Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Ameln Valley

The Ameln valley, of which Tafroute is the administrative centre, is a long wide valley in the middle of the Anti-Atlas mountains. The area was originally a sea, which accounts for the large number of fossils, and the rock appears to have been formed by layer after layer of silt deposits. In prehistoric times it was covered with tropical savannah and there are ancient rock carvings of elephants and giraffe which we have not yet visited.
The mountains are tall towers of  granite and quartzite showing patterns similar to SE USA and familiar from countless westerns. Madre, who knows these things, says it is caused by wind erosion. The upper rock is permeable but there must be an impermeable layer about 200' above the valley floor, shale maybe, because there are a series of springs and, just below the spring line, a string of villages, the traditional habitations before the coming of the French. These are linked by a series of pistes. Madre says there is a similar village pattern along the spring line in the Downs.

The metalled road goes down the centre of the valley with pistes off on each side to the various villages.

 The anti-atlas has not been able to support its population to any sort of modern standard for some time and there is a tradition of young men going to work in europe or the cities and only return for a month over Eid. Their families farm in the traditional manner but are maintained by the old and women.  The emmigrants retire home with  wealth from abroad and send remittances to their families. The result is that these are used to build huge mansions and houses which are affected by the european experience in that a lot of them are termed villas and face outwards towards their plot and the view rather than inwards like a traditional moroccan dwelling. Quite a number of these are being built next the road on the valley floor.
The upshot of this is that there is great tourist potential for europeans. There are great rock -climbing opportunites on the cliff-like mountains over the valley, and the Hotel des Amandiers in town maintains a "new route" book, but also easy walks for the less athletic on the valley floor or the pistes linking the villages. You can either be dropped off by taxi in one village and picked up from another later, a walk with no real ascent, or, you can park by the road, walk up a piste to a village with a slight but minimal ascent, walk along the piste and then down to the road at another village and circle back to the car along the road, which has very little traffic. The routes can be as short or long as you like, have spectacular scenery, and an interesting look into Berber culture. Many french pensioners were taking advantage and the snowbird campervan count was high.

This is encouraged by a deliberate policy to develop tourism so that young men can stay in the valley and not leave. There are a growing number of Chambre D'Hotes particularly in the villages closest to Tafroute. As the valley floor is flat and there are a large number of good pistes cycling is a real possibility too. 

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