Picnic near Kasbah du Toubkal

The last post left hubby and me up on the mountainside at Kasbah du Toubkal a few hours from Marrakesh, Morocco. Because it is such a unique place, I included another photo of the Kasbah from a different angle.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Our last day there we extended a little longer to take a hike and enjoy a picnic in the High Atlas Mountains. Rough basalt  boulders and other volcanics surrounded us and made for a challenging but fun short trek. A few clouds streaked over the mountains and in the far distance (behind the hills) a snow-topped peak was barely visible.

High Atlas Mountains

Behind the dusty hiker in this photo (me) you can see some Berber villages in the valley and hills. Many of the traditional houses built of thick clay walls were abandoned and next to them newer ones were built or being built in a similar style of concrete block. Maintenance (reworking/recoating the outer walls every 4 years) of the old style appears to be the main reason for the modernization. Many Berber are unhappy with the loss of the traditional homes, and we discovered, once left unattended the mud slowly is worn away and the walls collapse. Also the cooling quality of the old style walls and their ability to hold in heat are lost with the cement construction.

Sandy with Berber village in valley

After a few hours (I did say this was a short hike), we stopped for a picnic provided by Berbers from a nearby village. While we imagined something simple prepared for us, eaten while perched on a boulder, a surprise lay ahead. In the middle of a boulder field, we saw a few men setting up for us (and another couple coming in with a different guide). Young men put out carpets, padded mats, and pillows.

Preparations for a mountain picnic

Off to the side, foraged one of the donkeys, which had carried up supplies.

One tough “Beast of Burden”

We checked out the “kitchen” stove consisting of propane canisters.

Outdoor Mountain Kitchen

The cooks were hard at work dicing vegetables, making tea, and preparing both hot and cold lunch selections.

Mountain Cooks

The kitchen and serving area were separated by a boulder and a stone wall.

The “Atlas” Cafe

We found a comfy place on a padded mat and mint tea was served. Notice the glass cups and tea service. Okay…I can read the word “spoiled” in your mind. That’s exactly how we felt. Honestly, we had expected a sack lunch and soda. But one thing I can assure you of, is hospitality is quite important to the Berbers.

Hot Mint Tea

We rated the lunch as one of great meals on our trip (the view and fresh air surely had a lot to do with that rating). They served a salad of diced purple onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumber with canned salmon (well, we are in the mountains) on top and then followed it with a hot portion of rice and a spiced meat mixture of lamb. Boy, did we need the second half of the hike to burn off all the calories.

Lunch Berber Atlas Mountain Style

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Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

Imagine a hotel so remote a mule carries your luggage up a mountainside from the nearby “big” town. Welcome to the Kasbah du Toubkal.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Our driver dropped us off at the hotel “office” in a town at the bottom of steep hills in the High Atlas Mountains. The door was carved from local wood and the stones fronting the building are from the mountains that surrounded us. You can’t see my hiking boots, but I’m about to need them.

Checking into the Kasbah in the High Atlas Mountains

The tiny main street has vendors that collect supplies from vans, cars, or mules. One vendor stands outside his shop, wearing a djelaba (pronounced without the “d” sound at start of word) over his clothes.

Town near Kasbah du Toubkal

Once we “checked in,” they flagged down a passing donkey (or mule) and loaded up our suitcases (we traveled with bigger bags for the extended vacation and varied climates- no more backpacking as in younger days). A note here about mules and donkeys. In Morocco, they were about the same size, whereas my husband remembers from his grandfather’s farm in Georgia, that the mules there were substantially larger than donkeys.

Loading luggage for the trek up to the kasbah.

We followed the backside. . .ahem. . .we followed our luggage up a winding street and continued as it turned into a rocky trail up a hillside.

Bell Boy (?)

Eventually we reached the Kasbah du Toubkal clinging to the mountainside. A wide wooden gate was opened and our luggage offloaded. Berber kasbah staff carried it into a courtyard of stones steps amid a tiny oasis of wildflowers and lawn.

Kasbah du Toubkal Courtyard

The evening we arrived, a cool fog hung over the mountains and draped into the valley.

Evening view from rooftop terrace of kasbah

Our small but comfortable room is beneath the large pot you see on the roof. The very thick mud walls would keep anyone warm or cool no matter the weather.

Our room off the rooftop deck of kasbah.

The kasbah was rebuilt on a caid’s old home site in a joint venture between Europeans and the local Berber village. From the kasbah terrace outside our room, you can see the Berber village over my husband’s shoulder. Note the satellite dishes on the village dwellings. Electricity reaches almost everywhere in Morocco now. I can tell you the most watched programs are the “football” games. Before we arrived in Morocco the state soccer team had been playing poorly. Our driver claimed they were “cats” not the “lions” as they were known. Before we left, they had a big victory and were once again worthy of being called lions.

Berber village next to kasbah.

Stay tuned for the next blog on how to do a picnic “Berber style” in the mountains.