This morning we picked up the rental car for our road trip around Morocco which ends in Casablanca in two week. Today we were heading up over the High Atlas range to Skoura, but first we must get across Marrakesh from the airport where we picked up the car to the N9 on the other side of the busy avenues. Thankfully we have the Ipad GPS to guide us through as the streets are not well signed. Traffic is slow and chaotic but manageable.
Once out of town it takes an hour or so to leave that city sprawl grunge, but as soon as we hit the foothills of the Atlas it’s non-stop drama all the way to Skoura, about six hours with a stop for lunch. The Atlas mountain range stretches across northern Africa with the highest peak, Toubkal, at 13,671 ft. located just 63 kilometers south of Marrakesh, in the section known as the High Atlas.
Climbing into the mountains the valleys are a lush green which I imagine doesn’t last much past spring. A few redbuds in full bloom dot the valleys as well as do frequent herds of sheep. Once into the higher peaks only a tinge of green remains for a while before losing nearly all vegetation.
The two lane road is heavily traveled in both directions including by very slow trucks. The going is painfully slow at times, especially if you keep stopping for more photos of the majestic valley views.
About 100 Kilometers into the 200 kilometer drive to Ouarzazate we stop for lunch at a tourist café, Argan Tichka. Bread is served with a dip they make with the local argan seed milled with almonds and honey to a thin peanut butter consistency. The also serve a great spicy Berber omelet.
Past here more mountain vistas as we continue to climb to the highest point. Very little vegetation remains. Just stark rocky desert with the views of the Atlas peaks, somewhat cloud covered today.
Then down, down, down passing some adobe style villages, the landscape flattens as we head into the plains towards Ouazazate, one of the biggest town in the area. We are staying in Skoura, located in a large natural palm grove about 40 kilometers further east past Ouarazate.
Jardins de Skoura
The Jardins de Skoura is off the main road along a 4 kilometer track well blazed with orange and white arrows. The Kasbah style guesthouse has well-appointed, spacious rooms. The decorations are all North African but the sense of style is all French.
The grounds include a pleasant garden and pool area as well as many alcove areas to sit and enjoy the beautiful weather. I was doing just that until the sun set and the wind started howling and continued to howl until just before day break the next morning.
At this time of year dinner is served in the small dining room (in the garden in warmer weather). The dining room is tasteful and colorful – polished, thick adobe walls flecked with straw, Berber carpets and Moroccan style lamps. The four course dinner included cauliflower soup; Moroccan vegetable salads – grated carrot, an eggplant spread and zucchini stuffed with cheese; a meatball and fried egg tagine and for dessert, chocolate cake. All well done with excellent service.
March 27, 2013
For links to all the posts in this series see the Morocco page.