We hiked up the shrine called Sidi Chamharouch. Round trip was about 10 miles from Chez Les Berberes, our guest house. A small 4 room guest house that I would consider an introduction to Berber living. There is a climb up to the guest house through small narrow, unsaved and rocky paths. Neighbors of Chez Les Berberes are really nice and peaceful people. Each village in Imlil have their own mosque and you can hear the prayers several times a day. Most of the homes around Chez Les Berberes have a storage room or an animal shelter usually a cow underneath the house. Homes are made out of bricks slapped with cement or mud. There’s a small store and a “market” in the village. Once a week, the sellers would lay their products our such as tea kettles, clothing and other household items for sale. Just two or three vendors, that is a market here in the Berbers. Simple life.
We climbed up to a the first village trekkers would pass on their way to Toubkal. Aroud is another small Berber village on the hills so there is a climb up to the village then it flattens out. The plateau is filled with apple orchards. We went around the village to see what is around and ended up at the mosque then a wider road through the apple orchards. It smelled like apples! The farmers were picking apples and I must say, after tasting the apples the farmers had us sample – it’s the best apple in the world in my books. Imlil should show case their delicious, juicy and crunchy apples.
There is a dry bed of rocks before the base of the climb and walking through it was rough but once we found the real track, it was better. The climb is not very steep because it’s used a lot by donkeys hauling trekkers bags and supplies. Some trekkers ride the donkeys and some carry the apples down to town. The first few hundred meters at the base of the climb were full of donkey poop very much so like the SoluKhumbu in Nepal. Donkeys generally unload before the climb. A few hundred meters after, it’s dry and poops are fewer.
On our way up to the apple orchard, we saw Ibrahim the very persistent sales man from town. He lives in Aroud and he was on his way down to town to work at the store. He didn’t have his sales man hat on when we saw him and gave us a few pointers on our short hike. We bid him goood luck and he bid us good luck from Allah. We both had a darn good time on trying to meet in the middle for the price of the Amoul I wanted to purchase the day before. I haven’t bought the Amoul but certainly will after meeting him for the second time. Off work and not working as a sales man, he was a really very welcoming.
We climbed up as the day was getting warm then stopped by the shrine to drink some water and eat a bar I bought from an old Berber man on the climb. There are places to stop for tea and right where the shrine is, there were lots of small shops for lunch and trinkets for souvenirs. We ran down to town after the climb. The trail is runnable and not very steep so it was really fun!
We finally got our couscous in a local restaurant with some grilled beef skewers and as always, lots of bread. It’s interesting that so far, the tangines we’ve had were not at all what I expected. In the four or five tangines we’ve had including the couscous, it didn’t seem flavorful enough. It’s on the bland side but not skimpy on the olive oil. I noticed that there is no salt or pepper on the table, anywhere we eat. Tangines are served per number of people, so our tangine would be serving two people and the size is bigger than a single person’s order. There is a small amount of meat in the middle, layered with a lot of potatoes and carrots. It’s also the first time I’ve had cooked cucumber, also in the tangine along with onions. The most flavorful tangine we’ve had and probably my favorite so far is the one with kafta or meatballs cooked with eggs. The meatballs are seasoned so it has a bit more flavor. I expected tangines to be a bit more Kashmir style with loads of flavor and meat. The salad is usually a salsa type of salad with olives and their soup would be lentils soup or tomato soup with very thin noodles.
The food we have tasted in Morocco so far have not really impressed us the way Thai food does. However, the ingredients are very healthy no doubt. We’ve had tangines almost every meal and it’s the common cooking pot they use. One thing about the tangine is that it is very efficient in using water. Water is scare and the way the tangine cooks is sort of like a ceramic pressure cooker, manually that is.
Today, we hiked up to a small pass right above our guest house. It’s not too far or too hard. We got a great view of the back side of Imlil and it’s going to be an amazing bike tour when we come back next year. Morocco is definitely made for bike touring. There are many roads around available and access by bike is just perfect.
We had lunch at a very local cafe, more like a quick snack place. There is always a pot of simmering lentils soup and when ordered, it is served with bread. We had it as a started then ordered a beef tangine. We waited 20 mins as it cooks away just outside the cafe. I saw these large cups of yogurt looking thing and ordered it after our meal. The tangine came to us sizzling hot and more bread of course! Kafier yogurt and the chef himself proudly told us that he made that himself, “ici” meaning “here.” It is a home made yogurt that was out of this world. It is light, slightly sweetened and creamy textured yogurt. We both loved it and shared a big cup. There were a few men in the cafe who ordered the yogurt as well and they all smiled at me while we all enjoyed our yogurt. One man smiled after his last spoon of the yogurt and said “Bon appetite!” I smiled back and said “merci!”