Heading west from the desert plains in Morocco the landscape abruptly cleaves into sheer gorges. Towns perch precariously on the sides and in the valleys shaded by lush date palmeries. The valley floor is a slice of bright green contrasting against the monochromatic rock and is striped with rows of crops either side of the life-giving thread of silver water. Simply lounging on a terrace here, watching the birds soaring in the sky or reading a book, is a grand way to pass a day. Another invigorating option is to wander down to the public Hamam baths with the locals for a chat and a traditional scrub with black soap made from olives.
A day hike to appreciate the spectacular scenery of Todra Gorge is also a must. Commencing in the cool shadows of the canyon walls, the ascent involves picking your way around slopes of dry, rocky scree. The sheer rock walls tower up to 300m in height, casting dark silhouettes of the jagged cliffs edge against the deep blue skies above. With the exception of the occasional bleating of a goat, serene silence echoes across the landscape from the barren summit.
Enroute, you might be fortunate enough to meet some Berbers who have decided to settle in this mountainous area. Carving a residence out of the side of the cliff face, there is shelter for sleeping and animal pens when the winter snow falls. There is also a tented area for warmer weather under which Berber women can be seen weaving mats or rugs with looms made ingeniously from local materials.
It is a hard life living in these conditions but the locals still have a smile on their hospitable faces as they offer you to join them for a glass of the world’s best wild thyme tea.