Day Three- Run to the Hills
A bit of a nothing day really, n early start followed by travelling over the High Atlas mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka Pass (closed for a couple of days a week later due to heavy snow) and to the village of Ait Youl and the start of the trek proper.
So, some asides from our guide Mohamed, a Berber and a resident of the High Atlas himself.
Morocco is changing rapidly. A Muslim country, while some of the population have their fundamentalist moments, it’s very much on the liberal wing of things. In some ways it’s caught between three identities: Arabic, Berber and French colonial, and its modern character represents a mashup of all three.
60% of university students are female, and even in the isolated villages girls are starting to be sent to schools. Out of 300 people in Mohamed’s village, three people have got their baccalaureate (though whether like the French exams, that starts with the four hour philosophy paper, I’m not sure). Mohamed himself has a degree in Maths and Physics and confidently expects that ratio to rise in the next generation. His job with Explore probably earns him around £200/week, which in High Atlas terms is a seriously good wage. Interestingly, the family and its land remains a really important unit, and while people may go off to Marrakech to earn their fortune, they always go back to the village. Depopulation of the rural communities, something so prevalent in the West, is not an issue.
Anyway, the roads are festooned with stalls selling tagine pots, fossils, amphorae and the like, and we drive past the Atlas Film Studios at Ouarzazate (Kingdom of Heaven. Asterix & Obelix, Star Wars, Gladiator and a shedload of others), have lunch, visit the old Ouarzazete Kasbah, and – little though we know it – make the most of actually sitting in a chair for the last time in ten days.