Tuesday 31 May 2016

Travels through Morocco, Part 2 - The Rif Mountains

That day we departed around 11 o'clock and the next 7 hours were spent travelling with a car through the Rif Mountains in the northern parts of Morocco. The mountain range stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to Algeria and we crossed about half of the distance or roughly 350 km. Our goal was to reach Bni Bouayach, small village 15 km south of the bay of Hoceima and in the middle of the distance between Gibraltar and the Algerian border. The road in the beginning was pretty good even according the West European standards, but when we approached the higher and more mountainous parts it turned in the typical hole-ridden third world country-side roads that if not careful can break your car or even kill you. Getting out of Tangier and driving further away gave me the feeling I am leaving a western town and entering some proverbial poor country. Along the road can be seen many small villages, which look rather ghettos. Between the hastily and poorly built houses and barracks can be seen also here and there buildings that I'd call "mini-palaces". However later along the road in the less densely populated areas the landscape changed and was much more rustic and idyllic. The houses were very neat and well spaced with several hundred metres between each other and surrounded with well kept and cultivated farm land. The general rule was that in the centres of the villages were built few small blocks of flats with low quality and the further you get out the better looking and farm-like were the buildings.

Even more strange and impressive was the sight of people walking along the roads, in temperatures exceeding 45C and often 20-30 km from the closest human settlement. After offering to some of them a lift and they refused it, we learned that some of these people are locals who are going after their own jobs and tasks, but the majority were just homeless poor people, who were wandering aimlessly around the mountains. Normally they were wearing thick dirty clothes (or rather rags) and matching shoes. Also most of them had bindle-stiffs and tied big plastic bottles full with water. The only thing I couldn't find was why all of them walked under the Sun in midday, during the hottest hours, but seems it was not troubling them, or at least not enough to make them look for cover.

Talking about the heat, I have to mention that in the Rif Mountains one can often see men and women wearing the traditional Berber clothes, which superficially look like something designed for the cold of the winter and snow, but the protection from heath requires somewhat similar techniques and the final result is somewhat surprising. These costumes are composed of long hanging below the knees (or the ankle for women) light shirt, similar to these worn by the Arabs and aselham, long robe or coat-like garment with pointy hood, which is normally closed in front and is made from relatively thick and coarse material in drab colours. For work in the open normally people wear knit cap or scarf and on top of it the traditional broad-brim Berber straw hats, called "taraza" and specially in the case of the women's ones often decorated with colourful pompoms.  And as an conclusion now I am convinced that all this covers, hijabs, etc are rather due to the climate then some other cultural reason, because its not only the women, but also men who are completely covered as protection from the insane heath and burning sun rays. So, below you can see some of the pictures i took from this travel through the Rif Mountains, enjoy!

Getting out of Tangier
Small side roads, leading to farms around Tangier
Woman in traditional Berber costume and decorated taraza hat selling prickle pears on side of the road
The prickle pears (Opuntia ficus-indica) are in fact cactus fruits and are often sold 1-2 for 1 dirham and peeling them is included in the price 
I've got to try them in Morocco and they are nothing like these we are getting in Europe. Here are sold much bigger and sweeter fruits.
Typical houses in the centres of the small villages along the road in the Rif Mountains
View of the fields in the Rif Mountains
Another view of the fields
Farm land in Rif
Groups of conifer trees, some of them are endemic for the region
Rock formations in the Rif Mountains
Village in the Rif Mountain
Oak tree along the road. Some of the oak species are also typical for the region
Well watered fields in the Rif Mountain
Farmlands in Rif
Fields in Rif
Farms along the roads
Village in Rif 
There were a lot of people wearing traditional Berber clothes
Stalls along the main roads
Often can be seen these strange restaurant/BBQ places were you can bring your own meat to be roasted
These old Mercedes used often as taxis are another typical view for the country
Man with the Berber hooded robe, called "aselham"
A lot of tea houses can be seen everywhere and there are always a people in them
Typical view from a car window when passing village in the Rif Mountain
Another group of conifers
Single tree
Park in a village along the road through Rif
Valleys and scenic landscapes in the Rif Mountains
The higher parts of the Rif range
View from the road in the higher parts of the mountain
Typical haystacks along the road in Rif
Landscape - Rif
Roadhouse and grocery in the Rif Mountain
View of the road in Rif
Often can be seen children running around the road and selling stuff to the drivers, sometimes many miles from the closest settlement

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