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I have always wanted to go to Morocco, ever since it was very popular in the 70’s
Then one day I spotted the Women’s Expedition Tour by Intrepid which was totally focused on the women in Morocco, and I was sold. The main attraction was the four days hiking with women led by local female Berber guides through Berber country in the Atlas Mountains.
Due to the weather conditions Intrepid have only six tours a year, three in springtime and three in autumn. I was on the last tour for the year, we had nine women in the group ranging in age from 26 to 66.
We had a fabulous group, only two knew each other, my sister from America and myself and two others from Australia, one from the UK and the rest were from America. Fabulous that an Australian Melbourne based company has such a wide reach.
The group met at Hotel Mogador Opera in Marrakech, which is a fabulous 4 star hotel in a very good location close to the railway station where you can catch The Marrakech Express to Casablanca as Crosby, Stills and Nash did back in 1969. It’s also easy walking distance into The Medina and has a fantastic hammam, which is the Moroccan version of a steam bath.
When in Marrakech you must visit the Jardin Majorelle Musee Yves Saint Laurent. Although not large, the gardens have a beautiful layout with an enormous variety of cacti.
Walking through Marrakech new city was very interesting. They have lots of beautiful artwork in the parks and amazing to see solar stations in the form of trees for charging phones.
The first day of the trip was a long day in a very comfortable 15 seater Mercedes van.
We stopped at a couple of cooperatives run entirely by local Berber women. One of the places was where they make Argan Oil products. It was very interesting to learn about all the benefits of Argan Oil and witness the very long process to extract the oil from the nuts.
Of further interest is the way the Moroccan government is trying to bring the Berber women into the workforce and giving them opportunities to develop into top positions.
The Berber women are very hard working women. You can see them working in the fields; carrying very big and heavy bundles of firewood and fodder for the animals.
The accommodation for the five nights on the hike was shared rooms with shared facilities in guesthouses and a gite in Bou Tharar, our starting and finishing point. All of which were very clean and well run by the local Berber families.
They prepared all meals, the dinners consisted of couscous and a variety of dishes cooked in tagines. We even had a lesson on how to make beautiful fluffy couscous. Lunches were all prepared for us to have on our hike. Everything was transported by three mules, all the food and our luggage, hence the limit to a soft bag of only 10kg.
The hiking was absolutely wonderful, however you do need a good level of fitness to enjoy it.
There was a lot of hiking through dry riverbeds littered with stones and rocks and climbs to the tops of the mountains over rocky parts. But once you got to the top it was stunning. It was so rewarding, we felt on top of the world, just us and no one else!
On our walks we had a lot of interaction with the locals, women washing their clothes in the river, shepherds herding their sheep and goats; women working in the fields; women weaving rugs.
One of the highlights was lunch with the Nomads in their grotto. Lunch was prepared by our guides and leftover food was shared with the children. They were beautiful people and beautiful children.
The children were totally intrigued by the photo’s we had taken, it was so much fun sharing it with them.
Each day was different with a different challenge.
The last day was one of my favourites as we had to walk through the river for most of the morning. I kept my hiking boots on due to the amount of pebbles and rocks in the river. Due to the strong current we often held hands for stability, which was a good feeling. The reward was a beautiful lunch on the riverbed where we managed to dry out those wets boots and socks a bit.
Our Berber tour leader, Chama, was a very vibrant young lady and proud of her Berber heritage, who taught us a lot about her culture. Growing up in a typical Berber village, she was very lucky to get a good education.
The first night we met she gave us all Berber names. My name was Kenza, which means treasure. Throughout the trip I was known as Kenza. It was a really good idea, as it made it so much easier for the locals, especially the people travelling with us who all loved to call us by our Berber names. She was very keen on us learning Arab & Berber words as French is spoken widely in Morocco and still taught at school.
Back in Marrakech I stayed another 2 nights in Le Jardin d’Abdou which is one of the most beautiful Riads in The Medina. It was a very good location as it was at on the edge of the Medina, which meant it was accessible by taxi and easy to transport your luggage. The Medina is so crowded with people and there are no cars allowed.
The Medina is very complicated and it’s easy to lose your way, we used an app called Marrakech Riad, available for iPhone and Android, which is very handy and simple to use, especially at night time, when the Medina comes alive.
There are wonderful places to eat and drink. I loved Café Arabe which has a great atmosphere, a rooftop bar and was a nice place to eat. Great atmosphere. Make sure you book ahead on their website www.cafearabe.com
We had our final dinner at The Riad, we just let them know in the morning and they prepared the most beautiful fish tagine. With a nice bottle of wine; sitting outside in the courtyard with my beautiful sister. I felt like Kenza!!