds, all with the help of the Sawadi team, fifteen men and women all coming the palm grove and therefore living in a five kilometres range. A luxurious oasis of happiness, where plants, animals and people live in harmony. In here, everything was designed to respect and highlight the territory, up until the garden of which the fresh products are being cooked in the restaurant. Every room was built like the old casbahs, with traditional style and materials like the pisé briques, and then decorated with the most attention. The beautiful mirror pool is lightly treated with salt, and each household product is home made from natural and biodegradable ingredients. The result of these twelve years of work is astonishing, and won them the price of best ecolodge in Morocco in 2014! Our host is no nice, and so temping is the idea of a nice bed and a swim the pool that we give in, and gladly accept a discount on the room’s price! #gallery-23 { margin: auto; } #gallery-23 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-23 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-23 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-24 { margin: auto; } #gallery-24 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-24 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-24 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Paradise for sell Seduced by our vision and our will to get involved in a permaculture project, Catherine eventually drops that even though they are absolutely not in any hurry of doing so, they would like to find a couple of young people, ready to take over and face the challenge, to hand Sawadi to… The place is still full of an immense potential, and we felt the will to really preserve the values that founded it. So to whomever might feel concerned, if you’re looking for a nice little paradise in the heart of Morocco, you should head to Sawadi 😉 #gallery-25 { margin: auto; } #gallery-25 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-25 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-25 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Contact SAWADI Website: http://www.sawadi.ma/en/ Address: BP 28 Douar Tajanate - Skoura - 45500 Morocco Phone: 00212 524 85 23 41 / 00212 666 91 79 29 E-mail: sawadi@sawadi.ma

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  • ATLAS PART 2 – VALLEY HOPPING

    Being back onto the sealed road after this incredible track between Merzouga and Zagora is not so much fun and we decide to take a shortcut to get to the Atlas foothills, north of our current position. #gallery-26 { margin: auto; } #gallery-26 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-26 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-26 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article A tea and maybe more… We find ourselves onto a tricky path once again, carved through the rocky mountains and leading to the many berber villages of the area. At the turning of a bend, we spot men working on making the track accessing the village below better. We wave to say hello and soon reach the village, where the women welcome us displaying the bracelets, key rings and other berber coloured crafting they sell on markets and to tourists passing by. Naïma, a young woman of a rare beauty, invites us nicely but very very firmly to have a cup of tea, and so we follow her, amused by her outspokenness (or rather her eccentricity, for we don’t really understand what she’s saying) and her spontaneity. She leads us trough the village to her house, and we have to help her feed and water her sheep before being invited to step in. #gallery-27 { margin: auto; } #gallery-27 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-27 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-27 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article Once seated on cushions around the table, more women join us, sisters, aunts and cousins who instantly start babbling happily in amazigh, very probably about us judging by the funny looks they openly give us. They keep looking at me and end up wrapping scarfs made of multicoloured beads around my hair. I must look funny because they start laughing and tell Toni to take a picture of me, making it very clear that the picture must be of me, not of them. It is the same all around the country, women really don’t like pictures… #gallery-28 { margin: auto; } #gallery-28 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-28 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-28 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article But their attention is soon diverted from me, when they understand that Toni and I are a couple and that Ebrahim… is single!! From then on, the conversation turns towards him, and Naïma sates that he is hers, for she saw him first. We’ve heard before that sometimes, berber women’s conversations could make even the most liberated westerner blush, and we can now testify of its veracity… This is not a legend, and I can tell you that in the space of a few hours, we did blush and more than once! Because they are just as much explicit with their bodies as they are with their words, that we therefore don’t need to understand to make out what’s being made very clear. And Naïma made very clear that she intended to marry Ebrahim… At the end, it’s Ebi himself who’ begging us to leave, so uncomfortable is now… So we decide get on our way before things run out of control for real, Toni and I laughing while Ebi scowls us to stop. Which will work, just a few hours later… #gallery-29 { margin: auto; } #gallery-29 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-29 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-29 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article The Valley of Roses After this adventure we join the main road that leads to Kelaat M’Gouna, economical, commercial and social center of the area, and gate to the famous Valley of Roses. We’re in the Atlas foothills, at the altitude of 1500 metres, and it one the very few places sheltering the perfect conditions for the Damascus rose to thrive. #gallery-30 { margin: auto; } #gallery-30 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-30 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-30 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kelaat M’Gouna – Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article So we enter the valley, looking for a spot to spend the night. Not an easy thing in a place where crops cover every flat inch by the river. In the Ebi will save the night, spotting an empty space that looks flat enough to make camp on the Google map’s satellite view (very useful!). We try to get there, but the  track is so narrow that we’re thinking about turning back, when a lady comes out and asks us if we’re the customers she’s waiting for. When we explain that we’re looking for a place to camp, she confirms that if we manage to get through, there is indeed a nice place by the river. Next morning we learn that although late of two weeks, the roses harvest have just began throughout the whole valley, and so we venture on foot on the other side of the river to admire the fields… But we soon discover that instead of extensive fields (they do exist but further down, in the plain), here the roses are planted traditionally around the subsistance wheat and alfalfa crops, in protective hedges against the goats among other things. #gallery-31 { margin: auto; } #gallery-31 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-31 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-31 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-32 { margin: auto; } #gallery-32 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-32 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-32 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article It should be pointed out that because the people here don’t have the resources to buy expensive chemicals so treat their fields, they use instead ancestral methods of crop rotation and diversification. Therefore it is the diverse species growing that take care of each other, such as the alfalfa, which roots enriches the soil with the azote naturally present in the air… And it works, for on very little spaces they manage to produce wheat, alfalfa, figues, almonds, olives, peaches, apricots, apples, pomegranates, nuts, dattes, peas and of course the beautiful roses! Historically used for its medicinal and cosmetic properties, the Damascus rose today provides an additional source of revenue, trough the fabrication and exportation of rose water. From the moment the firsts rays of sun activates the flower photosynthesis liberating its fragrance, the women get to work. During four hours, they will harvest the blooming flowers to be distilled, along with the buds about to open to be dried and used to craft perfumed sachets. They then go to the village, where the husband (or the brother) takes over to get the bags weighed and retrieve the money… Hum. Anyway, these few hours wandering around the valley were nice, and we get back on the road after enjoying a nice berber omelette, of which I’ll soon share a personalised version of the recipe! On the oued track We leave the Valley of Roses et are now on our way the Dades gorges. We stop in front of a boulangerie so that Ebrahim can get some bread while Toni, always on the watch, checks the car and the tires… Obviously a great idea for there is an oil leak coming from the breaks! Knowing that the road will only get steeper, we decide to turn back to find a place and try to fix it. Meanwhile, Ebi gets back with a funny look on his face… A kid that was just leaving the boulangerie when he got there tried to sell him the baguettes he had just purchased for three times the normal price!! Oh but you’re right, always good to try 😉 Once settled, we take the hi lift out for the first time. We have no choice but to dismount the wheel to find the source of the leak. As a result, a loosen bolt… Not so bad, but a good reminder to always check the vehicle, specially when driving off road! The next day we’re back on the road with fixed breaks, and take a track that links to the Todra gorges, a little further on the east. Instead of a proper track, we realise that we’re driving in the bed of a dried out oued, that furrows through the volcanic peaks for some twenty kilometres… Well let’s just hope that it doesn’t rain! But the place is really worth it (if you have a 4WD) because the surroundings are astonishing, for a change. We stop for lunch at the foot of an impressive lava flow (yes you read correctly) and take our time to observe the different geological layers exposed by the water through the ages. It out it’s fascinating, even when not knowing anything about it. #gallery-33 { margin: auto; } #gallery-33 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-33 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-33 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-34 { margin: auto; } #gallery-34 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-34 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-34 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Dadès gorges – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-35 { margin: auto; } #gallery-35 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-35 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-35 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Further away, we leave the oued to follow the track up the hill, until arriving on a high plateau that dominates the plain for as far as the eye can see… The main road is just over there, and will now have to find a spot for the night. Not such an easy thing when entering a super touristy place! The gorges are beautiful and quite impressive, but there is only one road and nowhere to escape… So we end up in the only camping that still have space for us, and resign to pay for the night… In the morning, Ebrahim (a photo reporter) tells us that he would like to go meet with people fighting against an aluminium extraction industry draining their wells. We know that it’s a sensitive matter in the country, as although the cause is just, it’s a bad idea for us to go there as French tourists… So we let him go on his own, wishing him good luck and hoping things go well… A few days later a meet him in Skoura. Everything was fine, even though he had to walk to several hours through the mountain not to get arrested at the police check point! #gallery-36 { margin: auto; } #gallery-36 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-36 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-36 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article After this adventure, he announces us that it is time for him to go home. We have spent a month traveling together, and it was a pleasure to share these moments… We say our goodbyes until we meet again somewhere, someday, and then it’s back to the two of us!

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  • INTO THE DESERT, PART 2 – FROM MERZOUGA TO ZAGORA

    A 300 kilometres track through the desert Getting out of Merzouga, instead of staying on the main road, we turn and take the track that will lead us in the heart of the desert, through some incredible landscapes… It really isn’t easy to find words to describe the immensity of the spaces we’re crossing. One minute we have the feeling to be on the moon, and the next we’re on Mars… Finding a tree is a challenge, but we’ll have lunch in the shade after all. A crew of over equipped 4WD drive past us, and we have to jump on the food to keep it safe from the dust! After driving through a dry out lake, an absolute unique experience where the track is no longer more than a line on the map, we have to navigate visually to find our way. The sand, covering everything, just gets deeper and deeper… But we’re not ready to deflate the tires and that just makes it more and more complicated when it could easily be done… Anyway, we’re lucky on this one because at this moment we come across the crew of 4WD that passed us earlier, and they stop to tell us that further is no good, and that they even had to use the winch to get one the vehicles out. Seeing their equipment (and the light weight of their cars compared to ours), we’re thinking that if they couldn’t do it, there is no chance we can and so we turn back and follow them to the closest village. #gallery-37 { margin: auto; } #gallery-37 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-37 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-37 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article We were indeed very lucky. Because if we have had to continue for this long before getting stuck where they did, we wouldn’t have had enough petrol to turn back… That’s another lesson learned, and we’re simply grateful for our scouts! Back to the village, we get our maps and GPS out to try and find some other way around. Well, that’s to say one the crew’s driver asks us what GPS we’re using to navigate, and although we have the Garmin, we’re simply using the app maps.me and that seems to be very funny in his eyes… Anyway it is a very good app, and we do have all the tracks in there, even the way around! So when the people of the village asks us a lot of money to show us the way, we decide to turn that offer down and take our chance on our own. By the time we’re ready to leave, a French couple in a fifth 4WD joins us, and are more than happy to follow everyone and not be on their own for this tricky part (well just like us actually!). We all finally get on our way, and have to follow the dry out river bed on several kilometres before being able to cross and get on the other side to make our way around the sandiest part. There surely is less sand than on the track, but it still quite a technical bit and our first real sand experience! #gallery-38 { margin: auto; } #gallery-38 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-38 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-38 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-39 { margin: auto; } #gallery-39 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-39 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-39 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-40 { margin: auto; } #gallery-40 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-40 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-40 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Once out and back on the track, one the guys from the crew throws us a fresh beer to celebrate and they all get going. We stay back with Mahbouba and Olivier, the French couple, and decide to drive with them for a while, as we’re going in the same direction anyway. We discover ourselves a common passion for the search of special rocks and fossils, indeed we can spend hours bent in two scanning the ground… Later on, we don’t resist and make a stop in a kind of hotel, in the middle of an absolute nowhere, baring the name of Dinosaur KemKem. The owner welcomes us with a smile threatening to split his face in two, so large is his smile… A shared pleasure, for sure, specially when the giant tajine he’s prepared for us comes in! In the evening, a sand storm comes in, again, as we’re already inside the tent falling asleep. We have to pack the bottom part in emergency (the part where Ebi is sleeping in) once more… We had hopes that the walls of the hotel would protect us, but obviously nothing stops the desert winds!! The next day we manage to get to Zagora, with a lot of stars in our eyes… Being back on the sealed road is like a punishment after such an adventure, and our co-travelers, of the same mind, go their way for some new ones while we drive along the Drâa valley to meet the Atlas Mountains once again… #gallery-41 { margin: auto; } #gallery-41 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-41 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-41 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-42 { margin: auto; } #gallery-42 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-42 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-42 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article

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  • INTO THE DESERT, PART 1 – FROM ERRACHIDIA TO MERZOUGA

    Along the Ziz Valley After our wild ride through the cedar forest, we get back on the road in a more and more arid and rocky surrounding. We’re entering the realm of the desert and I shed my first tears (yes there will be others!) in front of this landscape that gives all its meaning to the word astonishing. The soil layers displayed gives us an insight of the forces at stake here, and the topography draws this place’s history. Enjoying a coffee break by the Ziz River, that we’ll be driving along for a hundred kilometres, I gather myself together and take this picture of this shepherd and his donkey warming themselves in the morning sun… #gallery-43 { margin: auto; } #gallery-43 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-43 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-43 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article We’re now following the canyon sheltering the river that feeds the El Hassan Addakhil dam reservoir, appearing in front of us like a turquoise mirage in the middle of nothing. We decide to turn around and take a path that goes down the canyon, close by the river. After a few sinuous kilometres, just before the dam, the path suddenly ends and we park the car to go check on foot. Just a few meters away, by the water, stands an animal that we don’t recognise straight away. For a long time, we stay still, observing with wide eyes… What is it? A dog? Or maybe a jackal? We get our answer when it jumps into the water when spotting us. The otter turns a somersault and splashes water around before slowly swimming away, while I enrage not to have had my camera with me! Enquiring on the matter, we learn that people here call them dam dogs, and that it is a very rare thing to spot one. Threatened by the value of their fur and even their meat, they also need a very good water quality and their living space decreases as ours expends. Delighted by this rare and unexpected encounter, we decide to camp on the dry river banks, and take out our spotting scope in case the otter would like to make an other appearance. We set up the camp and light a fire to cook… No otter on sight, but we enjoy the so far quiet night to practise with night photography. #gallery-44 { margin: auto; } #gallery-44 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-44 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-44 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article We had barely put the equipment away when the wind rose. In less time required to read this line, we’re packing the tent for the strong gusts filled with dust threaten to rip everything apart. We don’t know it yet, but we’ll acquire lots of training in emergency packing in the weeks to come… Looking back, it seems like a welcome gift from the desert 😉 So it is the first time we have to sleep in our hiking tent since New Zealand. And to think we almost didn’t take it because of the space it takes… But we are now glad we did, for our roof tent is obviously no so wind friendly! #gallery-45 { margin: auto; } #gallery-45 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-45 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-45 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article Next morning, we decide to move and find another spot, because the water is accessible only through the muddy banks. We find the perfect spot, upstream, but on the other side of the river… It doesn’t look too deep, but we go on foot first, just to make sure we know where to put the wheels. But the passage is quite easy (compare to what awaits us further south!) and we’ll spend two days fully enjoying this special place! #gallery-46 { margin: auto; } #gallery-46 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-46 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-46 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-47 { margin: auto; } #gallery-47 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-47 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-47 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-48 { margin: auto; } #gallery-48 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-48 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-48 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article But we still haven’t seen anything, and getting back on the road is a real treat. The landscape is changing at a crazy pace, and we spend our days being amazed with the views… We had quite a similar feeling in NZ, each time we were driving. Maybe being at the desert gates is adding to the general excitement, because we’re all feeling like fully charged batteries when jumping in the car. After some food shopping, we pass the lake and drive to find the Ziz valley again. While our eyes only see a vast rocky plain, the valley suddenly appears at the bottom of a large canyon. Like a river  furrowing between the cliffs, the lush green oasis lines the bottom of the valley. A vision all the more impressive that we’re standing right at the edge of the cliff, and the threatening sky and strong winds are adding a dramatic touch to this moment. We decide not to tempt fate and find a camp here, hoping the cliffs will provide some shelter… We spend the next day wandering in the oasis, et discover a whole world full of life and colours. Water is everywhere, coming from the river to feed the hundreds of small canals irrigating the whole valley. Birds are singing loudly to welcome spring and are feasting from the thousands insects flying all around. Alfalfa alternate with wheat fields sprinkled with red poppies, and the fig, palm, and olive trees provide a shadow maintaining constant levels of humidity throughout the entire oasis. Some turtles jump from the rock where they were sunbathing to hide in the water when seeing us, and it is hard not to step on the many many frogs for they are so well camouflaged! #gallery-49 { margin: auto; } #gallery-49 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-49 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-49 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-50 { margin: auto; } #gallery-50 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-50 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-50 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-51 { margin: auto; } #gallery-51 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-51 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-51 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-52 { margin: auto; } #gallery-52 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-52 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-52 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-53 { margin: auto; } #gallery-53 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-53 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-53 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article Merzouga and its sand dunes After enjoying the beauties of the oasis, we’re getting in sight of Merzouga and her famous sand dunes. Hard to describe the feeling you have when getting at the foot of these sand giants… Probably a mix between amazement and apprehension facing the power of the place! We park the car at the bottom of one of the highest dunes and wait for the sun to go down to climb up there and enjoy the view. Ebi decides to go on an expedition to try to sleep inside one the many camps at the heart of the dunes, so we wish him luck and watch him go. Sitting in the sand, filled with serenity, we’re admiring the sunset’s changing colours when the sound of an engine roaring alerts us. Two motorbikes are actually trying to climb on our dune, but the slope is so steep that we wonder if they’re not about to flip over. They somehow manage to get at the top and drive down on the other side. As we’re making our way back down too, we’re now facing five 4WD trying to make the climb… The first one will indeed get there, but the four remaining will have to finish on foot!   #gallery-54 { margin: auto; } #gallery-54 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-54 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-54 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Merzouga dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-55 { margin: auto; } #gallery-55 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-55 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-55 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Merzouga dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article It is now way past time we find a spot for the night, and we almost get stuck in the sand just a few meters away from the track… So it’s not a legend after all! You really have to deflate you tires if you’re to drive in the sand! We store that precious information in a corner of our brain and settle for a tree right by a mini dune. We did believe that in case we were to face a windy night, we would be sort of sheltered… Well this isn’t exactly what happened. We’re enjoying a nice moment watching this incredible landscape, when we spot the full moon, red a huuuuuuge, rising above the dunes… That instant is so beautiful it could be a postcard when suddenly the moon simply disappears. I don’t understand right away what’s going on, and I’m still wondering if my brain’s sending me the right information when a strong gust filled with sand storms on us, then another, and another. We’re in the middle of a crazy sand storm, and now we can’t see anything ten meters away. We decide to set our « storm » tent up again before it’s too dark (it will be even worse with flash lights) and have to attach it to car so it won’t blow away while we eat a very simple a rapid dinner in the car… We’ll manage to sleep somehow, hoping the tent will still stand in the morning. When we wake up, everything is calm and nice again but we realise that this tent is not exactly sand proof… Our feet are indeed buried under a dune! We’re having a breakfast, waiting for Ebi when he comes back all smiling and victorious. Taking a look at the map, we think it could be nice to join Zagora through the track running close to the Algerian border… We’re about to drive what is, still today, one the most beautiful tracks we’ve driven since we left!   #gallery-56 { margin: auto; } #gallery-56 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-56 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-56 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Merzouga sand dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article The Merzouga dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article

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  • ATLAS PART 1 – INTO BERBER COUNTRY

    An encounter with Mohamed and his family, shepherds in the Mediterranean Atlas Change of scenery  After this city episode in Meknes and Fes we have only one desire, getting back into the wild! Just south of we’re is the Middle Atlas, also called Mediterranean Atlas, and that’s where we’re heading. We leave the lush hills behind us to enter the mountain realm, and the more we climb in altitude, the colder and cloudier it gets. Driving through the village of Ifrane, we can see that the ground is covered in white… Surely this can’t be snow?? We get out of the car to find out and discover that it is hail stones, the size of a peanut. Obviously the storm is not far, but we have no idea where it’s heading! Earlier we spotted a lake on the map in the Khenifra National Park, and we head towards it to make our camp for the night, in a scenery feeling a lot like what we imagine Mongolian steps to look like. On the road we discover more and more tiny villages bearing the berber symbol, settled in glades and plateaux covered in short grass in the middle of a dense cedar forest, where it is rare, but not impossible to sight some wolves. #gallery-57 { margin: auto; } #gallery-57 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-57 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-57 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ifrane – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article When the universe gives you a sign As the day goes by, the temperature drops but we’re still quite far away from our destination. At some point Toni pulls the car on the side of the road, saying that he doesn’t know why, but he just had a feeling that we should stop here and check out what’s on the other side of the hill. The top isn’t far and we climb the slippery slope to discover, to our biggest surprise… A big nothing! You can’t see anything through the thick mist appart from the the slope on the other side. It’s only when we turned back to climb down, laughing out loud, that we notice the reason why, maybe, Toni was hinted to stop here… A feminine silhouette, surrounded with goats and wrapped up in a thick coat, is climbing down the hill in front of us and comes to meet us. As we didn’t see any village around, we’re a little surprised to find her here, in the middle of almost nowhere, but she only seems super happy to see us. Her name is Ijja and she invites us, with lots of gestures, to follow her up the hill she just came from. We gladly accept, touched by her fond smile and curious to find out where she’s taking us. The mud and the kilos accumulate under our shoes while Ebrahim and I walk with her, as Toni struggles to follow with the car skidding on the slippery ground. As we get to the top we discover a small gathering of houses, nested in a tiny depression out of sight from the road and surrounded with a protective fence made of brushwood. Ijja introduces us to Mohamed, her husband, who in turn introduces us to his second wife (yes exactly) Melila, their 3 year old daughter Maïma strapped in her mother’s back, and his step mother (Melila’s mom) Fathma. #gallery-58 { margin: auto; } #gallery-58 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-58 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-58 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article A tea by the fire place We enter the space guarded by the fence (and the dogs, attached during the day but freed at night) and make our way towards one of the houses, made of wooden logs and several layers of plastic canvas. We take off our very muddy shoes and bow the head to step inside. A cat is comfortably installed by the fire place, settled in the middle of the room and delivering such a nice heat that I suddenly realise how cold it is outside! In the corner, the bare ground has been shaped to delimit the area where water is used and send it straight outside trough an evacuation. Mohamed invites us to sit down on the thick wooden blankets arranged around the fire place, while his wives prepare the tea. It is the first time we meet with a polygamist family, and I have to admit that it feels a little strange… Since that moment, we learned that it is still practiced in Morocco, though a lot less from the moment women got to have a say in the matter! Mohamed must feel our discomfort (not exactly the right word for we don’t feel uncomfortable) because he starts to explain us -or at least we understand- that Ijja is his first wife, that their kids are grown up and gone to the city, and he then married Melila, who came with a mother. It’s the first time we hear the language he speaks, and he tells us it’s the berber language called Amazigh. Before tea is ready, Melila brings an aiguière and a basin, allowing us to wash our hands in turns without having to move. The ritual is observed before and after each meal or snack (people just love to eat) for you traditionally eat with your right hand. We then enjoy the mint tea with fresh bred, olive oil, homemade butter and olives while the discussion goes wild despite the language barrier. Preparing the famous couscous Ijja announce that we’re going to have a couscous tonight, usually prepared on Fridays, a holy day here. As it is not Friday, we understand that they are honouring us and one of the chickens is sacrificed for the occasion. No way to avoid it, nor to wallow the chicken even though I’m so fond of the idea… But before getting started the women get in their mind to cover my hair with a scarf they tie on my head, while the men are leaving in another room. The few next hours are dedicated to the couscous preparation, and more specifically the semolina. In my recipe, it only take about 10 minutes and it’s super simple. But here it is all about art, and you have to delicately massage the grains between times of steam cooking until you get the prefect texture. Melila regularly checks up on me to make sure I’m doing good and seems happy 😉 Between two massaging sequences, I flee to go see what the men are up to, and find them in a very cold room, buried under blankets. Why come here when it’s so warm in the other room? Maybe because we’re preparing food? Or men just like to have « men conversations »? The mystery remains, but nevertheless we all enjoy the food together, in a way that is new to us: first came the chicken with an olive sauce and some bred, and after that came the semolina with the veggies and some warm and salty milk poured over the dish last minute. The combination is a little surprising in the beginning, but the milk gives the whole dish a nice smoothness and the result is quite good. #gallery-59 { margin: auto; } #gallery-59 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-59 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-59 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article A night under the blankets  As Mohamed feeds his little girl with mouthful couscous boulettes, the conversations goes on aided with a child book filled with images, really handful tool to communicate. He confirms that there is indeed wolves in the forest, and that the dogs are here to keep the camp safe. We are warned to be extra careful when going outside on our own, which he doesn’t let us do anyway! And noway we can find our route in the dark, so we’re warmly invited to stay over for the night. Melila made some beds for us in the cold room, and was about to go get the sleeping bags when I noticed we wouldn’t need it… A mountain of thick and heavy woollen blankets awaits us, and we slid ourselves inside before falling in a deep sleep, still under the weight of the blankets. At dawn, we wake to the sound of the ships loudly screaming their hunger for the world to know! We get out of the room and find ourselves plunged in the middle of the morning ritual. Take the goats out, feed the hungry ships, milk the cow, fill the troughs and the kitchen barrel… There is plenty of work to do before breakfast, that we enjoy fervently while Mohamed is getting a bag ready. He makes us understand that he wants come with us so we can drop him in the city of Mrit, some forty kilometres away. Before leaving we all gather to make some pictures, and we use our little printer to print some as a souvenir. Mohamed seems happy to go with us, but Ijja and Melila look quite sad to see us leave… Despite the shortness of the time spent together, it’s not easy to say goodbye but the idea of seeing them again someday softens the moment and we finally get on the road, with Mohamed in passenger seat and me behind, huddled by the fridge (laughs). Even though Mrit wasn’t on our route, we’re really happy to spend this moment with him. He tells us about his dream to come live in France one day, and we couldn’t find it in ourselves to explain that his life wouldn’t be any better, on the contrary… Instead, it’s our turn to offer him to come visit us, if he was ever around. By the look on his face, we understand that this really means a lot to him… #gallery-60 { margin: auto; } #gallery-60 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-60 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-60 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Auguelmam Zigza Lake – Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-61 { margin: auto; } #gallery-61 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-61 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-61 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Race against the rain in the cedar forest After dropping Mohamed in Mrit, we get on with our journey towards the Auguelmam Zigza lake, our initial destination. At the end of a track roaming through the cedars, we reach a plateau in the middle of which, leaning against the forest line is the lake. Some macaques are here and seem to be ruling the place. In front of the few berber tents set up on the shores overlooking the lake are slowly stewing tajines, appearing to insistently calling our names somehow… We too easily yield to temptation and take a sit while having a look to the map. We finally choose a track running through the forest to reach the road going east, on the other side of the mountains. As we enter the track, we run into a group of bikers turning back because of the rocks making the way too difficult for a motorbike. We keep on going anyway and the more we drive, the less we’re sure of getting through to the end. The track is roughly carved on the mountain side and as the rain begins the visibility lessens, but the 4WD does the job and we slowly make our way. When the mist arises, the views get mystical. The bottom of the valley disappears and the cedars stretching majestically up seem to defy the sky, while we navigate between earth and and sky at who knows what altitude. A multitude of sinuous streams formed with the rain runs under the trees on the ground, covered with lush green grass. We can see a perfect camping spot there, but the rain redoubles it’s efforts to keep us going… Apparently it should be better on the other side…. We drive until late to take over the rain, and leave the mountains behind us, along with the clouds still gathering upon it. We can see the rain falling in there, but our night will be dry and we’ll even get to have breakfast under the sun! #gallery-62 { margin: auto; } #gallery-62 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-62 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-62 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-63 { margin: auto; } #gallery-63 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-63 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-63 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ #gallery-64 { margin: auto; } #gallery-64 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-64 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-64 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Auguelmam Zigza Lake – Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article

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  • THE RIF AREA – A COLOURFUL ROAD

    A vertiginous hike in the Talassemtane National Park The next day, after tasting our first cumin omelette (recipe that we instantly adopted), we drive to the mountains et stop by Akchour, in the Talassemtane National Park. The campsite is a nice place with facilities by the beautiful river, et the guy working there offers to cook a tajine for us, the very first one! We’re starving, but the time passing teaches us that a good tajine is cooked for what appears to be a looooong time!! But it’s definitely worth it and we devour it in just a few minutes. The valley here is full of possibilities for hiking lovers, and we choose to head for the Devil’s Bridge, a natural arch linking two mountains above the canyon which you access making your way alongside the cliffs. A nice and welcomed, but vertiginous, work out after those few days! #gallery-65 { margin: auto; } #gallery-65 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-65 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-65 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Talassemtane National Park – Morocco – See the article #gallery-66 { margin: auto; } #gallery-66 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-66 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-66 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Devil’s Bridge, Talassemtane National Park – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen, also called the Blue City We then drive to Chefchaouen, a small town built on the mountainside also called the Blue City. We leave the car on a parking lot overviewing the city, and engulf ourselves in the maze of alleys, each one more colourful, charming and steep than the other one. The place is a living postcard. The iconic blue is everywhere, its shade varying from a pastel blue to a deep indigo, enhanced by the white and the natural shades of stone. The small shops are filled with bags full of raw pigments of all colours, spices, carpets, jewellery and I lead, with success, my first battle against a deplorable and recurrent shopping fever! By the time we get back to the car (that is to say by the time we climb back all the alleys we so easily went down) it’s already late and we decide to stay at the nearest campsite, on the edge of the town. We will there meet Juan and his friend, two Americans traveling also with a land cruiser. He started his journey in New York, traveling the continent till Ushuaia where we had his vehicle shipped al the way to South Africa. He is there met by his friend, and together they will cross all eastern Africa to reach Djibouti. They came in Morocco through Italy and should now make there way north and East, until Vietnam, and then Australia and back to New York…. Quite an adventure we must say! It leaves us full of dreams of crossing the whole continent and then the whole world 😉 #gallery-67 { margin: auto; } #gallery-67 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-67 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-67 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco Chefchaouen – Morocco Chefchaouen – Morocco Meeting with Aziz, Hurya and their three kids On the road that will lead us to Meknes, the lush green hills, covered in flowers and olive trees and full of life, flashes before our amazed eyes. Spring is definitely a special time to be in Morocco, and we enjoy our luck to be here. After a curve appears what seems to be a small village, so well blended in the landscape with its low ceilings covered in grass and flowers that we can barely see it. A unique palm tree shows its head trough one of the houses, and we glimpse children playing around. We stop the car and get out to ask if we could set the camp somewhere around… As the women shyly hide from us in the shades, the kids take us to Aziz, who happens to live in the palm tree house. He welcomes us with his immense smile and invites us to settle in his own backyard, where his two donkeys are now having a visibly very relaxing nap in the sun… We follow him into the house built with pisé, the traditional brick of dirt and hay straw, where we meet Hurya, his wife and their kids, Myriam (3) and Adam (7). The rooms are displayed around the big palm tree, by the way the only one of the valley, that arises through the roof made of bambou, canvas and dirt. A nice looking cow lives in the first room, facing the kitchen where Hurya is now preparing the traditional tea while we settle in the living room. Aziz knowing a few words in French and Ebi babbling some arabic, we manage altogether to communicate with Aziz, with lots of gesturing and laughs. Hurya brings the tea (mint tea of course) accompanied with olives, bred, fresh butter, olive oil and a glass of leben, a sort of deliciously creamy whey. We understand that Aziz owns fields of olive trees (here in Morocco they’re sponsored by the government by 70%) and that he works occasionally with a small local mint distillery during august. He shows us his beehives, hidden under some hay straw in the backyard, and takes us for a ride in his car, that he always parks on a slope so he can start it. Ebi sitting in the front, Toni and I get in the back in the trunk. Aziz wants to show us his valley and regularly stops to let us admire the landscape. Then we head for the village where we stop for a coffee. Curious, his friends joyfully join us while the kids pose for me to photograph them. A few expressos later, we meet Issa, Aziz’s oldest son coming back from school, and head home. We rapidly set our camp under some amused looks from the family, and invite them for a coffee of our own. When wanting to proudly show Aziz the multiple functionalities of our coach, we discover that our annex battery’s dead… The few kilometres since Tarifa weren’t enough to recharge it! At nightfall the carpets cautiously folded and stored during the day take place in the living room, where we share a meal lighted by a lamp mounted directly on the gaz bottle. Even if we certainly don’t understand everything, the conversation lasts until late at night and we share a really nice time before joining our four-legged roommates 😉   When we woke up Hurya had prepared a very nice and warm corn galette (the best we’ve had so far), deliciously crunchy and melty at the same time. After some warm goodbyes, we dropped Aziz at the next city and had to promise to come back to them if we ever were in the area again… After all who knows? A travel is always full of surprises! #gallery-68 { margin: auto; } #gallery-68 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-68 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-68 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Chez Aziz et sa famille, région de Mikkes – Maroc At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Chez Aziz et sa famille, région de Mikkes – Maroc – See the article Chez Aziz et sa famille, région de Mikkes – Maroc – See the article Mikkes’ cafe terrace – Morocco – See the article Mikkes – Morocco – See the article Mikkes’ cafe terrace – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article

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  • TANGER MED – AN UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE

    Surprise!  After those few days of forced rest (we obviously complained a lot but hey… we have to adapt!), we finally take the ferry and cross the strait. Sunny and windy, so far so good. We take the car out of the boat and present ourselves to customs. Now that’s when things when bad… Well they did, 2 hours later, when a custom officier came to check us… His first question was very clear « Do you have a drone? ». Well… hum… hhh… yes…? Let’s say that we didn’t see it coming… That question was really not expected! The custom officer, thrilled, ask Toni to give it to him and to follow him. And just like that, we learned that importing a drone in Morocco is completely forbidden. We’re stunned, by the consequences as well as our stupidity. Not that we have had a million opportunities to check on internet… They kindly inform us that it is no problem, that we can buy one for a very cheap price, right here in Morocco… Well, what a good news really!! Strictly applying the rules, the custom officiers call the judiciary police in, and proudly take pictures of our drone with their phones while waiting for them. They arrive half an hour later, and ask to follow them with our vehicle to their offices. They will keep Toni for another two and a half hours before releasing him, the sentence clear but also giving us a way out: we have 45 days to cross back to Spain, with our drone, or it’s a gift for the government.   First night It is now past 10PM, and it is nearly impossible to find a campsite in the dark. We land in the city of Fnideq, already bitter and looking for a hotel to spend the night. We’re welcomed in by some teenagers looking for trouble and throwing eggs on the car… What a start!! We finally find a place and eat a rapid dinner before going in the room we share with Ebrahim. I throw myself in the shower only to discover that the cleaning team has forgotten the bathroom… And that it really is not clean. Toni goes down to ask if there might be another available room, but he faces a hard no, and that we can leave if we’re not happy with the one we have. Let me tell you that after what we’d been through, it didn’t take him for than 5 minutes to come back with the keys of not one, but two other rooms!! At last, something good… We finally fall asleep, furious and angry, mostly with ourselves.   First day We spend the next morning considering our possibilities: turn around and change our plans to visit Europe (oh yes, angry as we were, we really did consider), or continue without the drone? We finally take the only decision making sense. Toni will cross back, on foot, to ship the drone back to France from Gibraltar, before taking the boat back to Morocco. We enjoy the rest of day wondering around, and looking for a campsite for the night. Not so easy in this area where a lot of people try to cross illegally at night. Military forces, asked by Europe to guard the frontier, are everywhere and we need to negotiate to be allowed to spend the night. They finally accept and assign an officer, who will spend the night circling around us with his rifle on and his dog to keep us safe… A little strange but everything went well.   The waiting marathon In the morning, we head to the customs at 8am with a firm intention to get this done quickly. But from there it will take Toni 16 hours (without eating and without even a book) to manage to get the drone back, take the boat on foot (the fact that entered the country with a vehicle really didn’t help), find a post office and ship the drone back, and finally catch the last boat to come back… Meanwhile, Toni having signed a paper stating that no one would use the vehicle in his absence, Ebi and I are assigned to stay on the parking lot, not really what we had planned! But we have no choice and end up making friends with the security officer posted here. His smile and genuine fondness is contagious and soon we feel a lot better! At night fall, he shares his dinner with us, carefully prepared and packed by his wife. Bean soup with some bread, fresh fruit juice and fruits for desert… It is way past 11PM when Toni finally comes back. Tired, we drive south and stop in the first hotel we find. I must look completely desperate when asking for a room, because the manager laughed telling me that of course, we can have a room… Better than that, we can have a suite for the same price! Checking the time on the phone, it’s past midnight… It indeed is a new day, and it starts pretty well! #gallery-69 { margin: auto; } #gallery-69 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-69 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-69 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Belyounech – Morocco – See the article Belyounech beach – Morocco – See the article Oued Alian Beach – Morocco – See the article Oued El Marsa Beach – Morocco – See the article Oued El Marsa – Morocco – See the article

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