We had booked a private tour through Trip Advisor called 4x4camel tour a week before we headed out to Marrakech.
Aziz picked us up at 9am and we got into his 4×4 jeep. On our way to the Atlas Mountains he told us about Berbers and how they are indigenous people and have three tribes the badouin, nomads and badoua. He was a nomad which means they tend herds and travel 3 times a year. Each tribe lives in a different part of the valley, which are three in total. These people didn’t use to mix but in recent years due to technology and school they are a lot more open minded.
In the car
Our first stop was the camels. It wasn’t in the most scenic of places but the camels were cute. There was a baby one. We rode on the camels for 20 mins and at the top of the hill we had a pretty view of the first valley and the mountain.
Baby camel licking the car, yum yum.
Our camels were so cute!
We then drove further in, stopping to take many pictures. It was extremely picturesque.
Our first stop was a Berber market where all the locals got everything they needed.
We stopped off at a local Berber Market
The locals come here to get their teeth checked by their hairdresser
You can buy lots of fresh produce at the market
Just one of the picturesque villages we passed
We stopped at a cafe which had it’s table and chairs on top of a waterfall, to get to the cafe we had to walk across a rickety bridge which swayed and had holes in. Health and safety is not a thing over here.
Would be awesome in summer when it’s hot and you can dip your feet in the water on top of the waterfall.
We are told that in the summer it is really popular to have tea and food whilst dipping your feet in the river. This explains the many cafés which were situated in the river bed. In morocco they don’t get much consistent rain, they generally have a big downpour which lasts a week during summer. However, this year there has already been a flash flood and the river bed swelled to such an amount that it destroyed many buildings and took 6 lives. During the drive we could see this destruction and Aziz has little sympathy and blames the people for building so close to the river.
We then stop off at an Argan oil factory where there are divorced or single women who hand grind and de-shell the seeds of the fruit. It is freezing cold and these women are just sat in this dark room grinding away.. I wasn’t sure if this was set up for tourists or for reals… In the shop I bought some oil for my hair and some face cream, it was bloody expensive and I definitely got caught up in the experience but the face cream is to die for. Again, there was a wonderful view from the top of the shop and we took many pictures.
The local women grinding the nut
View from the roof of the Argan oil factory
We started to head into the second valley where we saw many cute kids who were expecting something from us. Luckily, we had brought sweets for them and they shared them of between themselves. I think it is the norm for tourist to bring little gifts for the kids, and they are now expecting to receive something if a tourist passes.
There were many villages up within the mountains. As they were all made using the mud of the mountain they blended in and added to the scenery rather than destroy it. There were a few “famous” villages, the first was called Brad Pitt village as during the filming of Babel they used two boys from that particular village. Brad then paid for the village to have electricity supplied. This was the first village to have electricity, the rest soon followed and they all invested in satellite tv. Aziz explains this has made the kids want to move on from the village to explore the places they see on the tv and now many villages have become home for just older women and children.
Brad Pitt Village
The second “famous” village is the incestuous disabled village. It is a whole village stemmed from a single family, so they have kept the bloodline pure except now they are facing many mental illness and physical disabilities in their children. The fact that this village is rather large is surprising that they are still marrying within family.
The third village is called the Oxford village. An English woman from Oxford met her husband in Marrakech and decided to leave her western world away and join the simple Berber life. He was an English teacher and she a midwife. She is now the midwife of all the surrounding villages, Aziz jokes that she must be extremely busy as everyone here has many kids due to boredom and also to cover pension. Similar to the Eastern family, where you will find 3 generations in one home and as there is no pension the elderly rely on their children to support them. This will probably go on and on until they move out of the village life. We are also told that for marriage, they are always arranged for when the woman becomes 18, which is a step up from the 11 it use to be. The men can also marry more than one woman, but now has to ask his wife if she is ok with it. I wondered what woman would be ok with it but Aziz mentioned infertile women, which makes some sense pension wise. The Oxford woman has fully integrated into the lifestyle and converted to Muslim calls herself Fatima and can speak the Berber dialect of her village.
There are around 16 different dialects but if we can grasp 5 we would be able to understand all. The Berber people are also relatively new to Islam but it is now the majority religion of the area.
Once we pass oxford village, we stop off for lunch. There is a local woman who let’s us into her house and we sit on the rooftop for food. It is a basic house with little materials but with it’s own hammam. There is a beautiful view and it’s really calming. For lunch we start with vegetable soup, then chicken tagine with vegetable couscous, then fresh oranges for dessert. It’s delicious and filling. It was a beautiful insight into Berber life.
Tagine cooking away
Super cute outdoor setting
Lunch with a view