THE BEAUTY OF MARRAKESH AND OUR FASCINATING JOURNEY TO JBEL TOUBKAL
After spending two days in Fes, we boarded the train late in the morning, so we could travel to Marrakesh. This eight-hour long trip was pure hell that I never want to repeat ever again, nor do I wish that trip on my worst enemy.
We were squeezed into the seats on the train with I don’t even know how many other travelers, and it was hot! In fact, as the journey continued, the temperatures inside that train just continued to climb until we thought that we would never survive to the end.
It even got to the point where we didn’t want to look out the window at the countryside that was flying by, because the sun shined on our faces and bodies, making us even hotter. I felt myself dreaming of the air conditioning, and many other luxuries, from the western parts of the world.
Thankfully, we finally arrived in Marrakesh, but we couldn’t stop to cool down, even for a minute. The reason for that is we needed to get over to Imlil, which is at the foot of the summit of Jbel Toubkal. Unfortunately, there was no connecting train to Imlil, which was probably a blessing in disguise!
Therefore, we grabbed a taxi, despite the fact that we were taking a risk that the fare would be higher, due to the time of the day. We were hoping to ride with someone else, but there was no one else who wanted to venture out to the village at that point in the day, so we broke down and negotiated a fairly decent price for a taxi.
The ride was an hour long, and we had to wait in the pitch darkness until our host arrived to take us back to his guest house. We were so happy after walking up a hill to his accommodations to find that there was some Moroccan tea and delicious cuisine waiting for us. We were so tired, but we were also hungry, and the food and tea perked us right up!
We managed to get some sleep, so that we could get up early the next morning to begin our journey up the mountain. Before we started out, we had a hearty Berber style breakfast, and were on our way by 7:30.
As tired as we were, we had no choice but to power through, so that we could reach the mountain refuge. That area was at an altitude of 3,207 meters, which may not seem like much, but it is.
Prior to leaving our accommodations, we did take some of our stuff some of our bags, since we wouldn’t need it all up on the mountain. That ended up being smart, because it made it easier to hike for extended periods of time.
After all, the flat hike in the beginning was just a teaser of what was yet to come. The trail got quite steep after a while, and as the sun rose higher in the sky, we ended up getting hotter than we were the day before on the train. We did take some short breaks along the way, and they were all at designated stops where there was water, orange juice, tea, and some food items to purchase.
Karaouine Mosque and University happens to be the world’s oldest university and we ended up being mesmerized when we saw the door there. As beautiful as the door was though, we found the views of Madrasa Bou Inania from the minaret of the Chrabilyine Mosque even more fascinating. When we were at that mosque, we even had the chance to listen to the Muslim preacher pray. The preacher says the prayers through loudspeakers five times a day, so it is common for people to stop what they are doing and listen whenever they can hear him.
We spent a total of eleven hours on the trail that day and finally reached the mountain refuge later in the evening.
I think we collapsed into bed from exhaustion, and the fact that we had to be up before four o’clock the next morning. We ate a quick breakfast before grabbing our flashlights and starting to hike upwards once again. It was so easy to lose the steep trail at that hour of the day, and to make things worse, the batteries in our flashlights died. Thankfully, we had our phones with us to use, but it was still slow going until the first rays of the sun peeked out over the horizon.
After four hours of hiking, we finally reached an area that offered us breathtaking views of the Atlas Mountains. Not everyone in our group made it to this point, as the air was getting thin, and some people were having difficulty breathing. We won’t say that this journey was easy, but we did manage to carry on to reach our goal.
It only took us another half hour before we were on top of the highest summit in North Africa and we have the pictures to prove it! The weather that day was cold and windy, which was completely different than the weather that we had experienced the day before.
It only took us approximately two and a half hours to reach the refuge again. After a quick lunch, we managed to repack our backpacks and prepare ourselves mentally for the rest of the trip down the mountain. We had a brilliant idea though, and that was to rent a mule to carry our belongings. It seemed like our best option, because we were already exhausted, and we had quite the hike before us.
We had already had sun, heat, cold, and wind during our trip, so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when it started raining during our hike down the mountain. We didn’t let than dampen our spirits though and before we knew it, we were back at our guesthouse.
We repacked our bags one more time, said thank you and goodbye to our host, and began our trip back to Marrakesh. It took us some time to find a taxi to take us to Marrakesh, but thankfully, our driver helped us find our riad when we arrived there. I don’t know how we would have survived otherwise!
After all, we had been awake for twenty hours and survived numerous altitude changes. The change between the refuge and the summit was one thousand meters, while the change between the summit and Imlil was two thousand five hundred meters. When you factored in the change between Imlil and Marrakesh at another thirteen hundred meters, you can say that we probably didn’t know what altitude we were at anymore!
We did manage to wander around Marrakesh a little that night to find something to eat. We stumbled upon a charming and cozy restaurant nearby the Koutoubia Mosque and ate tajin before returning back to our hotel for some much-needed sleep.
We had a lot of fun during our two-day journey, but it was quite tiring and a little overwhelming at times. However, we know that we will relish those memories for the rest of our life.