Morocco is best known for its stunning views of the Sahara desert, but we decided to go another route on this trip - the mountains.
It took a couple of hours to hike to Armoud, the last village before you truly begin hiking upwards in the Atlas Mountains towards Mount Toubkal (the highest peak in northern Africa!). It’s a traditional Berber village with a small population of ~1700, one of which was our guide, Ahmed. He told us during the trek that his father, himself, and his 3 sons were born there. Ahmed went to an Islamic/Koranic school until he was 16 and was preparing to become an Imam (Muslim religious leader), but since it was costly for his family, he began working as a mule guide in the mountains. He studied English and French, then began studying to be a guide with the Royal Moroccan Federation of Skiiing & Mountaineering. Working for 10+ years as a tour guide, Ahmed has hiked through all types of terrain (ice, snow, rain) to take eager visitors up to his village, family home, and even higher up into the peaks of the mountains.
I can say without hesitation that this trek with Ahmed was the highlight of our trip, and I’m glad we found him (proof that the 3rd page of Google sometimes has absolute gems!). I know from previous travels that platforms like TripAdivsor and Viatour often extract a hefty fee from local tour guides that work full time to make a living - I’ve had guides cancel my booking through the website then privately message me and ask for cash payment, which is also sometimes common for Uber/taxi drivers to do overseas.
Ahmed gave us a fluid, intimate glance into the lives of the people in villages we were wandering through, introduced us to his family, and told us stories about the history of the groups of people who initially settled in the Atlas mountains. Not one question went unanswered. In turn, we suggested he expand his business by joining Instagram and even helped him film some “starter” videos on the trek down the mountain.
Until he gets that set up, I’m sharing some beautiful photos/film stills of our trek (and an unexpected encounter with a lovely herd of mountain goats that made me audibly gasp).