05 Sep Morocco: Imlil and the Kasbah du Toubkal
High in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco is a small village of Imlil, popular with tourists who want a base to go on walking tours into the mountains.
There are tours to Imlil but the best way to get there on your own is by grand taxi, which should cost around 500 Dirham or 50 euros to get there and back with a stop of a few hours. The taxi will take you up the windy roads into the mountains and to this tiny village with its little cafes and Moroccans selling typical handycrafts. It always helps to learn a little bit of the local language to help with negotiations- you could visit an Arabic language tutor before you arrive.
I thought about going to Essouira, but having been based at the beach for the last year or I was totally ‘beached out’ and couldn’t face the torture of baking in the sun for the day.
I thought it would be nice to escape the 56 degree heat and go into the cooler mountains and take-in the breathtaking scenery. The main ‘attraction’ in Imlil is the Kasbah du Toubkal, a palatial hotel perched in the mountains which was used by Martin Scorsese in one of his movies, Kundun, about the Dalai Lama.
Now you would imagine with it being a ‘hotel’ that you would be able to take a taxi up to a nice little car park with maybe some valet parking upon arrival before having a spot of lunch. Oh no. If you ask at the reception for the Kasbah du Toubkal how you get up there they tell you it is a 15 minute walk. “Turn first right, first left and you’ll find it”. Easy.
What they and the guide books don’t tell you is that it is an exhausting trek up the mountainside, through woods and trees and up stone paths. Some hiking boots and a litre of water may just have been what I needed.
How the hell did Martin Scorcese get up there? You can’t really picture him hiking up a hill with all the film cameras can you? Turns out there’s a mule. No not a cable car, but a good old fashioned mule for 50 Dirham. I think I was actually quite relieved I walked, as the mule looked a little unstable for my liking.
No matter how out of breath you are, the view from the Kasbah makes it all worth it. Guests can dine for lunch at low red tables with Moroccan tableware and red parasols looking right out onto the high Atlas Mountains.
Sat having a drink and looking out onto the mountain range from up high on the terrace I couldn’t help but feel a sense of clarity and freedom. No wonder this hotel is a popular retreat for weary celebrities.