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Crossing the Middle Atlas – Fez to Midelt – Morocco

30 Nov

Crossing the Middle Atlas, the road from Fez to Midelt can offer the most surprising meetings with wonderful people. On my way, I stopped for two nights between Sefrou – Bhalil – Dayet Aoua – Ifrane – Azrou – Midelt. The medina from Sefrou was small, crowded, and an overall market. Once it was one of Morocco’s largest Jewish communities here. After Sefrou, I went to Bhalil, which is very close. In Bhalil, I spent the night at Kamal Chaoui Berber guesthouse and I had one of the ‘unplanned‘ travel writers meeting from Morocco (4 travel writers in the same day, same place, and same hour). We visited together the cave of Abdul Latef – the wood carver. In the afternoon, we went all together back to Sefrou for a quick local sandwich with kefta (I felt sick the next days after I ate this one). As Kamal was telling me, the man from Sefrou who was making the sandwiches was multi-tasking; he was talking, cooking, and changing money; anything I wanted in the same time – including smiling. Inside the small restaurant was smoke and people were eating kefta with their hands. In that afternoon in Sefrou, I experienced my first rain in Morocco – the country where I thought it’s impossible to rain; well, I was wrong. In the evening, I talked with Kamal about the works he did for his house and in the village. The next morning, I had a modest breakfast (local bread, butter, olives, a little bit of olive oil) and tea with troglodytes’ people in their house built in a cave. I discovered that the melted cheese ‘La vache qui rie’ is something exotic for locals and they seem very proud of it. I learned also how to eat bread with olive oil. I’ve seen where the local women go to wash their clothes. I saw the famous djellabas buttons from Bhalil. Then I moved on for Ifrane.

It was confusing to cross some small mountains in Ifrane National Park. While I was searching for the correct way at a crossroads, a man from a car came to ask me where I want to go. I showed him the map and he led my way with his car all the road to Dayet Ifrah Lake. He has constructed a guesthouse there, as the region was developing for tourism. In Ifrane, I stopped and walked around a little bit just to have the classic photo with the lion statue. Azrou was full of Berber carpets. Near Azrou, the macaque apes from the cedar forest were very interested of my bananas. I was very interested in filming them how they stole food. It is not a problem to spend at least 2 hours with the lovely monkeys. They are very friendly and there is always something interesting to look at them. In the evening, I reached Midelt and I searched the hotel for half an hour. The young guy from the hotel was feeling seek and asked me for some pills. I don’t know why he asked exactly me, but he chose me to ask for help. I had dinner at the local restaurant from the hotel (vegetarian tajine and orange juice). All the kids from the town came to watch the football game at the restaurant. As European women (the only one in the whole restaurant), I was not interesting. The kids were completely ignoring me. The football game was far more important. A local man from the hotel was curious where I am from. He started to talk to me. He showed me the parking guardian and told me to pay the guy 10 Dirhans for watching my car overnight. Later on, the Green Chamber knocked at my door to ask for my visas number.

The next morning I found a local weaving workshop furnished in the old Kasbah les Myriem, close to Midelt. It had traditional looms and the owner was a French woman who lived in Morocco for three generations. In the same village, I meet Pere Jean-Pierre at the Monastery Notre Dame de l’Atlas, which is located in the same kasbah. It was much unexpected to find a Christian monastery in an Islamic country. Pere Jean-Pierre is one of the survivors of the tragedy from the Algerian monastery in Tibhirine (the name means ‘garden‘). The monastery was destroyed during the civil war in 1996. He escaped and came to Morocco where he founded this small monastery with many difficulties. He had clear dark blue eyes and a very serene face. He was very warm. Although I am not religious, I felt his beliefs. I wanted somehow to be near him. He was talking with a lot of passion about his brothers and the eremites from the desert. He filled me up with calm, patience, and understanding. I was almost flying when I left the place.

The most unexpected places on the road crossing the Middle Atlas from Fez to Midelt offer the most authentic experiences.

Sefrou medina: another street – another market

Sefrou: selling mint for Moroccan tea

Bhalil: small Berber village

Bhalil: troglodyte house with the living room in a cave

Bhalil: the famous buttons for djellabas

Bhalil: woman going to wash her clothes

Bhalil: with Kamal Chaoui on the terrace of his guesthouse

Bhalil: wonderful young girls going to school

Bhalil: souq day – women always carry their children on the back

Ifrane: the classic photo with the lion

Azrou medina: Berber carpets

Middle Atlas cedar woods: barbary macaque apes: asking for food

Midelt: Atelier du Tissage at Kasbah de Myriem – women making embrodery

Midelt: monastery Notre Dame de l’Atlas in the former Kasbah de Myriem (guided visit with Pere Jean Pierre)

Some more photos on the road Crossing the Middle Atlas from Fez to Midelt:

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6 Responses to “Crossing the Middle Atlas – Fez to Midelt – Morocco”

  1. Cynthia April 9, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    What an interesting cultural experience you had! That’s what I love the most about traveling: exploring the culture and getting to know the people! Beautiful article and photos!

    • Authentic Travels April 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

      It was a very beautiful experience as I didn’t expect to meet so interesting people. Meeting pere jean Pierre was awesome.

  2. Hemel Cosmetics April 18, 2016 at 2:14 am #

    Very descriptive blog, I liked that a lot. Will there
    be a part 2?

    • Authentic Travels April 18, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

      I wrote about my travels in Morocco from Fez to Merzouga and then Ait Benhaddou. I will continue in future posts with Marrakesh and the Atlantic Coast of Morocco.

  3. Dan July 4, 2017 at 10:16 am #

    Thanks to your tips, I Liked Bhalil close to Sefrou very much, I liked Kamal’s Guesthouse in Bhalil called Dar Kamal Chaoui, the tour with Kamal inside his village is very interesting, I learned more in 2 hours with Kamal than the time during my full travel time in Morocco, it is not my first time in Morocco and I found the good place and soul I was not looking for in Bhalil, this is why I recommend this Guesthouse in Bhalil and a tour with Kamal…… enjoy !

    • Iuliana July 5, 2017 at 7:32 pm #

      I am glad that you were inspired by my exploration through Morocco. I hope to complete all the posts about Morocco soon. All the best

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