Taking the difficult road
On our first day in Morocco, we cycled a solid 57 km, enjoyed an extremely warm welcoming by the Moroccan people, found a great wild camping spot and had a good night’s rest. It seemed that all our senses were suddenly awoken. It was intense in terms of all the new sights, smells, foods and many smiling and friendly Moroccan people saying “Bonjour Monsieur, Bonjour Madame, welcome to Morocco!”. It seemed that things could not get much better.
After packing up our camping gear and leaving our first wild camping spot, we continued pedaling towards Tafraout. At a chill tempo we were following our Garmin GPS navigation without any suspicions that things will turn out for worse. We passed quite a big river and oasis type of scenery and were totally captivated by its beauty. At that point none of us knew that the Garmin GPS is sending us off from the main road and leave the only shop and water resource a few kilometers back in Ait Baha. The longer we were on the road, the more difficult and steep it became. After an hour of extreme climbing and descending we got really concerned about our drinking water reserve. There were no shops and no people in the villages we passed by, so our concerns were raising as fast as the midday temperature. Realizing that we covered just a small distance and the coming 50 km will be climbing and descending only, we were really in a need for drinking water. As Tim was turning a non-functioning tap in another deserted town, he was waved over by a shepherd. They walked up to a roof and opened a hatch. It was a water well! The shepherd helped Tim fill a 10 liter Ortlieb water bag. So we were saved. We did filter the water to be sure though.
An unexpected meeting
At a snail’s pace we were conquering slopes, enjoying the view and a bit of chill breeze. After a whole day of cycling our bike computer showed the mediocre 30 km distance we did. Exhausted, hungry and really not impressed with our mileage we sat down next to the road to discuss our dinner and camping plans. It was a big surprise for us when we saw an old man, dressed in traditional Berber clothing (Abdel Krim) with a van stopping and coming our direction. In broken French Abdel Krim asked us whether everything was OK, “ca va?” Yes, we were fine, but also pretty exhausted and hungry. He offered us a short ride up because he lived closeby in Tioulit. Without too much of a discussion we accepted his kind offer, got our bikes and ourselves into his old but trustworthy van and got moving. During the ride we got talking in basic French and he generously offered to stay at his place and have dinner together. Although it felt completely trustworthy, we did read about scams and got warned by several people (including Moroccans themselves). So we asked what we could pay him for everything he was offering. He immediately replied that we do not have to pay anything and it would just be his pleasure to have us over. Wow and we barely knew him! But it felt good. He wasn’t pushy or anything like that, just really kind, warm and generous.
Berber man’s house
After arriving at Tioulit we parked our bikes in his garage and walked to his house with all our belongings. His house was simple in facilities and furniture but quite spacious. He showed us around the house and reminded us again how welcome we are in staying at his house. We should be “tranquile” (easy), which he repeated several times. While we were refreshing ourselves, Abdel went to the Souk (market) to get some missing ingredients for the dinner. It was such a special experience: cooking in Morocco with a Berber man giving us the instructions on how to prepare the meal in French, Arabic and Berber languages. I am not sure what the name of the dish was, but is seemed to be some kind of version of tajine with red onion, tomatoes, peas, minced meat, parsley salt, pepper, paprika powder and cumin. It was delicious!
We sat on the terrace in the Anti-Atlas Mountains watching stars, talking about life and enjoying a few cups of traditional Moroccan tea with some cake and let all the intense happenings sink in. It was such a memorable evening. His openness for complete strangers was extraordinary and overwhelming. After spending a few hours together we got to know Abdel a bit better. He is 61 years old and works as a chauffeur. When he doesn’t work as a driver, he is guide in the mountains. When the season is right he also collects argan nuts and other goods that Mother Nature has to offer and later processes them to saleable goods for the local souk (market). In his village most of the people have left their homes to go to bigger cities for work. Even though life in the mountains isn’t easy, he loves living there, as he said it is very “tranquil” (also meaning peaceful). He is very grateful for the calmness, beautiful scenery, great weather, fresh air and unlimited natural resources. Although I absolutely enjoyed the cozy evening, tiredness kicked in, so I made myself comfortable in one of the guest beds, but Tim and Abdel continued chatting for few hours. It seemed that our meeting was beneficial to all of us.
Next morning Abdel prepared breakfast with some bread, olive oil, argan oil, mixed nut paste, cheese and of course a big pot of Moroccan mint tea. After the breakfast Abdel showed us around his house and garden which was full of almond and argan trees. We spend some hours chatting and tanning in the sun while enjoying the view of the beautiful Anti-Atlas Mountains.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end and it was time for us to leave. Abdel invited us to stay longer and insured that his home is our home and even though we highly appreciated his kind invitation we choose to continue our tour. He filled our water bags with drinking water, gave us few kilos of almonds from his garden and enthusiastically waved goodbye. Men also say goodbye to each other by kissing one another on the cheeks.
After stepping on the saddle and pedaling away from Tioulit we faced the moment of self-reflection. Meeting Abdel was yet another reminder about what really is important in life and what makes you rich. If we could describe the most important lesson we learned from Abdel, then it is that happiness, isn’t about getting what you want all the time. It’s about loving what you have and being grateful for it.
If you are eager to find out more about Morocco, click here.