Snow in Morocco - Rabat & Atlas

Atlas mountains by Maciej Zawieja

Snow in Morocco – Rabat & Atlas

In March 2018 I’ve visited Morocco for the second time in my life. The main goal of the trip was to reach Atlas Mountains and attempt to climb Toubkal – the highest peak of Northern Africa.

I’ve made it. Well, partially. I’ve reached the Atlas Mountains and I’ve been sleeping on the slope of Toubkal. My young heart had synchronized for a little white with the old rocky heart. They have collided and crashed. We’re in a contradictory love. However, I didn’t make it to the top.

Let’s start from the beginning. We’re three friends hopping on a plane to Rabat with loaded backpacks. We’ve chosen to go in March. It was a wise decision made upon previous experience. The last time I’ve been in Morocco it was July. The temperatures were reaching 45 degrees.

Rabat by Maciej Zawieja
Rabat by Maciej Zawieja

One may ask: Why did you choose to fly to Rabat when you’re heading to the Atlas Mountains. The answer to this question is probably much trivial than expected. The tickets to Rabat were considerably cheap.

We’ve landed at dusk. It took a while queuing at the passport control before we were clear to go. In the meantime the day turned into night. We’ve taken a public bus to get to the city centre and then we walked towards our apartment. Finding the apartment wasn’t actually as easy as we’d expect. The address we had was deterministic. Finding the right street wasn’t much of a puzzle, however finding the right building was more complicated. We’ve been able to locate it only with the help of locals.

Another challenge was to enter the apartment. There was an intercom on the wall, but all the buttons were not named. First, we’ve tried to push random buttons, then we’ve just pushed them all. After a while one of the inhabitants opened the door. From that moment it took another 10 minutes to get connected to WiFi and contact our host. After another 10-15 minutes the host have arrived and let us in.

Bazar in Rabat by Maciej Zawieja
Bazaar in Rabat by Maciej Zawieja

After all these adventures we’ve finished the day at a local pub. We’ve been discussing the day and our plans while enjoying a traditional Moroccan pizza. 🙂

The next day wasn’t any less intensive. Rabat is a capital city. We’ve walked the whole center, old town, and a large portion of its outskirts. Because taxis are relatively cheap in Morocco, we’ve decided to just walk all around. 🙂 All in all, that’s the best way to explore a place.

Kasbah of the Udayas by Maciej Zawieja
Kasbah of the Udayas by Maciej Zawieja

We’ve visited Kasbah des Oudaia, Rabat’s Kasbah where we were invited to one of the houses for a tea (which was liable to a fee), Andalusian Gardens and a local bazaar.

Then we’ve walked toward another touristic spot – Tour Hassan. It’s a minaret which was intended to be the largest one in the world. However, it was never finished. The construction was stopped in 1199 and the minaret reached only half of it’s intended height of 86 meters. It has about 44 meters.

Next to it, there is Mausoleum of Mohammed V, a Moroccan king and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.

Mauzoleum Muhammada V by Maciej Zawieja
Mauzoleum Muhammada V by Maciej Zawieja

The last point of our ‘tour de Rabat’ was Chellah Necropolis – a medieval fortified Muslim necropolis. Thanks to my National Geographic blouse we’ve been recognized as the NG crew at the entrance. There was a big surprise awaiting us in Chellah – storks. A lot of storks nesting and having sex on ancient Roman ruins.

Stork having sex by Maciej Zawieja
Stork having sex by Maciej Zawieja

The next morning we took a train to Marrakesh.

Welcome back Marrakesh

I’ve traveled from Fez to Marrakesh by train a few years ago. It was a part of my small Euro(-africo-)trip. There are no photos from this trip. They have been stolen. Together with them my camera was stolen. Together with my camera my backpack was stolen. Together with the backpack my phone was stolen. And my book! Gringo wśród dzikich plemion by Wojciech Cejrowski. I loved that book. These basters!

Jemaa el-Fnaa by Maciej Zawieja
Jemaa el-Fnaa by Maciej Zawieja

The way to Marrakesh leads through hills and plains. I could cycle there. After a few hours we were approaching the city. We had a stunning view on the Atlas Mountains. We’ve spent the time playing cards and socializing with an older Canadian couple who joined us in Casablanca.

Each time I’m traveling with this train there are some positive older members of our society. The previous time I’ve been on the way I’ve met a 60-something year old women traveling Morocco on her own. She was a very cheerful and lively woman despite her age.

Bazar by Maciej Zawieja
Bazaar by Maciej Zawieja

When we’ve arrived, we’ve been hoping to get to our Airbnb without hassle. We’ve taken a taxi from train station and we’ve directed the driver towards our apartment. Unfortunately, when we got to the place Google Maps claimed is our apartment, we weren’t even sure if we are on the right street. Indeed, we weren’t. Thankfully, the place wasn’t far. We’ve been able to contact the host and get to the apartment. It took us about 30-40 minutes.

So far we’ve checked in to two AirBnbs at this trip and each time we had quite a struggle getting to the place. Nevertheless, these are the memories that will stay with us forever.

Bazar by Maciej Zawieja
Bazaar by Maciej Zawieja

The rest of the plan went smoothly. The food is good in Morocco, streets are lively and prices are low. Life is good in Morocco for a traveler. However, it may be getting better for the locals as well. I’ve seen less poor people on the streets than I’ve seen the last time.

Atlas Mountains

The next morning we’ve had a breakfast at local café. Then we went to Medina to catch a collective taxi. It didn’t take long before we were on the road to Imlil .

On the way to Imlil by Maciej Zawieja
On the way to Imlil by Maciej Zawieja

Imlil is a small town. Its economy is majorly dependent on tourism. There are plenty of stalls full of souvenirs and climbing equipment. One can find there everything from poles, crampons to sleeping bags. There are also a few markets and restaurants. Imlil is located at the entrance to the high mountains and there are several options for hiking around.

Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja
Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja

We’ve spent over an hour preparing to set off towards Toubkal. We’ve walked the whole village up and down before we’ve decide to stop at one place and bargain for the equipment we needed to rent. Then we’ve got some groceries for the road and we’ve finally set off. This day our plan was to get to mountain shelters located about 3000 meters above sea level. The path was fairly easy. There was only one moment when it was really steep.

Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja
Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja

We’ve been moving fairly slowly. There were a few places on the way providing food and souvenirs to the trekkers. There was no need to carry too much water and food on our shoulders.

We’ve reached our destination before sunset. We didn’t have a place booked at the refugee. Luckily, there were free spots at dormitory. We’ve had a huge dinner (included in the price) and then we went to sleep. The room was basic. There were over 20 people sleeping in the dormitory. There was very little space and plenty of blankets. Staying there was a little nightmare we had to bear. However, we were far from all the roads and cars. It wasn’t a place we should expect too much.

Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja
Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja

The next morning brought some fairly good weather. The sky was mostly blue, but the wind was strong. From this point the mountain was covered with snow. The plan was to get our crampons on, get to the top of the mountain and then go back down to Imlil.

The path wasn’t very difficult. Actually, on a calm day it should be really easy to get to the top. However, this day the wind was getting stronger and stronger with every minute. We had to stop climbing from time to time and wait for the wind to get weaker. We’ve climbed up to about 3600-3700 meters above the sea level. Then we had to make a decision whether we continue or not. Despite a strong will to get to the top, we had to make a reasonable choice and we’ve decided to go back down.

Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja

Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja

The mountain didn’t welcome us this time. There were only a few people who made it to the top out of dozens trying. I’m sure they weren’t office workers without proper preparation thought. 🙂

Going back was pleasant and fast. We had no choice rather than taking the same path. We’ve sled down on the snow and then almost run down on the rocks. After a few hours we were back in Imlil. Then we’ve reached Marrakesh in the evening.

Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja
Atlas Mountains by Maciej Zawieja

We didn’t get to the top. Despite that the whole trip was absolutely amazing. Morocco is probably the closest to Europe exotic (for Europeans) country. It’s different to what we deal with in day to day life both in culture and landscape. Maybe I’ll find myself there for the 3rd time… who knows!

The team by AV
The team by AV