Morocco: Amazigh
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours
 
       
  Morocco flag East of the Atlas: Amazigh  
    Boumalne Dades to Errachidia is about 190km. Despite the appearance of the compressed graph below, the maximum slopes is 2.5%.  
    Topography from Boumalne Dades to Errachidia, Morocco
[Depending upon the quality of the underlying data graphs maybe only general representations of the topography.]
 
    Sheep, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco Sheep, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco View to horizon, Boumalne Dades-Goulmima road, Morocco Atlas Mountains, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco  
    Out of Boumalne Dades, there is a short climb to get to the top of the ridge and then it is 130 kilometers of mostly gentle decent to Goulmima.  
    Atlas Mountains, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco Atlas Mountains, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco Atlas Mountains, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco Bicyclist, Boumalne Dades-Tinghir road, Morocco  
    The net drop is 600 meters. If you do the math it is a downgrade of less than one-half of one percent -- on a bike, it is real sweet with a tailwind. While the road is basically flat, this is a front row seat for the Haute Atlas. They tower above the plains, anything but flat.  
    Palmerie, Tinghir, Morocco Palmerie, Tinghir, Morocco Palmerie, Tinghir, Morocco Palmerie, Tinghir, Morocco  
    The next oasis and town is Tinghir. The green belt is the plains of the Todra River. The vistas around town are lovely. The public spaces are friendly.  
    Palmerie, Tinghir, Morocco Public square, Tinghir, Morocco Market, Tinghir, Morocco Digital communications, Tinghir, Morocco Courtyard, Tinghir, Morocco
    It is a small town, but large enough for a daily market and a good variety of shops. And connected enough with the rest of the world to have modern digital communications.  
    Alley of hairdressers, Tinghir, Morocco Bike shop, Tinghir, Morocco Fruit market, Tinghir, Morocco Couscous dinner, Tinghir, Morocco  
    Intriguing was a narrow alley where every door was a hairdresser. Bike shops are always a welcome sight. And you can get a good meal.  
    Women's Market, former Mellah, Jewish Quarter, Tinghir, Morocco Weaving workshop, former Mellah, Jewish Quarter, Tinghir, Morocco Weaving workshop, former Mellah, Jewish Quarter, Tinghir, Morocco Weaving workshop, former Mellah, Jewish Quarter, Tinghir, Morocco  
    Hand prints above the door, former Mellah, Jewish Quarter,Tinghir, MoroccoThe section of town that was the Mellah, Jewish Quarter, is now the women's market. In this same section of town are some women's weaving cooperatives. Most welcome visitors and have showrooms. We were told that the hand prints above the door (far right) were vestiges of the Jewish Community, but we could find no other signs of the centuries of residency here.  
    Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco  
  Plastic garbage, Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco The segment between Tinghir and Tinejdad is less than sixty kilometers. As has been the pattern, outside of towns the population is sparse but there are still a variety of looks to the landscape; new tree varieties, power transmission lines, beehives and Bedouin tents to name a few.

One disturbing find was a kilometer long section dense with plastic garbage (left). It was miles from the nearest town and no garbage dump was in sight. Generally, the Moroccan countryside is still relatively light with garbage, but this valley seemed to be the Moroccan garbage vortex. There was no obvious explanation why so much garbage piled up here.

 
    Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco Transmission power lines, Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco Beehives, Tinghir to Tinejdad road, Morocco  
    Trilingual sign (Arabic, French and Amazigh), Tinejdad, MoroccoBilingual (Arabic and Tamazight) and trilingual sign (Arabic, French, and Tamazight) like this one at a school (left) in Tinejdad, are seen with some regularity in the towns on the eastern slope of the Atlas, especially at schools, but also some other government buildings. The are the result of an initiative to preserve the Berber culture. At one extreme in this Moroccan culture war are those that want forced Arabization of Morocco. (i.e. A 1996 decree bans the use of Berber names in registering newborn children, mandating all must be given Arabic names.) This is countered by organizations promoting diversity, social justice, and human rights, like the Amazigh Cultural Associations. They were successful in getting the teaching of Tamazight language in primary school, starting in 2004.

Berber liberation or autonomy graffiti, MoroccoBerber freedom flagThere is also a more radical movement, which if nothing else markets the countryside from Dades to the Rif region with its Berber freedom symbols (the letter yaz of the Berber Tifinagh alphabet) and graffiti (left). The yaz is also the centerpiece of the Berber flag, which I have never seen flying in Morocco.

Tinejdad, Morocco

Tinejdad, Morocco

       
    The Berbers themselves argue, that they are a separate race of people, completely different from the Arabs, who have oppressed them ever since they arrived in the 7th century. [Increasingly, educated, urban Berbers refuse to even use the term "Berber", referring to it as a pejorative word, derived from barbarian, imposed by foreign imperialists. Instead, they refer to themselves as Imazighen, “free men” in the Berber language (Amazigh being the singular).]  
    Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco
    Bicycle, Tinejdad, MoroccoA prominent characteristic of Tinejdad is the number of bicyclists, both male and female. Until a better candidate is found, it should be considered the "Bicycle Capital of Morocco". Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco
    Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco Bicycle, Tinejdad, Morocco
    Agriculture, Tinejdad, MoroccoSavannah, Tinejdad and Goulmima road, MoroccoWe return to the savannah for the relatively short ride (25km) between Tinejdad and Goulmima.  
    New town, Goulmima, MoroccoOld town in palmerie, Goulmima, MoroccoGoulmima, MoroccoGoulmima is both an old and new city on the steppes. The new section of town is along the highway, is laid out in a grid pattern and is home to the hamburger, shwarma and pizza restaurants, and most other commercial activity in town. The old town is set on a low hill more in the middle of the palmerie.
 
Palmerie and Old Town, Goulmima, Morocco
    Old town, Goulmima, Morocco Old town, Goulmima, Morocco Old town, Goulmima, Morocco Old town, Goulmima, Morocco  
    Old door lock, Goulmima, MoroccoGoulmima old city is a warren of winding streets, over the road buildings, complex lighting and unfamiliar compositions ranging from laden donkeys filling the narrow alleys to rooftops dotted with satellite antennas. Like many Moroccan old towns, it also not considered a desirable address by many these days, in part because upkeep is time-consuming and if one falls short a rain storm can transform a building into ruins. Traditional oven, Goulmima, Morocco
    Loaded donkey, Old town, Goulmima, Morocco Goulmima, Morocco Goulmima, Morocco Ruins, Old town, Goulmima, Morocco Bicyclist, Goulmima, Morocco
    Traditional woman's dress with embroidery, Goulmima, MoroccoEmbroidery, traditional woman's dress, Goulmima, MoroccoVisiting family, Goulmima, MoroccoThe traditional dress for Berber women is this region is a wrap with embroidery at the waist (left) The embroidery can change from town-to-town and dark seems to be most common for the wrap, but there is some variation.

In the old town, we were invited to have tea with a family (right). Lack of a common language limited the exchange, but our hosts were pleased to offer the hospitality and we appreciated the chance to sit and get a glimpse inside of a house.

Tea with family, Goulmima, Morocco
       
    Synagogue, Goulmima, MoroccoMellah, Goulmima, MoroccoLike most of the towns in the Berber region, Goulmima had a Mellah, Jewish Quarter. The building (left) with two doors was identified as the former synagogue. One door was the entrance for women and the other for men. Other than that subtle architecture there is nothing that indicates it Jewish roots.  
   
    Sandstone wall that looks like brick, Goulmima, MoroccoFlipping again from urban to rural for the trip from Goulmima to Errachida (60km). There is little to say about the topography, but there are a few points of interest.International Foundation for Ecological Research, Errachida Center, Morocco

An interesting geological formation is a sedimentary sandstone wall that looks like a brick wall (left).

Also on the route, set behind a high fence, is the International Foundation for Ecological Research, Errachida Center (right), which evidently it has some connection to the Ministry of Environment, Qatar.
 

 
    Reserve Biologique D'Aferdou for the Restoration of Wildlife, Errachida, Morocco

Later you reach the Reserve Biologique D'Aferdou for the Restoration of Wildlife (left).

Solar voltaic panels on turn-tables, Errachida, MoroccoOne business that was in the shadow of transmissions line, though itself might have been off the grid, has a couple of arrays of solar voltaic panels on turntables (right). As the earth rotates and the relative position of the sun changes the panels can be turned  to maintain the best orientation to the sun. There was no equipment to suggest the panels turn automatically, so it must be someone's job to turn them manually.

 
        
    Mystery yellow crop, between Goulmima and Errichidia, MoroccoCafé, between Goulmima and Errichidia, MoroccoA mystery of the section was a very yellow crop that was growing out nearer the mountains on several farms. It wasn't seen -- or at least noticed -- before Goulmima or after Errachidia, and it was never close enough to the road to identify.

Retail is rare in these parts, so when a café presented itself on the road side about two-thirds of the way it seems reasonable to stop. There were a few other customers passing the time, but it was indeterminate where they might have come from.

Kser Tarda gorge, Errachidia, MoroccoAcross the road (left) it looks like someone has laid out the streets and utility infrastructure for a future housing settlement, but there was yet to be a single structure built and the weeds that had taken up occupancy probably didn't appear immediately and still had several season of growth on them.Future suburban housing, Errichidia, Morocco

Three kilometers further is the verdant gorge of Kser Tarda. Perhaps some residents from them make their way to roadside café to pass the time.

There were a couple other bare bones developments (right) along the highway into Errachidia.

    Bike lane sign, Errichidia, MoroccoCaution sign before slight curve in the highway, Errichidia, Morocco.There is so little signage that a simple sign becomes the subject of a photo.

A caution sign (left) is presumably alerting drivers that there is a slight curve in the highway.

A lane designation sign (right) shows that bicycle are expected to use the shoulder of the road.
 

 
Residential area, Er-Rachidiai, MoroccoCommercial area, Er-Rachidia, MoroccoErrachidia's every appearance is that of a modern and friendly town. The main roads are wide and clean and the town is known for its active evening street life. A lot of red clay is used in the modern residential architecture so it has some of the appearances of Marrakech. Errachidia's former name, Ksar es Souk, suggest that it has some history as a market town on the former caravan routes that ran through the region but there is little evidence physical evidence of this.Avocado smoothie, Errachida, Morocco The French reinvigorated the town when they choose to use it as a garrison town for the Foreign Legion, and as an administrative center. The Kingdom of Morocco maintains a significant military presences here, which is an integral part of the modern economy of the city. The town was renamed after independence for the first Alaouite leader, 17th-century sultan Moulay Rachid. It has reemerged as a major commercial center for the region and has major market days three times a week (Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday).
    Mediouna, Assrir, Bni Hheli road, Errachidia, Morocco Donkeys and palms, Mediouna, Assrir, Bni Hheli road, Errachidia, Morocco Mediouna, Assrir, Bni Hheli road, Errachidia, Morocco Mediouna, Assrir, Bni Hheli road, Errachidia, Morocco  
    Palmerie, Mediouna, Assrir, Bni Hheli road, Errachidia, MoroccoIf you pass through the oasis villages of Mediouna, Assrir, and Bni Hheli, you will get to best side trip out of Errachida is to Source Bleue de Meski.

Kasbah, Source Bleue de Meski, Errachida, MoroccoThe ride through the oasis is a step back in time: There is more non-motorized travel (donkeys, bicycles, and pedestrians) than vehicles.  The roads are narrow and wind gently. The buildings are very human scale and some have traditional architectural features, including some old kasbah.

Source Bleue de Meski is a spring at the village of Meski that is set in a palm grove. It was first developed by the French Foreign Legion. The spring emerges at the bottom of the cliff and flows out into a large man-made pool. It is now the swimming hole for local kids and a stop for tour buses.

 
    Source Bleue de Meski, Errachida, Morocco Source Bleue de Meski, Errachida, Morocco Source Bleue de Meski, Errachida, Morocco Source Bleue de Meski, Errachida, Morocco Source Bleue de Meski, Errachida, Morocco
       
   

Dades River Valley Ziz River Valley

 
     
       
 

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