Imlil, Morocco

We landed in Morocco early as the flight was ahead of schedule. The line to get our passport stamped was long but not as busy as some other bigger airports. There were two money exchange booths right after we exited the passport control but I’ve read that the exchange rates in those booths at the airport give really bad exchange rates. We headed out towards the main exit and found ATMs. We get better exchange rates in an ATM machine plus, we get reimbursed for any ATM fees from our bank. It is the best way to get money when traveling.

We headed out and saw a few taxi drivers holding names up and we didn’t see our names. Our lodging set up a taxi for us so we waited a bit. It turns out, the taxi driver, Mahkmud (I am sure I spelled that wrong!) was late and apologized. Doug was a little stressed out before Mahkmud arrived but he was okay after. As for me, it didn’t bother me. Again, being late anywhere around the world happened many times so we get to Imlil when we get there. Time is no longer an issue. It’s not important why he was late because it could be anything and driving people around is not an easy job. We are going in a “Grand Taxi” which is what they call a really beat up 70’s style Mercedes Benz. We walked through the parking lot and there were a myriad of “Grand Taxi” all in the same color, sand color. I noticed that all the structures and taxi have the same earthy, sandy color which represents Morocco in a fascinating way. There were a lot of cacti bordering the road on our way to Imlil. The drive was about an hour 30 mins and it cost about 350 Durham which is about $35. This is for just two people, kind of private ride on a taxi. There is an option to share the taxi with other people and taxi’s can pick up other passengers along the way sharing the price of the fare.

Morocco is far different from all the other countries we’ve been and just riding on the taxi, it felt like Morocco. I know I am probably not making sense but it’s a very exotic and rugged place right off the bat. We didn’t stop in Marrakech but headed straight to Imlil. The drive went through the valley and then to the mountains. Mahkmud pointed to Toubkal a couple of times and explained that it is the highest point in Northern Africa.

We stopped by the road side and then, immediately I spotted Hassan even not knowing what he looked like. Hassan greeted us kindly and we all bid goodbye to our wonderful driver, Mahkmud. Hassan asked us if we wanted a ride from Imlil to Marrakech when we leave but I told him we aren’t sure since we may stay longer. Hassan asked if he could carry my backpack as it’s a bit of a climb to the Chez Les Berberes. I turned him down because, honestly I can carry my backpack okay and I really hope I didn’t offend him in any way. He asked me twice about it, twice I turned him down.

It was a little dirt road leading up to Chez Les Berberes and one steep section. The little winding street was really narrow and we passed by people’s homes. We found ourselves in someone’s lovely home and Hassan served us breakfast after they’ve cleaned our room. Breakfast was bread, spreads and olives plus our first ever mint tea in Morroco. We made a toast for our first time in Morroco in Chez Les Berberes!

Our room is so colorful. The rugs were in many colors it made the room so bright. Both windows were open and we got a view of Imlil village nestled below the mountains. The rooftops of our neighbors had walnuts drying and there was also a cow mooing. The whole area reminded me of Leh, India very much so.

We walked down the village and looked around. There are a lot of wooden containers of apples. It must be apple season in Imlil. The main transport for those apples seems to be donkeys. Donkeys are used to carry stuff up and down the hill. There were a lot of donkeys around. I didn’t see any dogs at all. A few cats and lots of sheep. Majority of the people on the streets are men from the small shops and carrying loads of apples. I hardly saw any women except walking back to Chez Les Berberes.

The lunch we had was amazing and it was up at a terrace by the river. It was a good thing I ordered only one of the tagine which comes with salad, bread and dessert. There was so much food for only one person. We totally forgot the dessert because the wait for the tangine to be made was over an hour long. We don’t usually go out for meals specially the three course type meals. Dessert is something we can skip but since it’s included in the price, we’d get a taste of it – this time, I totally forgot we had one more course to go. We paid for our meal then headed back to rest in our room. The nice hike uphill was really good for digestion.

There were a lot of small shops but not overwhelming. A couple of shops had buys that were very insistent that they can give us a good price on any of their products. Every time we pass by those shops, it was a non-stop insisting to sell. We just smiled and said “merci” then walked away. We are getting acclimated not just for the altitude but the culture and the salesmen. We went back out again to town in the late afternoon.

Dinner was a tangine made with eggs and meatballs along with a delicious flat bread. Breads are very stale-like and it looks like breads can sit outside in a day. Bread is abundant. Before the tangine, we had tomato soup with some very thin noodles. It was good and best of all, warm.

It’s cold here in the late evening and early morning. We woke up and got a short run up the hill then down before the 8:30am breakfast. Dinner is served at 8:30pm and breakfast 8:30am. So late for us! Breakfast was bread again, a few to many choices of spreads, olives, mint tea, coffee with milk, one fried egg and a warm flat bread fresh from the pan. There still a lot to learn of all the food we are eating and slowly, we will get it. Right now, we just eat what is served to us.

We got a few fruits yesterday, almost a dozen bananas, four apples and a pomegranate. All for $2, which is awesome because I love pomegranate. The apples in Imlil are so sweet! The apples here are so delicious. I had to taste some after seeing little kids running down the street in town and eating the abundant apples farmers handed out to them.

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