Breakfast on the Roof Terrace
Waking up to clear blue skies, with the pink mountains glowing in the early morning sun we were looking forward to our first day in the Atlas Mountains. Over breakfast of homemade Moroccan pancakes and yoghurt sitting on the peaceful roof terrace of Tigmi N’Oufella, our little guesthouse, we enjoyed the stunning panorama of the Berber village set among the oasis. Our plan for the day was to visit the Glaoui Kasbah in nearby Telouet and then hike back through the wilderness of the rainbow mountains to Anguelez. After chatting to our host the previous evening he had promised to arrange a taxi that would take us to the Kasbah, a packed lunch for the walk and a drawn map of the route we should take to return to Anguelez. The Atlas Mountains in and around Telouet are probably best to be explored by foot, however there are no hiking routes signposted and therefore it is best to either use a guide or have a resident recommend a route if you do decide to set out.
Bumpy Ride in a Local Taxi
Louhacin, our host, had arranged for the taxi to collect us from the main street outside the warren of houses and told us the price for the journey to Telouet. The local taxi turned out to be an ancient looking minibus, already occupied by two local men and the driver, more like a bus service than a taxi. We immediately knew that this was going to be an adventure we had not yet experienced and Jerome especially appeared flustered and surprised. The locals were very friendly and greeted us in French, before taking seats on the make shift bench in the back of the taxi. Besides it being perhaps the most uncomfortable and bumby ride ever bouncing on wooden planks over rough roads, it was a real insight into the local life and the Moroccan people.
Berber Women Join our Journey
After a few minutes into our journey we stopped to pick up two berber women in admirable colourful traditional dresses. They looked at us curiously and gave Jerome a big smile and we moved even further to the back of the bus to provide them with more comfortable seating. Upon reaching the outskirts of Telouet, the women disembarked the bus. I helped them with their bags and to my astonishment found them to be really heavy! They left with a friendly goodbye and soon after we were dropped outside of the Glaoui Kasbah, thanks to the instructions of our host.
Historical Facts About the Glaoui Kasbah in Telouet
The Glaoui Kasbah is well sign posted from the main road that runs through the Telouet, however we were glad to avoid the sometimes pestering locals, trying to guide you on towards the sights. The village was once a prosperous trading spot en route for the caravans to and from the Sahara thanks to its important role in the salt trade from the nearby mines. Telouet’s privileged position increased under the rule of French autocrat Glaoui until he was ousted during the mid 20th century. A legend says that when the Kasbah had finally been closed, locals that were believed to have vanished from earth, reappeared from the deep cellars of the Kasbah.
Stepping into the Courtyards
These days the Kasbah no longer appears to shine in its former glory, however we had read that some of the rooms had been renovated to their former state and could easily rival some of the rooms in the Badia Palace in Marrakesh. We wanted to find out for ourselves if this was true and after paying a small entrance fee, entered the mud palace on our own, having declined the “guides” hovering by the entrance gates. Stepping into the maze of dust covered courtyards, we found ourselves lost in the warren of stairs and rooms inside the Glaoui Kasbah. The distinct smell of donkey poo hung in the air in what we assumed was a makeshift stable.
Advancing up a narrow staircase to the top of a tower we only found a locked door. Eventually we entered a tadelact covered hallway, the sun’s rays projecting mesmerizing light effects onto the smooth wall. Deeper into the building on the 2nd floor we finally stumbled onto a door, open to a room, entirely covered in the signature Moroccan azulejo tiles. The wooden coffer ceiling was covered in intricately carved and painted patterns. A skylight provided just enough daylight for us to admire its entire beauty.
Restoration to its Former Glory
Without any doubt, exceptional handicraft must have been in play to restore these chambers to its former glory. The adjoining chambers was just as grand, although much darker but the windows offered impressive views of the village and landscape. The best part of our visit however was that we were completely on our own, no crowds surrounding us, a stark contrast to recent visits of the Alhambra and the sights in Marrakesh. I am sure the Glaoui Kasbah is not always this peaceful, we must have picked a lucky time. Out of all the Kasbahs we would visit during our expeditions in Morocco, this one definitely sticks in our mind as the most interesting and beautiful so a detour here is highly recommended to other travellers exploring the area. Kids will without a doubt love the labyrinth of hallways that meander through the building and the castle like feeling.
The Dusty Streets of Telouet
Just as we were heading back down the stairs to the entrance a couple with their guide entered the Kasbah and we returned to reality, the dusty streets of Telouet. Leaving the Kasbah behind we strolled towards the main road, as the first part of our hike would be along parallel to the tarmac road towards Ouarzazate. Crumbling huts, the former slaves quarters surrounded the Kasbah’s grounds and looked almost apocalyptic.
Berber Carpets for Sale
We passed a hotel and some shops and some local kids ran past waving at us. Outside one of the stores we could see the colourful Berber carpets displayed to attract customers, a man approached us but soon turned away realizing we had no interest in buying his wares.
Cool Drink in the Sun
Once we reached the main road, we took seats on the nearby Restaurant Chez Ahmed’s terrace, enjoying a cool drink in the warm winter sun. Fortified we were then ready to set out on our hike through the rainbow mountains of Morocco, more about our walk back to our guest house in the following post.
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