Bab Ourika: The High Atlas

The High Atlas

The High Atlas

Our rather fast paced days in Marrakech didn’t leave much room, aside from brief breaks in the afternoon, for relaxing. This is ideal for me, I am terrible at sitting still on vacation. I almost never have “vacation reads” because I’d prefer to be too busy to read. For anyone that knows me well, they know beach vacations are not my favorite. I love the ocean, but sitting on the beach for more than an hour taxes my patience. A friend explained it well, vacation for those of us with unrelenting minds, are better suited to distract ourselves. If we’re left alone with our thoughts for too long, we’ll just make lists or worry. And so, when I read the itinerary for our next day that involved a quick hour drive out of Marrakech to Kasbah Bab Ourika in the High Atlas, followed by…nothing for the rest of the day, I had my concerns. 

Bab Ourika

Bab Ourika

It may be a short drive from the city, but the High Atlas area is a world away from the city. It is stunningly beautiful, in a very stark way. Apparently, in the spring, the area is lush with green. But I’ve always preferred the stark beauty of deserts, so it suited me just fine. On our first day, after lunch, we meandered around the grounds reading and relaxing by the pool. And while I did only last just over an hour by the pool I didn’t mind slowing down as much as I anticipated.

Dinner at Bab Ourika

Dinner at Bab Ourika

And how could I complain too much with (unfiltered) sunsets like this? Dinner here ended up being an evening affair. Around seven you meander down to the lounge to drink pastis or campari and watch the sunset over the mountains. Around 8:30 you might move to your table, it’s just now cool enough with the sun completely set to comfortably dine outdoors. Then, you order a bottle of wine and make your way through dinner for the next few hours. Suddenly, it’s almost 11 and time to retire. Four hour dinners are something I could get used too. And this, I think is how I do relaxation: extended meals with good food, wine, and conversation.

Hiking the High Atlas

Hiking the High Atlas

The next day we spent most of it hiking in the surrounding, very barren hills. We hiked through villages with salt farms, trailed by a herd of goats that seemed to belong to no one. Up and down dusty hills with loose rocks, under the unrelenting summer sun.

High Atlas Picnic

High Atlas Picnic

Mid way through our dusty hike we met a donkey named Isabella who, along with a porter, brought us a picnic lunch. Though the hike was relatively easy by our usual standards it was great to do something active and be out in nature. Even if nature primarily was dust and red earth. We walked silently for much of it, which may have confused our guide, but for us was the first silent moment since the wedding. And I felt, nearly a week later, finally relaxing.

Bab Ourika from a Distance

Bab Ourika from a Distance

Prior to the hike I felt a bit disconnected. Being in Morocco didn’t feel like we were on our Honeymoon, or really, even on a vacation. It was strange, having everything taken care of for us. Without the element of active effort throughout our time, it didn’t feel like we were traveling really. It was nice, of course, not to deal with logistical challenges, but until that hike, where we were “out in the world” I felt a bit like I was viewing Morocco like some giant interactive museum exhibit. That isn’t to say, we weren’t having a good time-we really, really were. But it was different to be sure. Which, probably was good. We worried that our honeymoon would feel like just another trip, and so far it felt different-not exceptionally so, but enough. And with that, feeling a bit more grounded in our new settings, we left the High Atlas, a brief stopover on our long journey to the Sahara, the part of the trip I was looking the most forward too (even though camels would be involved).

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