Morocco (May-June 2016): 1. From Tabachirt to Amassine

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Oumar and I went by car from Marrakesh to Tabachirt, where we met our muleteers. We spent the night there at the ″Maison d‛Hotes″ (kind of guesthouse) and started trekking on the next morning. Tabachirt is located in the beautiful valley of Assif-n-Wamrane, approximately 27km north-east of the town of Taliwine.

 

Topographic and Google Earth maps of this section of the trek. Click here to see the complete full-resolution 100K topographic map ″Taliwine″ (without annotations) that covers this section of the trek and here (.kmz file) to access all the waypoints and placemarks in Google Earth. (Reminder: the green dots/markers are campsites.)

 

 

 

 

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Village of Tj-n-Iddr, located 1.5km south of Tabachirt, in the same valley.

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Start of the trek at the Maison d‛Hotes in Tabachirt (WP 01-01).

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Village of Atougha, a short distance north of Tabachirt. (The photo was taken from the Maison d‛Hotes.)

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Houses in Atougha.

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Women working in the fields near Atougha.

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Valley of Assif-n-Wamrane, with Atougha at the bottom-right corner of the photo and Tj-n-Iddr near the center.

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Another view of the valley of Assif-n-Wamrane from a higher location. The Sahara desert lies not far away in the background. A ruined observation post is visible on the rocky hill on the right. It was used in the past to spot raids (razzias) by Berber tribes coming from the Sahara.

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Another view from an even higher location.

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As we were going up, the terrain became more typically volcanic and increasingly austere.

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Nevertheless, thanks to water springs, there were cultivated terraces and sheepfolds in a small valley at a short distance from the trail.

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We set our first campsite (WP 01-06) near a small spring, east of Jebel Talzouggaght.

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Dry stone sheepfolds near our camp.

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On that first evening we bought a small goat from local herders and we shared kebabs with them.

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Loading the mule on the next morning. A mule can carry up to 150kg. A good mule costs between 1,500 and 2,000 Dirhams (approximately US$150-200).

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Our path soon entered an area of many volcanic outcrops.

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View toward the north-west, with the High Atlas range visible in the background. The sharp peak at the center of the photo is Jebel Toubkal (4167m) and the snowy peak on its left is Jebel Ouanoukrim (4088m). Jebel Toubkal is also visible on the left-hand side of the previous photo.

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We climbed toward Jebel Sirwa on its western flank.

 

Successive views of Jebel Amzdour (the rock bar in the middle of the first photo, 3002m) and Jebel Tikniwine (the two volcanic buttes), located north of the Sirwa summit. In Berber language, Tikniwine means ″twins″. Only one of the two twins is visible in the third photo below.

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Three views of the Sirwa summit (3305m). We did not climb the approximately 50m summit cone.

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Three views of surrounding scenery toward the north-east, taken from different locations on the southern ridge of the Sirwa summit. Note the two large dark volcanic outcrops in the first photo (one on the left, the other at the center-right). During the descent we will first head east, pass on the right of the first outcrop and then on the left of the second. From the second outcrop our path will head north toward Azib-n-Iriri.

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View toward the south-east from the ridge.

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Beginning our descent on the eastern side of Sirwa. (Our mule had followed an easier itinerary toward Azib-n-Iriri.)

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Below the first outcrop, with the summit cone of Jebel Sirwa on the left.

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Reaching the second outcrop.

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Views of the southernmost Tikniwine butte (2952m) as we were heading north toward Azib-n-Iriri. Jebel Amzdour is also visible in the background.

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View of the northernmost Tikniwine butte (2907m).

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View toward the north-east from approximately the same location.

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Reaching Azib-n-Iriri, located below Jebel Amzdour. This large group of azibs was almost empty of people when we got there. Hundreds of people from the village of Amassine (and other nearby villages) were expected to move here with their livestock (sheep and goats) a couple of weeks later, after having harvested their fields at lower elevation, to spend the summer months.

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Azibs in Azib-n-Iriri (WP 02-07). I took some photos in the evening and some on the next morning.

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Looking back at the two Tikniwine buttes from Azib-n-Iriri. The summit cone of Jebel Sirwa is hidden by the southernmost Tikniwine butte in the first photo, but is visible in the second photo below.

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Leaving Azib-n-Iriri on the next morning toward the village of Amassine. The sky was cloudless and the morning light was beautiful.

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Reaching Amassine. This relatively large village is built is a depression and is dominated by an impressive collective granary. The village is famous for the making of long-pile carpets.

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General view of Amassine.

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Minarets of Amassine.

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The old collective fortified granary (″agadir″ in Berber language) that dominates Amassine. It is still in use today, with each family owning one of its sections. Many granaries in the Anti-Atlas and High Atlas were fortified to defend them against raids by Berber tribes from the Sahara. The ovoid-shaped granary of Amassine was built in several phases to accommodate the growing needs of the village.

 

 

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We had arrived in Amassine on a late morning. A very nice and hospitable man (on the right in the photo below, with Oumar on the left), whom we had met on the trail before reaching the village, invited us to stay at his home for lunch. One specialty of our host is sheep shearing for local carpet makers. He also cultivates saffron, the most expensive spice in the world (because it is extremely difficult to collect). Saffron from the Sirwa massif is considered one of the very best worldwide.

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Left and center: our host‛s mother carding wool. (The purpose of carding is to clean and disentangle wool fibers to prepare them for spinning.) Right: our host‛s daughter.

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After spending a few relaxing and enjoyable hours in Amassine, we left the village to continue our trek (stage 2).

 

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