Atlas shrugged, or at least undulated


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Published: June 11th 2015
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Our pleasant stay in the riad near Ait Ben Haddou gave us the chance to expunge several layers of sand and get back to some semblance of cleanliness. We started off this morning much more easily than the day before. Our first stop was the nearby Ait ben Haddou. This 400 year old ksar climbs up a steep hillside, and is built with a mud bricks, similar to adobe, but with a mud stucco rather than whitewash. It requires frequent repairs after any rain. The old ksar was located on the caravan route be tween Sudan and Marrakech. Although 4 families still live there, it is mostly abandoned. It is maintained as UNESCO World Heritage site, but you can see crumbling, particularly in buildings that no longer have any cultural significance to current local residents, such as the small synagogue within the walls. From the top, you look out over the river valley and the plain in front of the ksar, a setting that has been used in many movies, including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. Small shops dot the walk up to the top, and local artists selling small paintings and handicrafts. Most of the local inhabitants have moved across
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Tower at Ait ben Haddou showing mud construction
the river to a modern settlement, and a modern footbridge connects the two.

Leaving Ait ben Haddou, we began our climb through the High Atlas. Throughout Morocco, there has been apparent investment in infrastructure, and roads were generally good. Although this one was winding and steep, we had no reason to worry about the condition of the roadbed. At many locations we saw places where they are doing construction that will eventually result in much straighter and wider roadway. You crest the mountains at the Col du Tichka (2260 m, 7414 ft). At the top of the pass is a small stop with a couple of shops and local grifters selling small geodes (real) with brilliant colors of the interior minerals (added pigment that comes off with water). Coming down the other side, we stopped in the valley for a bite of lunch, then began the rather uninteresting drive to Marrakech. After checking into Riad Kniza, the best yet, truly spectacular, we took a short trip to enjoy wonderful hospitality in the home of Mohamed's parents. They did not speak English, but through interpretation we carried on a conversation, during which Mohamed's father demonstrated his keen eye for people when he observed that Jennie was unusually quiet (he had seen her once before at Mohamed and Nicole's wedding in OKC). That line brought the house down.

The Riad Kniza was truly unbelievable. When we arrived in our very large room, the bed and countertops and even the toilet lid were decorated with artfully arranged rose pedals. The service from the staff was spectacular. If you are in Marrakech, this is the place to stay.


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Ait ben Haddou gate - often seen in movies
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Crumbling synagogue at Ait ben Haddou
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Morocco 2015 1434 High Atlas crossing Morocco 052515

"The long and winding road, that leads to your door"


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