Crossing the Tizi n’Tichka pass

Crossing the Tizi n’Tichka pass

Today we’re crossing the High Atlas from south to north to reach Marrakech. As we have enough time, we make a round trip to the south of the Tizi n’Tichka pass, heading east towards Anemiter. There, the road turns into a poorly maintained track leading back down to Ouarzazate. We don’t go that far and inspect an artisanal salt works.

In Morocco, these antennas are omnipresent.

The village of Abadou

These houses are on our way to an artisanal salt works. From this vantage point, we have a good view of the village and its structure. The houses are built of stone and red earthen adobe. Many are large, flat-roofed houses with central courtyards.

Moroccan schools are often located outside villages and small towns. They can be recognized by their concrete construction and uniform style, although here Berber-style wall decorations have been applied.

The large numbered rectangles on the walls are spaces reserved for posters advertising the 2023 parliamentary elections. They had been up for two weeks by the time we visited, and in all the villages these rectangles had been applied to the walls. But posters were very rare.

This type of hexagonal minaret is quite rare. Of course, this is not the only mosque in the village.

This kasbah is very small, and the fact that the red earth adobe walls have been topped by a stone floor suggests that it is a ruined kasbah that has been refurbished.

The colorful stains in the bushes at the back are linen spread out on the branches to dry.

Ces champs sont situés à plus de 1 700 mètres d’altitude et directement dans le lit de la rivière asséchée, au risque d’être emportés en cas de crue, mais au plus près de l’eau et des terres fertiles.

The mountains in the background are called Adrar n’Tayat and Adrar n’Dgout.

This kasbah is in ruins, but there are still some beautiful rooms to visit. This castle was the seat of the Berber lords El Glaoui. Beware when entering the village of Télouet: you’ll be beset by false guides as soon as you enter from the south-west. However, you have to cross the village and approach the kasbah from the north.

The red earths and the Anemiter saltworks

We’re 29 kilometers east of the Ouarzazate to Marrakech road junction. This valley of red earth is not very wide, as the limestone mountain steppe quickly takes over.

View downstream. At this height is a rutted track north of the road that leads to a small artisanal salt works. You can recognize the place by the white traces (which are salt concretions) and a dilapidated casbah further up.

You have to cross this riverbed to reach the artisanal saltworks. This land is unusable. But the presence of natural mineral salts is responsible for this condition.

Beneath the ruin is a degraded track leading to a small salt pan. A two-tower structure can be seen on this side of the ruin. At its base piles the washed-out earth of the old walls.

The water is circulated in basins, and the salt content gradually becomes more concentrated. In the final basin, no more water comes out and the crystals accumulate. The whole system looks run-down, but probably still works.

In this five-meter-square basin, the water evaporates and the salt crystals remain. The salt is not very clean; there’s a lot of dirt in it.

Tizi N’Tichka pass, 2260 metres

Then back on the main road and down to Marrakech. The road is alpine but good, problematic are the very slow trucks. As we approach Marrakech, the country flattens out, the road becomes wider and traffic intensifies. We are equipped with maps to find parking in the medina near our hotel. Traffic in the city is “southern”, everything is always moving and trucks and buses always have priority, no matter where they come from. You have to get used to donkey carts on roads with four or more lanes. When officials like the King are on the move, whole roads may be closed to traffic. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major exit from the city, or if it’s a twenty-kilometer detour into the hinterland.

It’s not necessarily old cars that stink up the atmosphere with fine particles in Morocco, but newer ones do too. It seems to be the poor quality of diesel fuel that is responsible for this environmental impact. There are two types of diesel at petrol stations in Morocco, which could mean that there are two types (heating oil being a third type). However, most private cars run on gasoline.

These mountains lie to the east of the Tizi N’Tichka pass and rise to over 2800 meters.

The road at the far end is not the main road, but leads up to a telecommunications antenna. On the slopes below the road is a recent reforestation.

The red and yellow markers at the top of the road help you find your way in fog and snow, which are frequent in winter.

There are no souvenir vendors at the pass, so we can stop in peace and quiet. In the background, you can see the mountains to the north of Djebel Bou Ourioul. It’s hard to believe that these mountains are white in winter and green in spring.

Looking south and uphill just after the pass. On the other side of the river you can see a path. This is the old mule track. Further along it passes just below the rocks.

North of the Tizi N’Tichka pass, near Tizi N’Aït Imguer, we see the greenest parts of our journey through southern Morocco.  Here we find real, tall trees. On the plains, it’s back to the same desert-like nature as in the south.

Arrival in Marrakech
Everything works pretty well in town, except at the last moment, we hesitate to enter a cul-de-sac that would have been our right road. And that’s when a “guide” on a moped offers to guide us to a parking lot – “his” parking lot, of course. All this takes place amid a chorus of horns honking behind us (as we’re blocking the single lane) and there’s not much time left to think. Don’t trust the street names, as they’re not indicated (or random); the best thing is a good map or a copy of Google Earth. So we follow our unwitting “guide” far, obviously too far. There’s a street with parked cars and, as luck would have it, a cashier who takes 100 dirham a day. And no, he doesn’t wash the car either. Then the “guide” takes us back to our hotel after leading us in circles through the maze of streets. It’s a long walk, of course. And no, he doesn’t carry our luggage. Consequence: never follow anyone on a moped, don’t let yourself be irritated by people in a hurry – Moroccans themselves also always stop at any time. And keep smiling! Apart from this little mishap, Marrakech seems to us to be the most modern city of the trip: no one tries to sell us anything, not even a carpet, Alex is not molested at all, a good third of the people in town are women, and of these, half are without veils.

Our hotel, Riad Célia, is in a good location, but we have a room on the street, which is naturally noisier than the courtyard, which is beautiful and quiet. But there are no cars, only a few mopeds pass by and you can hear people talking. No problem with earplugs.

Marrakech’s medina is very large. You’ll have to go the length and breadth of it to find interesting sights. Since there are no street names, no main axes and no geometric order to the streets, it’s not easy to find your way around. We have two paper maps, one in our European guidebook with street names and the other in the hotel with all the alleys, even the smallest ones, but without street names. In the end, we’ll navigate by compass.

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