The High Atlas is a mountain range in Morocco and a regular destination for mountain hikers, ski enthusiasts, or travellers interested in the indigenous Berber culture found throughout its many peaks and valleys.
Berbers are the indigenous North Africans, having inhabited the north coast of Africa ranging from present day Morocco to Egypt, for at least 5,000 years.
The Arab invasion of North Africa in the 7th century forced Berbers to assimilate, or take refuge in the Atlas mountains.
It is said that as much as 80% of the Moroccan population is racially Berber, however only half of those people live culturally Berber lifestyles.
Berbers have adopted Islam as their primary religion, but continue to speak dialectic Berber in their villages, and practice Berber music, spirituality, and art.
The Atlas mountains are home to relatively pure Berber populations, who live in earthen adobe houses. Marrakech is the only Moroccan city with a recognizable Berber ambiance, being situated at the base of the southern Atlas mountains. The color of Marrakech is the color of the Berbers - reddish, ochre and earth tones are the only colors you see adorning the adobe buildings, giving the impression that the entire city springs from the earth.
The stunning Ourika Valley - situated less than 30 minutes from the Marrakech Medina - is a portal to the High Atlas, and home to many Berber villages.
Destinations within High Atlas
Marrakech hotel Kasbah Omar [www.Kasbah-Omar.com] is the first luxury Morocco riad to be built in a Berber village. Located in the village of Anrar in the Ourika Valley, it has panoramic views of the mountains and the river valley and, at night, the lights of center city of Marrakech in the distance.
Anrar is a village of about 52 Berber families, who farm organically in the valley below and tend to their goats in the mountains above. Their lifestyle is agrarian and self - sufficient. You will find exceptional craftmanship of pottery, carpets, and jewelry, and a charming, jovial hospitality.