Last time I was in this part of Morocco 8 years ago, a tagine from a local mountain cafe left me ill for days, so I departed Ouarzazate this morning with some trepidation that the same fate would befall me, as I am about to head over the Tiz-n-Tichka mountain pass towards Marrakech.

Six hours later and writing this from the comfort of my suite at Villa des Orangers, I am very pleased to report that my journey to Marrakech was uneventful in that department, but was without question, one of the most scenically beautiful drives I have had the pleasure of taking.

A long and windy drive in a 4×4 took me through ever-changing landscapes from rocky escarpments, with boulders the size of buses, clinging precariously to the sides of the mountains; barren landscapes with colours changing from red to orange to brown and grey. Hillsides dotted with date palms and small Berber villages blend seamlessly with the colours of the land surrounding them.

Around each tight bend we take, I am welcomed by different dramatic views. Young children walking or riding their bikes to school; a herd of goats grazing the hilltops closely watched by their keeper and women working tirelessly in the fields or picking ripe olives from the trees which are now in season.

As we climb to the highest peak of this pass, we are at 2,000 metres above sea level. This is the highest driveable pass in Morocco. It was 5 degrees at 11 am and much cooler than the 21 degrees I had become accustomed too since my arrival. Unfortunately, there are no flowers in bloom, and much of the ground is earthen bare and stark. But I am rewarded with the most beautiful panoramic views of the mountains lightly dusted with the first falls of snow and emptier roads as I am travelling out of season.

During the drive, we stop for tea and comfort breaks which were also a fantastic opportunity to meet with the Berber people who are extremely friendly and hospitable. Plenty of the local towns also have a weekly market to explore where all the locals meet to chat with friends as well as sell their produce grown on the farms and to buy everything they need for the next week. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time this trip to stay in the Mountains and I am sad to be leaving this tranquil environment for the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, but I hope to return soon (InshAllah).

Thanks for reading

Katie Benden in Venice

Author: Katie Benden