Into the Atlas Mountains, Discover Morocco Tour Day 2The walls are so thick, we barely heard the call to prayer at 5:40 am. We were planning to get up at 6:00 am anyway, eat breakfast at 7:00, depart at 7:45. We have a long day ahead of us, driving over the and through the Atlas mountains.
This morning Fazia and Fatima have baked us more bread and melaqui, a small thin pancake (crepe). There was butter, apricot jam, honey with arragone oil, and fig jam along with both tea and coffee.
We said farewell and thank you to our hosts. We gave Muhammed and his family a California magnet and invited them to visit us if they come to California to visit family.
Here are a few facts Ali shared with us as we traveled away from the Berber Village:
Morocco is a monarchy, with a 2 house parliament and prime minister. It is the most liberal of all Muslim countries and the only one not invaded by the Ottoman Turks. It is the last Arab Muslim country to see the sunset.
Land of variety and contrast
Morocco is the land of tall mountains, Atlas mountains with ski resorts. It is also the land of deserts and camels. It is the second most varied country in the world, Turkey is first. Morocco is in the center of the world. There is another mountain range called the Rif mountains along th Mediterranean Sea. Morocco has two types of deserts, sand and stone.
Morocco is bordered by two seas, the Med and Atlantic and boasts the second highest mountain in Africa, Touekala 4,165 meters, 60 kilometers out of Marrakech. Morocco mining and holding 2/3 of the world's phosphate deposits, silver, bronze, zinc. The mining industry doesn't make a lot of money from phosphate because it is shipped raw out of the country and used as a component of fertilizer
Agriculture is the second biggest industry. Morocco prides itself in using non-phosphate natural fertilizer. There are 200 dams in Morocco that capture rain and snowmelt water from the Atlas Mountains. The main export in Morroco is oranges and orange juice. There are no taxes on farming. The rich farmers are able to buy more equipment and have larger farms. The poor subsistence farmers remain poor because even with no taxes they barely make enough to feed their families, There is some pollitical movement to help these farmers join together in co-ops so they become economically more viable.
One third of population is under the age of 15. This large youth population poses problems ahead as there are already not enough jobs. Seven to fifteen percent of men and women who want to work outside of the home are unemployed. The government doesn't pay if you don't work.
Large families help one another economically. Children go to work to help families. Parents are children's responsibilities. Three different Berber groups, thousands of tribes, many customs and traditions requires acceptance of each other as they are. Your religion and beliefs are an individual's business. You can see two women walking together who are good friends, one in modern and one in traditional dress. It does not matter to them, nor do they judge one another because it is their individual choice of expression of what they believe.
Women and men get jobs depending on their skills they have learned in school. If they drop out of school before acquiring skills, they must do some sort of physical labor. Men get the more physical jobs, women the less physical jobs. Today, there are still women predominantly as teachers and nurses, and doctors. Ali's wife is a judge in the court system. After having children, she decided not to work outside the home. It was her choice. Ali says if a woman is lazy and does not want to work, or chooses to stay at home, it is the husband, brother, father's, son's responsibility to support her.
Yesterday, we left Marrakech on the main road in one direction. Today we return through Marrakech in another direction into the Atlas mountains. We learn that no building in Marrakech can be higher than the minaret. Within the city of Marrakech builders must follow architectural design rules so that the buildings have a similarity and continuity of style. Unlike the Greeks, the buildings are purposely not white, but a warm sand color and easier on the eyes.
There are four main colors in Morocco, red for the red sand colored buildings, blue for the sky, green for the gardens, and white for the snow covered Atlas mountains. Russ has added to his collection of hat pins by buying a country's soccer jerseys. He now has one with the Moroccan colors. The locals love this and are always giving him a thumbs up and a big smile because he honors their team.
We begin to climb upwards through Berber villages and roadside stands through the Tichka pass. The road is new, but quite windy with hairpin turns and beautiful vistas.
|Berber Village Tucked in the Hillside|
We Reach the Summit
|There's a donkey in there somewhere!|
We arrive in Ouarzazat where we have the opportunity to visit one the world's most magnificent Kasbahs. When I was a kid, I loved the word Kasbah and used to say "Come into the Kasbah." I must have heard or seen this in a movie. A Kasbah is a Berber fortified city with tall walls and no windows. It has walkways and apartment type homes connected together.
This setting has been used for films more than any other location in Morocco: including Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazraeth, and the Gladiator. There are some false sets just outside the city walls used for these movies.
|Movie Set Towers in Front of Kasbah|
As this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, nothing artificial can be constructed on the inside of Kasbah walls.
After climbing up and down stairs and pathways in the Kasbah and photographing from every angle,
|This part of Kasbah used in the Gladiator|
we return to the van and head towards our accommodations at the Riad Salam. We passed by two very large movie studios. This is the Hollywood of Morocco, maybe of Africa.