The High Atlas mountains covered in milky white snow provided the ultimate gateway to the sand plains on the way to the Saharan dunes. We climbed a few hours by car, scaling the manmade terrain along the mountain face, where travellers and traders could be found at every lay-by that we passed. This was my first experience of Morocco and I was already overcome with the idea that this trip was going to be very, very special. My tour guide, Moha was incredibly friendly, fluent in 5 languages and as you’d expect, bursting at the seams with enthusiasm for his country, the culture and the environments he’d be taking me to. We immediately bonded over our love for photography and landscapes, he told me that I’d almost certainly never experienced views quite like the ones he was taking me toward. I had a feeling that he was going to be right. At the roadside, we stopped to take some photographs of a small town that sat between the high rocks of Atlas. This was where we met Omar, a mineral seller, in the little cottage where he forged his business. I perused through his decorative rocks, window-shopping in a less than traditional sense. I told him that I’d be back in a few days, he laughed. We carried on, through the high peaks.
At times atop the mountain, I felt that I had been fooled into believing that I was in a Northern African country in Spring. Parkas, thermal fleecing, wooly hats, all could be found on the hikers at the side of the snow-covered road. This was definitely not what I expected, although, there was a comforting feeling that the familiar surroundings brought to my Scottish heart. Moha told me that we were approaching the decline shortly and that we would begin to experience the transition to the rural Moroccan landscapes that I’d come to expect from our journey. I could see it, only a few miles in that hazy distance.
We drove downhill for a couple of hours, slowly making our way back to sea-level, although there was very little water to be found, as we approached Ouarzazate. This was our first resting place on the road. A small city on the way between the Sahara and Marrakech, Moha spoke highly of his friends there. I couldn’t wait to meet everyone. On the way, we stopped at the historic Ksar of Aït Benhaddou, a monolithic structure atop a beautiful village. We watched the sun go down, at the peak of the palace, a truly breathtaking end to a long day on the road. We were relentless in our pursuit of the desert. We headed East.