Maybe I'm bad at geography but before taking a day trip to the Atlas Mountains I never would have guessed that Morocco, or anywhere in Africa for that matter, received snow. The entire day was a big pleasant surprise, really.
Our awesome guide, Noureddine, picked us up from our riad and off we went leaving the crazy streets of the Medina behind us. An hour or so later we entered the first valley and got our first glimpse into the varying color and texture of the mountains - they literally change every 100 yards. Because of this, each Berber village has its own distinct look since they use whatever soil and materials are on their mountain side to build their homes. Isn't it amazing how entire villages blend into the natural curves of the land?
Mid-route were offered sweet mint tea and light snacks at a Berber home that had one of the most serene views I have ever seen. We then dropped our host off at a market in another village and (thankfully) our guides decided that it would be a good idea to join him. I was thrilled! Never mind that the markets are only male (the men do the shopping in these towns) or that it was a total mud fest due to recent rains - this was the REAL deal. I'm talking makeshift tents, tables, and weighing scales that looked as ancient as the culture. It was awesome.
After the market we drove higher up into the mountains, saw our first winter snow (woo!), and then stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe. The other car we were with went on to a restaurant in a more commercial area but this was definitely more our style. Of course it helped to have Noureddine with us to ensure that the food was properly cooked and such. We then headed back to Marrakech but not before stopping at an argan oil cosmetics cooperative store. We bought a few things and even learned a bit about how the oil is extracted from the argan nut. Let me tell ya, it is hard work!
I left the cooperative feeling super satisfied and inspired as it was the perfect end to a very real day. I learned that it's one thing look at Berber rugs in the souks of the Medina and it's another to get out of town and see where and how Berbers live. I'm so thankful to our airport driver, Hakim, for suggesting we do it and to our guide/driver Nourredine whose expert knowledge and love of the area made the day such a special experience.