Why exploring Morocco’s mountains and rivers is a wonderful way to spend a holiday in June, July or August, the northern hemisphere summer.
(© Aussies In Morocco Tours™)
The sharp chill of winter has us bundled up in coats, scarves and woolly socks – and somehow we’re still cold. As Australians, despite our reputation as sunburnt beachgoers, every year we’re shocked to re-discover that yes, it does actually get cold here. The dark, short days and constant flow of emails remind us that we really could use some time off. Morocco will teleport you to a place far, far away from the chaos of your day-to-day life, and into a world where time, place and people often operate on a simple, mystical level.
While the tourist season in Morocco is September through to April-May, many Australians also choose to escape the cold and travel in July – the height of a Moroccan summer. Because temperatures can be almost unbearably hot at this time, we at Aussies In Morocco Tours™ think it’s an ideal time to visit Morocco’s magical mountains and rivers.
The higher altitudes produce cooler temperatures, so you’ll miss the high-season crowds and be diverted away from Morocco’s well-known tourist routes. Our trusted drivers have the inside knowledge that will take your holiday beyond predictable recommendations and top ten lists. So put your map down, forget what day it is, and allow our local contacts help you discover Morocco’s authentic character on one of our bespoke tours.
We recently did an investigation involving the following itinerary.
Casablanca airport to Lake Bin el Ouidane (2 nights)
We were picked up from Casablanca in a modern, airconditioned 4WD and set off on the 3-hour journey along an unsealed road to Hotel Bin el Ouidane in the countryside. On arrival, we were met with spectacular views of the lake, which was created by the father of Morocco’s king to generate much of the kingdom’s electricity.
Hotel Bin el Ouidane has a relaxed vibe – complete with a swimming pool, spotted frogs that hop around a beautiful garden and star carvings etched into ceilings that are reminiscent of past times when the owners’ Berber ancestors slept under the stars. Tensions will melt away as you allow this enchanting place to relax you in mind and body.
If you’re feeling a little more energetic, for a modest price of around 500 dirhams (about 50 euros) the hotel management can organise a sunrise boat trip, where you will explore the lake’s little islands and find lots of great photo opportunities.
Near Imilchil (1 night)
After spending a couple of nights at Lake Bin el Ouidane we relaxed into a slower Moroccan pace of life as we headed towards Imilchil in the Haut Atlas region.
Imilchil is a small town with an arid climate and mountainous terrain, famous for a mass wedding festival that occurs every September. While the celebration is jovial and vibrant, its real purpose is for fathers to present their daughters and find husbands for them (albeit in reality much has already been pre-planned between the families). When a woman accepts her suitor’s proposal, she will declare, “You have captured my liver” (Tq massa n uchemt).
During summer, you may happen upon a bride waiting roadside to be picked up and taken to her nuptials. She would be dressed in white, draped in an extravagant cloak of sequins and colourful embroidery. She wears amber beads around her neck and Christmas-like decorations adorn her red headdress, which completely obscures her face. Remember, it is important to gain her permission before taking any photos, as much as you may wish to capture this extraordinary sight spontaneously.
After passing through Imilchil, we made our way to the traditional Berber-style mud-brick home or Gîte where we would spend the night, with the family who owns it. Although the little house doesn’t have air-conditioning and the shower drizzles out at the same pace as Moroccan life (slowly and carefree), it is a little piece of authentic paradise. Traditional Berber carpets kept in immaculate condition drape the walls of every bedroom, and outside a garden of olives, pomegranates, grapevines, and apple trees stand proudly, defying the hardships of life in the desert. Frogs hopping around leisurely are unperturbed by the melodic call to prayer (the “Adhan”) that rings out in the distance five times a day, when the men of the house excuse themselves to go and pray.
After a dinner of kebabs, we laid down on mattresses that had been brought outside to gaze at the cluster of stars shimmering above us. The father of the house (who incidentally had a physics degree) sang nursery rhymes to his children in Berber, Arabic, and French, while elsewhere his wife washed our dust-laden clothes. In that moment, away from the frenetic pace of life back home, Morocco reminded us that human connection, culture, and gentleness are amongst the most important things in life.
Before leaving we gave the lady of the house a small gift of scented moisturising cream; it seemed to be really appreciated, but obviously, giving your host a gift is not obligatory. The family gave us a pot of their own cultivated honey, scented with a rare flower, that we had earlier enjoyed on our pancakes at breakfast in the garden.
Be warned that, while the value of this experience is in absorbing the beauty of the present, family, tradition, and a culture that is thousands of years old, it cannot be considered luxurious. If you are after something a little more high-end, Imilchil has many more options due to its status as a meeting point for Berber families intent on marriage. We also use Chateau Imilchil: Contact us at Aussies In Morocco Tours™ to discuss options for your own visit to this amazing countryside.
Refreshed and updated November 2020