Mountain biking in Morocco

Approx read: 6 mins

How do language teacher Emanuela and software developer Eros escape their desk jobs in Italy?  

As a couple, Eros and I love travelling long journeys by bike and we have always organised our trips from head to toe. Booking flights, Airbnb, the cycling path and stuff.

Preparation

However, this time we decided to have our tour planned by a dependable local guide in Morocco. Why? Simply because we didn’t know the language and we wanted to live this new experience fully,  enriching our knowledge about a Muslim country, listening to Moroccan stories and spending time with locals. Honestly, I was kind of worried about this trip until I read reviews written by people who had experienced Morocco and that helped me to calm down. 

Everything started in December 2018, looking for the most appreciated guide in Marrakesh and, of course, neither the most expensive one nor the cheapest, but half way. Trip Advisor helped us a lot and finally we decided for Rachid Azdour and his team.  

Since that moment, Rachid thought about the groundwork in Morocco, from the moment of our landing to our departure. We kept on sending emails just to inform him about our doubts, or simply to ask him about the possibility of changing our paths if we were in a pickle and he immediately replied, boosting our confidence. 

Ilaria and Fabio, another couple,  fascinated by our idea, decided to join us in our terrific adventure.

While booking our flight, Easy Jet offered us the possibility to get medical insurance that covered the trip. 

From January to March we were given vaccinations  against typhus, hepatitis A and polio. We asked our family doctor as well as Rachid about the rabies vaccine. Rachid told us that the local authority patrol the area so there are no dangerous dogs and no need to be worried about it. Off we went.

Marrakech

The entrance of the famous street market in Marrakech

We spent a day visiting the lively and chaotic Marrakesh with all its perfumes and its history which stretches back nearly a thousand years. A very well-prepared tour guide, Rachid’s friend,  showed us the most characteristic places in a three-hours walking tour ended with a typical handmade sweet bought along the street.

Takerhoust-Ourigane

The following day we headed to Takerhoust, the beginning of our cycling tour, close to a beautiful lake and sweet mountains. 

We met Rashid, our guide, and Omar our cook and driver. They were both approachable, friendly and they really loved their job. 

We immediately tried our mountain bikes that Rachid provided for the four of us. We cycled through awesome landscapes and small villages were Berbers live. They all waved at us. I suddenly felt home in the middle of that beautiful nature. 

We met another group of disabled tourists walking. Rachid told us that in the Atlas Mountains there are a lot of people coming from all over the world and some of them ride or hike for charity.

Ourigane-Tizi Oussem

Cold and wet day. We cycled all day long. We finished all our nuts and were starving. Rashid asked us if we wanted a hot tea. We didn’t think twice. He quickly approached a child who literary climbed to his house. And after 10 minutes a lady took us a tray with hot tea, homemade bread and olive oil.

We paid her even though she didn’t want us to. Rashid told us that Berbers give you what they have. A group of children were staring at us while we were eating and drinking. 

That night it snowed. 

Tizi Oussem-Mizik

The Toubkal mountain peak, dressed in white, was watching us and the sky was azure. We cycled all day long.

That evening we had tea at Rashid’s, we met his father and his sister, Kaoutar. 

We talked about his culture and the meaning of their names. 

Walking through his village we saw a group of children playing with snails placed as if they were having a race!

Mizik-Imsker

We had lunch along a beautiful stream. 

In the evening we walked through the village and a flock of children asked us to play football with them. Everybody was coming back home with their cows, sheep and goats. 

Imsker-Tahannaout

Last day of our trip. 

What can we say? 

Berbers live in contact with nature, they have all they need. No sense of greed. In the evening, before dinner, the streets in the villages were full of children, playing football with a punctured ball. They were all happy, smiling and screaming.

We really felt home for 5 days.  I had the possibility to visit a school were children from 6 to 8 years old attend the same classes: Berber, Arabic, French, Math. When  I entered the classroom they gazed at me, some of them with a broad grin and others with a curious expression but in silence. As soon as I went out they started talking to each other. I can imagine their comments! 

A school in the Atlas Mountains

We slept, had our breakfasts and dinners in Berbers’ houses, some of them built with concrete bricks, so imagine the level of humidity, but Rachid’s team lit a fire to warm us up. Our beds were thin mattresses placed on huge Moroccan carpets on the floor. Lunches were set in bucolic landscape along a fresh river not far from its head. 

As we were cycling down the Atlas Mountains a sense of melancholy assaulted us. The further we cycled from the Atlas Mountains the higher our sense of gratitude and thankfulness for the hospitality of our guide and the locals we encountered.

New horizons, new outlook

All things considered, I would definitely suggest this riveting experience to anyone who wants to dive into the Berber’s culture. Not only this trip will give you a bite of their way of living but also it will bring you a new perspective on life. 

Do you want to go solo?  Well, I think it would turn to be more adventurous and challenging, as at least you have to speak French, but some Berbers could only speak Arabic or only Berber, which is totally different from Arabic. 

Having a reliable local guide by your side might make a difference: in some occasions, for instance the episode of the tea, was vital, in others was enriching, because we would have never sipped mint tea in a Berber house sharing the beauty of our different cultures. 

Rachid speaks English, Spanish and of course French, Arabic and Berber, which is his mother tongue. He always rode with us and on top of that, everybody knows him, so the world can be your oyster. 

The OG mountain biking

And now something about the physical challenge of biking up a mountain:

Biking up a mountain is not a piece of cake, physical and mental training are a must.  However, when you reach the top breathtaking landscapes appear in front of your eyes and all the fatigue while pedalling would fade away. After spending some time over there, a gentle or steep slope is waiting for you to bike down. That is the moment when your legs and bottom take a break! One last thing to prevent your heart to explode:  if the ascent is too steep and you are not having fun you can always hop off your bike and pull it since the pace of walking or pedalling are the same but walking is much easier!-we call it a “walk the bike moment.”