Ducking under that first set of trees led us into part of an oasis, leaving behind the dry dusty roads near the hotel and leading us into a fruitful Eden. Even with the sight of palm trees, most of our hike was out in the open. It was amazing to see how lush and fertile the farming lands were around us as we walked amongst them.
After spending a couple of days in the frenzy of Fes, we made our way over winding roads through the Atlas Mountains towards the Sahara Desert. Due to the time, it takes to navigate through the mountains and small villages, it isn’t possible to make the trip from Fes to the Sahara Desert in one day.
This gave us a chance to stay in the charming Berber village of Midelt that is located smack dab between the middle and high Atlas Mountains. The town itself is a small oasis amidst the hot dry weather that comes through the area, especially in the summer.
Midelt, Morocco: Off the Beaten Track
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Unlike the cities on the coastal side, Midelt’s population is mostly Berber and the residents speak a central Atlas dialect that is different than the Arabic you will find in the big cities.
Being a new city, the residents of Midelt can easily trace their lineage to the nomads that first came to this area. The village operates in a traditional way catering to year-round residents and nomadic people alike.
Our hike started from the doorstep of our hotel and led us through some of the back alleyways out into the farmlands that surrounded us. The first thing I couldn’t help but notice was just how much cooler it was when we passed under some of the tightly planted palm trees.
From a distance, it just looks like trees in a tight cluster, perhaps fighting for water. The truth is that they are strategically placed to provide protection, shade and a cooler environment for the people and livestock.
We hopped onto a narrow path used by the residents of the village to transport goods between the fields and storage places. This gave us the opportunity to take in the local life as we walked along the path and enjoyed the scenes around us.
As a valuable and necessary part of their culture, the Berber people love their animals and they seem to be well cared for. So coming across them every few minutes on the hike was a pleasant interaction.
Our hike was fairly moderate and winded along with the path that was mostly uphill but not taxing. The heat in Morocco is pretty brutal and extremely dry, so even though we drank almost 2L on our hike, we still felt parched and dry.
Don’t hike in Morocco without putting on sunscreen and taking large amounts of water with you even if you only plan to be out for a few hours.
Our hike eventually led us to an abandoned Berber house, which gave us the opportunity to explore the structure behind these massive fortresses. From the entrance, we could see that the locals were using the building to store alfalfa grass for their animals. I
t was stacked in small ties and left to dry. The entrance smell was enough to transport me back to the horse barns at home and left me slightly emotional as I find myself missing the horse industry lately.
Further exploration led us inside a long since abandoned community. Most of the walls had collapsed and it was clear to see that it was no longer maintained.
Our guide explained to us that before Morocco became an independent country the nomadic people would move between these fortified cities and use them as bases to protect their people and livestock.
The fortified city was a crumbling mess of collapsed walls, missing roofs and heated floors. Nobody had used this fortress is a long time. After exiting we continued on our way to the rice fields up the road. We were hitting evening light and the glow that moved across the fields is something I will never forget.
Standing at the edge of the field was an adult donkey wearing a traditional harness used for carrying crops. Next to her stood the cutest baby donkey I have ever seen in my life. He was quite skittish, making it difficult to take photos but he was so cute and I lingered for a long time taking photos of him and talking to them.
Up the road, we finally came across an active Berber community where the children were playing in the streets and amongst the walls. We were waved at and welcomed into the community walls by the local children.
It’s not every day they get a chance to interact with foreigners and the shyness of the group told us that not many people come to visit them on a regular basis.
We played with the kids before being invited inside to enjoy a Moroccan tradition of mint tea and bread. Our tea was taken in a room with nothing but a small table in the middle of the room, a large rug loom against the wall and carpets on the floor.
The women of the house were eager to serve us and smiled widely as we accepted the tea.
Our afternoon hiking the Berber villages in Midelt was like walking through time. It is beautiful the things that can unfold on your travels when you slow down and take the time to appreciate the simple things in life.
I can’t imagine ever living my life as simply as the Berber people, but it is nice to have the chance to experience that part of the world during our travels.
Do you take the chance to slow down and take it all in on your travels?
Top Recommend Tours in Morocco
We have put together the best Sahara Desert tours offered by top tour operators. These are top Morocco tours ran by locals with experience and knowledge of Morocco. If you want to capture and experience Morocco below are the tours you must go on.
- Marrakech To Marrakech (15 Days) Morocco Encompassed. Start and end in Marrakesh! With the in-depth cultural tour Marrakech To Marrakech (15 Days) Morocco Encompassed, you have a 15-day tour package taking you through Marrakesh, Morocco and 10 other destinations in Morocco. Starting from $1028.76, Marrakech To Marrakech (15 Days) Morocco Encompassed is 46% cheaper than the average 13-17 day tour through Morocco.
- Moroccan Desert Adventure. Marrakech – whisper it and instantly your mind goes to a place of seduction and spices. Experience it for yourself. This intense 1-week journey reveals the secrets of Morocco and is filled with all the activities and energy you crave. In the company of other young travelers, dance beside a campfire in the Sahara, go rock climbing in Todra and hang with the hippies in Essaouira. Explore the kasbahs, coast, and desert and lose the herd on a trip you’ll never forget.
- Morocco: Sahara & Beyond. The culture of the Berbers in northern Africa dates back as many as 5,000 years. Come discover their world on this 15-day experience through the most incredible cultural highlights Morocco has to offer. Explore the souks and streets of Marrakech and Fes; spend a night in a comfortable tented camp; enjoy dinner with a traditional Berber family, and unwind in the coastal beauty of Essaouira. Come to Morocco and return home with a new understanding of this unique part of the world.
More on Morocco:
- 8 Best Morocco Cities for Your Itinerary
- 7 Unmissable Things to Do in Morocco (On Your First Visit!)
- 11 Superb Things to Do in Marrakech
- Merzouga Sahara Desert Tour in Morocco: What It’s Really Like!
- 16 Sahara Desert Pictures That Will Inspire Your Wanderlust
- Discovering Chefchaouen the Blue City of Morocco