Kasbah du Toubkal: Staying in the Atlas Mountain

I was relieved when the 4×4 finally pulled up in front of Kasbah du Toubkal’s office in Imlil, one of the many small villages in the Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa. All throughout the whole 80 minutes drivc from Marrakech to Imlil, I was holding my breath and praying for dear life not to end that day as we navigate the narrow dirt roads leading up to the mountains. It reminded me so much of the Philippines’ rural areas; where a bus full of people and produce (usually crammed at the top of the vehicle) would pull over the side to the side road to let another vehicle pass by. One wrong turn and either can stumble down the deep ravines prominently scaring travellers like me who dare to explore the High Atlas Mountains.

Chanelling Little Red Riding Hood on a mule. Photo by Robin Kuijs.

Chanelling Little Red Riding Hood on a mule. Photo by Robin Kuijs.

We were met by Igdem, a cheerful, young Berber who works at the Kasbah already for several years. He looks as innocent and inhibited as his (Imlil) village but this young man is an expert skier and tour guide (as I have learned later). I shrieked in delight when I saw his donkey, which I planned to ride to the 15-minute ascend to the Kasbah.

“How cute is your donkey! But can it really carry me to the top?” I asked him while he strapped our bags and myself at the back of the small animal.

“It’s not a donkey, it’s a mule!” he answered with a look that says “has this little Asian not seen a mule before?” I was too ashamed of my stupidity that I just laughed it off, in a proper Asian way.

The mule went it’s merry way up to Kasbah du Toubkal, a luxe mountain retreat that costs me two days of hard work every night. This was my second time in Morocco in one year. On my first visit, I wasn’t able to acquire an accommodation because the Kasbah has at least three months waiting list. At the end of our stay, I was very glad to have booked this hotel because my husband was able to get over his culture shock of Marrakech. The mild climate of the mountain and the hospitality of the Berber people are two things you won’t often experience in Marrakech.

There were a few turns in the rocky trail where I thought the mule would drop me to the ground because I thought he was donkey but Igdem assured me that I’d be alright, even lending his hand to support the mule. As we reached the gate, I jumped off the poor animal, excited to begin my 3-day retreat in such a dreamy location, away from the chaos of the capital.

Basking in the Moroccan fall weather and the gorgeous view of the High Atlas Mountains

Couscous, what else?

Couscous, what else?

We were already on our third day in Morocco and by this time I’ve had enough of eating couscous and tajine. It was early afternoon when we arrived, we have not lunched and I was afraid that I’d be served with yet another couscous or tajine dish.  Fortunately there was salad and despite being initially surprised at finding a generous amount of rice in it, I ate it all with delight. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy but the view was a delight to the eyes – the imposing, snowy peak of the Toubkal and scattered Berber villages in the foreground.  When the chicken tajine arrived, as expected, I did not mind. More than the stomach, my soul was already being nourished my Mother Nature alone.

An afternoon in Kasbah du Toubkal's terrace. Photo by Robin Kuijs.

An afternoon in Kasbah du Toubkal’s terrace. Photo by Robin Kuijs.

After the hearty late lunch, we settled at the terrace of Kasbah du Toubkal, each with a book in hand. The terrace was almost empty so we took a corner each, settling comfortably between huge Morocaan pillows. It was almost evening and thick clouds have descended in the mountain peaks. I wrapped myself in the woolen cloack provided by the Kasbah, picked my copy of Multatuli and began journeying to Java.

And that’s how we started a rejuvenating stay at Kasbah du Toubkal, at €250 a day. Sometimes you have to pay in order to get away from it all.