A short hike in the High Atlas


A Christmas Day hike above Imlil We left haunted Telouet in silence, to rejoin the main road and cross the mighty Tizi-n-Tichka pass before winding our way back down to the flats in search of another route that would lead us to the High Atlas village of Imlil.  As is the way of sat nav shortcuts, we were slightly misled.  The road soon became a single lane track hugging the side of...

The mountain stronghold of Telouet


Telouet, stronghold of the Lords of the Atlas It was time to leave the desert behind. We followed the route of camel caravans as they made their way from palm groves to mountain passes, up the winding valley of the Ounila, past Ait Benhaddou and a string of ruined casbahs, and into the foothills of the Atlas.  Our destination was Telouet, the birthplace of the Glaoui and their base of power...

Into a valley of lost casbahs


Looking back at the route we followed We would visit many other casbahs during our stay in the oasis, but none held the peace of our rooms at Ben Moro. I finally bumped into the owner of our casbah, and asked him how a Spaniard had ended up in such a remote desert place.  “I found it twenty years ago,” he said. “I wanted to restore an old casbah. I’m sure you’ve noticed this valley is full...

Alone in a casbah


Skoura Oasis from the roof above our rooms We found lodgings in the midst of the massive Skoura oasis, some 30km east of Ouarzazate, where we took a suite of rooms in the Kasbah Ben Moro, a mud-walled fortified 18th century dwelling surrounded by date palms that spread to the distant horizon.  We walked among the palm groves, where clean alleys were bordered by hand-patted mud walls, and...

Into the Drâa Valley


Headed into the Drâa Valley It was in the Atlas Mountains — and beyond — where we would find the Glaoui’s most enduring traces, and so we set out in a rented car and ventured into their traditional domain.  I decided to start at the fringes and work backwards, bypassing their stronghold of Telouet and driving straight to the gateway of the desert. Aït Benhaddou The Drâa Valley is the...

The zone of insecurity


T’hami el-Glaoui’s Marrakesh palace The dizzying chaos of the Marrakesh bazaar existed in opposition to the serenity of the riads, those old village houses that present their blank doors to the street.  From the alley, every house looks more or less the same. It’s impossible to imagine the world that exists behind such plain walls: two or more stories of wandering passageways linking...

Lost in the Marrakesh Maze


Lost in the maze of old Marrakesh The souk was an overpowering lungful of two-stroke motorcycle exhaust, human sweat, sizzling food, and the pungency of a tannery that seemed to soak into my clothes and permeate my skin as I navigated passageways clogged with bicycles, donkey carts and tightly-wrapped humans who strode with determination rather than shuffled along. For the newly initiated...


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