Katherine Seaton, a senior at American University, is studying with AMIDEAST in Rabat, Morocco for her fall 2011 semester. She recounts her weekend hiking trip to Azrou in the mountains outside of Meknes and the relaxation of the countryside. This post was originally published on October 11, 2011.
An escape from Rabat was exactly what I needed this weekend and it is exactly what I got in a small town called Azrou at the base of the Atlas Mountains. Friday afternoon, after a week-long battle about whether to go to Casablanca or the mountains, nine of us left Rabat for the long trip to Azrou. We got to the Rabat train station at 2:45 so we would have a little time before the 3:17 train to Meknes. Little did we know that we would have plenty of time since our train was over an hour late getting to the station. This is the first of many cultural differences I experienced this weekend but if the past five weeks have taught me anything it’s to say, “it’s Morocco!” and move on. We finally boarded our train and got to Meknes with the intent to get two grand taxis (the taxis that drive from city to city instead of within the city). It was much easier than we thought and we even convinced them to let us stop at the grocery store first so we could get food for dinner. After stopping at the Label Vie we were on our way to Azrou. With the windows down, the air was cool and a wonderful change from the hot Rabat weather. We arrived in Azrou at around 9 pm and checked into our hotel which was a cute little villa that is used for Peace Corps volunteers when they come into town. We were given the entire third floor of the villa which also had a common area for us to hang out in.
On Saturday we woke up bright and early for a small breakfast of bread and coffee and then headed out to the trails of the Atlas Mountains with some instructions from the owner of the hotel who was very helpful. When we arrived at the head of the trail (after a confusing conversation with the taxi driver who drove us there) we were immediately greeted by monkeys. Apparently they frequent the areas around the Atlas Mountains and it was cool to see an animal that is not usually associated with Morocco in Morocco. We headed into the woods and hiked for a little while before realizing that we had no clue at all where we were going and that the yellow marks on a few of the tress had completely disappeared. We backtracked and found ourselves on a gravel road surround by beautiful scenery. The weather was incredibly hot and the sun was beating down on us without remorse but we finally came to a field with lots and lots of sheep and then to a wooded area. We entered the forest and were immediately surrounded by even more monkeys. So much so that four of the students I was with turned back because they were so scared. Five of us trekked on without them after trying to convince the others to come back. They refused saying to us on the phone that “we didn’t see how one of the monkeys looked at them.” Apparently a mamma monkey had some hateful eyes and refused to let them pass.
After splitting up due to some monkey madness, five of us continued on and walked for about 8 miles through the Moroccan wilderness. We passed some beautiful views, sheep and lots and lots of lizards. We stopped to eat lunch on a small hill and then made our way into the little town of Azrou after hitching a 4 km ride on the back of a tractor. We were tired but happy at the end of the day and drank coffee at a cafe while waiting for our taxis. It was a fantastic day because it allowed me to see a part of Morocco that I had never seen but it also gave me a sense of freedom that I had not felt since coming to Morocco.