Crossing the High Atlas from Marrakesh to Skoura, Morocco

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.

10 thoughts

  1. You rock it like a boss, when I opened the mail and saw you were in Morrocco I immediately wanted to know…and then I see you were at the Argan! Tichka Cafe, and yep, there it is, my first look at Amlou..thank you..
    Here is a recipe, I have yet to try it…

    Amlou Recipe – Moroccan Dip of Almonds, Honey and Argan Oil
    Amlou – sometimes spelled amalou – is a delicious Moroccan dip made from toasted almonds, argan oil and honey. Argan oil is native to Morocco and might be found in specialty food shops or online. Be sure to buy argan oil for culinary and not cosmetic use.

    Amlou is very easy to make and usually served for breakfast or tea time. A stone mill is the traditional method for crushing the almonds to a silky smooth paste-like consistency, but I find that a meat grinder works quite well. Delicious results can be obtained with a food processor, but the appearance of the amlou won’t be the same unless you manage to keep the almonds in constant contact with the blade.
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 25 minutes
    Yield: Approx. 2 cups

    1 1/2 cups (6 oz. or 200 g) almonds
    3/4 cup (180 ml) argan oil
    3 to 4 tablespoons warm honey
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt


    Preheat an oven to 375° F (190° C). Spread the almonds on a baking pan and roast for about 15 minutes, longer if necessary, until the almonds are crunchy and darkened but not burnt.

    Allow the almonds to cool a bit, and then pass them through a meat grinder several times to make a smooth paste. Or, grind the toasted almonds into a paste in a food processor on high speed. (When using the food processor, I literally pick up the machine and shake it while it’s running in order to keep the almonds from sticking to the sides of the bowl as the paste forms. The almonds must maintain contact with the blades to yield the desirable smooth paste.)

    Next, gradually stir the argan oil into the almonds, a spoonful at a time or in a very slow trickle. You can do this by hand, stirring vigorously, or with the food processor on the lowest speed. (Note that the amount of oil in the recipe yields amlou with a traditionally thin consistency. Adjust the amount of oil to your own preference.)

    Next, gradually add the warm honey, sugar and salt in the same manner. Taste the amlou and adjust the sweetness if desired.

    Serve amlou on a small plate or dish with bread for dipping.

    Amlou will keep for two months in cool, dark cupboard. Store amlou tightly covered in a jar, and shake or stir before serving.

    User Reviews
    5 out of 5
    Finally, Member BigAppetite

    “Delicious and authentic! I have bought it ready made several times (here in Morocco) and it just wasn’t “”it””, but this sure is!!! Perfect taste & consistency. Will be making it on a regular basis. Thanks!!”

      1. Yes, it is extremely trendy outside the Moroccan community here in the Netherlands and in Europe, if you Google it you’ll see the websites springing up over night. The argan oil intended for external use is made from raw, unroasted nuts.

        Amlou is an edible beauty treatment for the skin, especially when you use Do’an honey.

  2. Oh my gosh Debbie , once again you blow me away with your landscape photos, which have once again made it into my desktop picture folder. I love LOVE the grounds of your hotel in Skoura, the sitting area where Don is in looks sooo welcoming it gives me an ache!! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. A shop selling interior design and furniture from Morocco sells it here, The Moroccan grocery stores sell it as well as online and health food shops, and hair salons, they sell it here, too. it
    is wonderful stuff, skin, hair, nails, and other assorted health benefits…. it would be good to buy as much as possible.

  4. Azerg – Raha – Moroccan Stone Hand Mill

    By Christine Benlafquih, Guide

    “Azerg – Raha – Moroccan Stone Hand Mill” Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    An azerg (or raha) is a small Berber stone hand mill or quern used in the traditional production of argan oil and amlou, an almond, argan oil and honey spread. Although usually reserved for grinding nuts, the azerg may also used to mill small quantities of seeds, corn, wheat or other grains, which more typically are ground in a larger mill.

    The azerg consists of two heavy stones or wheels; the larger is a circular stationary base with a channel and spout for directing oil and pressed items, while the top stone or wheel is conical or mounded in shape, with a port at the top for adding ingredients and a wooden handle protruding from the side for manually rotating the mill on its axis. A bowl or other vessel is placed under the spout to catch the oil or amlou; a funnel may be inserted into the port for ease of adding ingredients.
    Alternate Spellings: azrg

Comments are closed.