Tin Mal to Taliouine via the Tizi n’Test – مسجد تن مال وتالوين من خلال طريق مخيف

Transportation from Imlil to Taliouine, our next day’s destination, was an all day adventure through some pretty striking landscapes. For the first leg, our host Ahmed from the cozy guest house in Imlil, the day before getting married, drove us to the Tin Mal mosque before dropping us off in Ijoukak.

Tin Mal was once located at the heart of the Almohad empire and is one of only two mosques here in Morocco open to non-Muslims. It was built in the 12th century to pay tribute to Muhammed ibn Tumarat, the Almohad leader that they say lived an ascetic lifestyle, forcing his followers to either convert to Islam or die, and destroying every wine jug he met. The mosque is beautiful, though, if a bit off the beaten path, located above the surprisingly lush valley floor.

From Ijoukak, a grand taxi took us through the Tizi n’Test pass in the High Atlas mountains to Oulad Berhil, a small dusty town slightly south of where the road (in red) forks in the map above. From Ijoukak, the narrow road weaves through the mountains along steep drop-offs and doesn’t have any type of crash barrier for reassurance. Our driver took the turns like he was training for NASCAR, but only had one close call with an oncoming truck. Though the distance on the map between Ijoukak and Oulad Berhil looks almost inconsequential, it took about two and a half hours of zigzagging to arrive, keeping my fingers crossed the entire time that there wasn’t another car coming around the corner.

The curving road of the Tizi n'Test pass

Roger, Lillie and our grand taxi driver Muhammed

From Oulad Berhil it was an easy hour and a half bus ride to Taliouine, the saffron capital of Africa. You’d expect more enterprise in the only area in all of Africa that produces the worlds most expensive spice. Instead we found a small but informative cooperative and were treated to glasses of sweet saffron tea and were given the lowdown on saffron and its harvest and production. After removing and drying the thread-like stigma of a specific purple crocus, the women at the cooperative measure out one gram amounts and put them into little bags for tourists like me to buy at a very reasonable price.

The next day out of town we briefly stopped at a saffron field, which, being late October, was right at the height of harvest season. We picked a few of the bitter stigmas ourselves, smiling at one another with yellowed teeth.

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About Laura McAdams

Laura McAdams is a Master’s student at University of Pennsylvania studying International Educational Development. Her experience in the MENA region includes 15 months as a Fulbright student researcher to Fez and Ifrane, Morocco in 2010 and 2011. Her project was interested in understanding the disconnect between the policies of technology usage in education and the reality of how these policies unfold in the classroom. Summer 2012 she returned to the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco to work with a women’s weaving cooperative. She is excited to learn more about other countries in the MENA region and issues involving education policy and reform, technology usage in curriculums and gender equality in education. One of Laura’s lifelong goals is to one day be able to sit down and leisurely read a newspaper in Arabic.
This entry was posted in Fulbright Student Research in Morocco, 2010-2011, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tin Mal to Taliouine via the Tizi n’Test – مسجد تن مال وتالوين من خلال طريق مخيف

  1. absolutely gorgeous Laurs!! The picture of the valley is breathtaking.

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