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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 11 – Dades Valley

My mother always said she dreamed of living out of a suitcase for a couple weeks. Well, truly, I am living out her dream. We spent two nights in Tineghir and will now move on toward Marrakech (for our last three nights) with a one night stopover in Ouarzazate (pronounced wha' ziz zat). It's pretty intense doing it the OAT way, but everyday is an adventure, which is what we paid for. Today would be no different.

We started out our journey with a visit to the Dades Valley where the mountains look like claymation.

Our first stop was at a Berber home where we had pizza for a morning snack, and, of course, mint tea. 

The man who owns the hotel here invited us to his house first to see how pizza was made and then to eat it. We sat in his beautiful guest room with our shoes off and indulged ourselves. The pizza is made from wheat flour with salt, lamb fat, butter, cilantro, onion, saffron, and green pepper. It's then popped into a flaming oven to cook and served with either honey with thyme or olive oil. I found it to be better with the latter, although the freshly-made bread we had first tasted especially good with the honey/thyme.

Yemani, Brahim, and nephew
Our host, Haj Brahim, (the Haj part of his name indicates that he has been to Mecca) told us about his huge house. He is one of 14 children and his father started and expanded the hotel and the house. Brahim took over the hotel and expanded the business to include renting mini-vans to take people to the gorge up the mountain. Six families currently live in the house and when it is full once a year during the summer, there are 60 people there. He also trades sheep and honey and provides a local transport service for the local people who do not have cars.

The dining room and sitting room are used as guest rooms. They are decorated in modern industrial ceramic (all the designs are the same) with plaster walls with borders that are hand-painted. The long couches that line the wall space are all there, as is typical of Moroccan sitting rooms.

The government is trying to develop the tourist trade and Brahim is way ahead of the curve with his business. However, since the economic decline in Europe, Morocco has lost 50 percent of its tourist trade. Frenchmen used to come to Morocco three or four times a year. Now they only come once a year. Rich Moroccans travel around the country and like to go to beaches on the Mediterranean Sea or spend weekends in the mountains.

Caves are dark holes in upper part of picture
After our morning snack, we climbed into the mini-vans and went up the mountain to get a good look at the gorge below. We stopped in a couple places to see the view and it was spectacular. At one point we passed a herd of goats and later on a flock of sheep. They probably belonged to the people at the bottom of the gorge who live in caves. They are called troglodytes. They will climb the steep hill to pick up a ride to the market, however.

 Here is a view of the gorge with the river in the background and the road in the foreground as it winds around the mountain.

We were on the road in the bus most of today. We are traveling through the corridor between the High Atlas Mountains (on our right) and the Anti-Atlas Mountain (on our left).
Snow-capped High Atlas Mountain in background

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