Who doesn’t love a palm tree-lined valley!! Here in the Anti Atlas mountains, already well away from major cities and resorts, a winding road brings one up and over into the canyon of Ait Mansour. Even without the promise of the oasis, the drive itself is breathtaking – especially if you love that, almost lunar, rocky landscape.
Glimpse of water and the first of the palms…
Beautiful as the drive is, you can understand why walking or cycling the 10km+ route is suggested….
A string of Berber villages perch above the lush vegetation…
Lunch – Berber Omelet, Khobz (Moroccan bread) and Mint tea….
But there is much to ponder……..
While this paradise is experiencing reduced rainfall and rising temperatures, difficulties here are largely attributed to socio-economic driving forces rather than climate change. Things really kicked off with Independence, when settlers relocated back to France, encouraging their workers to follow them. Emigration increased in the 60’s and 70’s with (mostly) men heading to France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Many opted to stay in Morocco but left the mountains for the opportunities offered in the big cities – Casablanca, Marrakesh, etc. Since the 80’s, further job opportunities in the tourism industry along the coast have drawn even more young people away from the mountain villages.
The reduction in local workforce has had a massive impact on cultivation. In particular, there was no one left to maintain the terraces with their drystone walls. Nowadays, only some 25% of the terraces are used for subsistence farming (some grain and cereal straw for domestic animals). The rest of the terraces, some centuries old, are gradually deteriorating, resulting in decaying irrigation systems and eventual erosion.
It’s not just the land that is experiencing change – in some spots along the road, it appears that whole crumbling adobe villages have been abandoned altogether or replaced with concrete. The traditional pisé (mud brick) houses – which need regular maintenance – are being abandoned in favour of reinforced concrete homes which offer more comfort and are easier to maintain.
While the road is wide enough for most of it, I’m glad we’re not driving a motorhome!!!
We’d planned a looped route from our base in Tafraoute but it didn’t quite work out……Not sure if the road surface vanished completely or if the road works sign a few kms back was actually of significance(!)
Having juddered along for a another kilometre, we conceded defeat (fearing the wrath of the car rental agency!!) and turned back… Now we were really glad we didn’t have a motorhome!!!