Sunday, October 11, 2015

Marrakech final part - Atlas mountains

The last part of our Marrakech adventure took us into the nearby Atlas Mountains. Shortly after you leave the city, you find yourself in a beautiful wild rural landscape, another world.

A stork's nest.. I was so excited to see it

On the way to the mountains you come past Tahannaout, where a couple of women's cooperatives alongside the road specialize in traditional Argan Oil production. Argan oil is famous and prized because of its remarkably high levels of Vitamin E, fatty acids and antioxidents, and can be used as a cosmetic as well as a food. The cooperatives provide local Berber women with opportunities, work and fair wages.

Producing Argan oil is an extremely labor-intensive process. At first the dried Argan fruits (below left) which come from south western Morocco, have to be cracked open so that the kernels within (below right) can be harvested.

These kernels contain the precious oil-rich Argan seeds. To extract the seeds, the kernels are placed on a stone anvil and smashed with a rock until they crack open.  

What appears to be quite easy is much harder than you think... Argan kernels are about sixteen times harder than hazel nuts. I had to try about two dozen times before I managed to open a single one.

The precious seeds are painstakingly earned... on average, a woman can produce 1-1.5 kg of seeds per day, which is about half the amount needed to make 1 litre of oil

The kernels are then ground to a paste, using a handstone and quern

The paste is then kneaded by hand to extract the oil. It takes 100 kg of Argan fruit and several days of work to produce 1litre of Argan Oil.  

As we move on up the mountains, there is soon little else around except for the occasional Berber village perched on top of a hill

the scenery becomes more and more extraordinary and timeless the further we go

And then we arrive at a real oasis... the magical and indescribably beautiful Kasbah Tamadot

In Berber, Kasbah means 'fortress' and 'Tamadot' means 'soft breeze'. The beauty of the surroundings, the warm hospitality and generous esprit with which it is run, the exquisite decor and relaxed comfort it provides, and the sweetness and friendliness of the people from the neighbouring Berber villages who come and work here makes the Kasbah Tamadot one of the most entrancing places I've stayed, and I very much hope to come back to it one day.

Breakfast treats for Amber and Pearl, the Kasbah's young pet dromedaries

Takarkourte Woman's Argan Oil Cooperative, 33.5 km, Province du Haouz,  Tahanaout 40 000 Morocco

Kasbah Tamadot: 042150 Morocco

My Marrakech album on Pinterest :

~ End of the Marrakech travelogue ~


  1. A dream, I just get mad because your pictures reflects so well how is the magic of this road going to the mountain and the stopover at the Kasbah Tamadot my preferred refined hotel in the nature of this part of Morocco gives me a terrible nostalgy of not going there now...... Bravo Mai Tai your photos are sublime and really reflect how it is magic once more. We can smell the argan oil., the oranges'trees. I am so happy that you feel exactly what I felt there in this sublime Tamadot,
    I was in another world, spiritual, quiet and peaceful. So rare nowadays.

  2. What a beautiful post for every one of my senses!!! Just fabulous...thanks for sharing!

  3. P.S. You look so fresh, so pretty, so thin, with this heat there, I admire you very much to arrive to be so hansome . You dont look to have teavelled just going out from a fashion revue!

  4. Fantastic pictures. Have enjoyed your trip !

  5. I've so enjoyed reading about your adventure in Marrackech. The Kasbah is the stuff of dreams. I love that shot of the doorway with the blackamoors. The terra-cotta color is amazing. And those dromedarys look very sweet. Thanks for sharing!

  6. A wonderful post! I loved the photos on Argan Oil. When we went to Morocco we went to Fez and Marrakech but we never made it into the Atlas Mountains so I found this post really interesting. Thank you so much!

  7. Dearest Tai,

    Thank you for this lovely travelogue! I hope someday to follow in your footsteps.

    Might we someday see an argan oil product in the MaiTai Collection? :)

    Warm regards

  8. So-o-o beautiful! thank you.
    Linda C.

  9. As you said producing Argan oil is an extremely labor-intensive process and we have to encourage these women's cooperatives productions. High quality products for us and the beginning of a sort of independence for them. So cute and quiet this little boy in a corner….
    xx Catherine

  10. I have so enjoyed your travelogue to Marrakech, truly a dream come true.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos with us!
    Simone xx

  11. Did you try their Berber Tents? They look magnificent! Just curious, by the description on their website, the locations of the tents seem to be removed from the main body of the hotel, are there any security issues to worry about? Great post! :-) Emily

    1. P.S. Dear MT, did you drive over there? I think it's possibly a 2 day trip through Portugal . . . you are so adventurous! :-) Emily

    2. Sorry, I meant Spain not Portugal.

  12. We travelled though Morocco in 2012. Thanks for sharing your photos and refreshing so many beautiful and scenic memories...

  13. How beautiful, dear MaiTai! My favorite part of your travelogue. How far away it must all seem now that you're busy once again with work and obligations. You're a gifted photographer and your photos make it easy for me to travel in my imagination. Did you have to climb any trees in order to get the stork nest photo? And I could get lost in that reflecting pool. Wonderful post, thank you!
    With warm aloha,

    1. I agree. The photos are phenomenal and definitely professional quality. You should really go to work for Conde Nast Traveler.

      What a beautiful place, and I think that vibrant Moroccan blue has just become my new favorite color.

      And, I am in love with Amber . . . or is it Pearl? Those eyes and eye lashes!

      This has been a wonderful treat. Thank you.

    2. I am in complete accord with you Fifi and Jerrine! These photos are just stunning in content and composition! Perhaps a gallery of photos are next up for the my Collection?
      This is truly a total immersion post! I can easily get lost in the colors and descriptions of it all! A stunning magic carpet ride you have taken us on with this series, my friend!
      I will also add, that no matter where you are, be it your own 'backyard' or some exotic locale, you seem so at ease and comfortable in your own skin! Truly in the moment no matter where you are! That is an art that you have mastered well!
      Thank you for showing us how it is done! <3
      T xx

    3. Oops...MT COlection,not my Collection!😁

    4. Dear Jerrine and Trudye,
      I cannot but agree with all you´ve said! Especially what you mentioned, dear Trudye, about our sweet MaiTai´s being totally at ease in her own skin - perfectly described!
      What a lovely place this amazing blog ist, I am so grateful to have found it!
      Big hugs all around

    5. Ha ha, Trudye, a little Freudian slip there! But you are right about dear MT always seeming so at home everywhere. Jerrine, I am totally jealous of the eyelashes on the pet camels. Sigh.

    6. Yeah, what is it with eyelashes anyway? Boys and camels get long, luscious ones, and women get . . . mascara and that particularly odious little torture tool, the eyelash curler.

      What injustice!

    7. Welcome, Barbara. We all love our little slice of heaven here, and we're always happy to share it.

      The Swan Pond is a lovely respite from the humdrum of everyday life, thanks to the generous spirit of our head swan.


  14. I loved reading about the argan oil process, and even more, the opportunities it provides women. What a fantastic experience for you! Plus you got to meet pet camels? Thank you for taking us along on this wonderful journey! I loved your photos of the oranges in the blue-tipped bowl, as well as the flowers floating in the pool. It is all so lovely and tranquil.

  15. Spectacular post! The charm and beauties speak for themselves, but I wanted to add a thumbs-up for the sensitivity and diplomacy of your "Argan" outfit: the long-sleeved tunic and trousers tactfully echo and complement the clothing of the Berber women -- you are a very gracious guest! (But I'm glad that the scarf stayed true to its own cultural roots!)

    Many thanks for this wonderful journey,


    1. Azalie--I hadn't even considered this! MaiTai's outfit was, as always, beautiful, practical and appropriate. But I hadn't recognized how this also showed cultural sensitivity--and of course it does. She's such a smart cookie!

  16. Dearest Mai Tai,

    I agree with the Ladies above. This is a spectacular post and like Trudye wrote, no matter where you are you seam 'so at ease in your own skin'. It is your efortless beauty that is so enchanting and fascinating.
    Thank you so much for sharing your magical word with us.<3

    I am now in Paris and thought of you as I walked along Rue Boissy d'Anglas on my way to Hermes.
    Gros bisous de Ville Lumiere, Manuela

    1. I meant 'seem' and 'de La Ville Lumiere', Manuela xx

  17. You look so posh for visiting this kind of country! Dressed almost to go to dine.....
    But you take so beautifull pictures, we almost smell the argan oil, oranges, etc.
    Best regards from France