Friday 31 December 2010


Beyond Marrakech and a right turn in the heart of the village of Ourika Tnine towards Asni, the road leads through a quiet and peaceful landscape. Endless fields of the greenest grass contrast beautifully against the distant blue-grey mountains of the High Atlas and the snow topped mountain peaks seemingly sparkle beneath the clear blue winter skies. Here it seems as if the world is immersed in silence. A shepherd and his herd or a farmer sitting at the side of the road watching the world go by reflect the calm pace of life in this area.

Only the new administrative town of Tahannaout, expanding rapidly into the green fields of the countryside with its ugly grey concrete, disturbs the eye and reminds us of the day and age we live in. Leaving Tahannaout behind and onwards to Asni the landscape continues to be picturesque and peaceful. In this enchanting scenery there is not the slightest hint of what lies ahead. Nothing reveals what waits further along the road when the climb to the Tiz-n-Test begins.

Past the village of Asni and the distant Toubkal Mountain top the road begins to climb. As the road continues to go up the slopes of the High Atlas the scenery changes with almost every curve or hairpin bend, offering spectacular panoramic views of the High Atlas mountain range and of the many old Berber villages which have been laying undisturbed in the valleys and on the mountain edges for many centuries.

But it is not all beauty the Tiz-n-Test has to offer! It is a dangerous and frightening journey on this road which lacks barriers along the enormous depths. The road is often just wide enough for one car and there is no knowing what traffic may be ahead around the many corners. Locals drive at high speeds their illegal taxi vans or large lorries, apparently without any awareness of other traffic and certainly without courtesy. It is not a journey for the fainthearted and I found myself in a constant struggle whether to focus my attention on the surreal beauty of the mountain scenery or on the uninviting depths I looked upon from the car window.

Unless you already know it a great surprise awaits once the climb has ended and the descent towards Taroudant begins. On a clear and sunny day a spectacular panorama appears before your eyes offering a view into the valley, a great openness that leads almost a hundred kilometres towards the town of Taroudant.

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