Throbbing with activity, both commercial and cultural, the square seemed to merge east and west into a grandiose mess — perhaps providing a hopeful perspective on how different cultures will evolve to become closer together via shared experiences, while still retaining their essential uniqueness. Or, perhaps that was just the wishful thinking of a tourist enjoying a view from just far enough away to make everything seem a bit simpler.
The following day I awoke early and met a pre-arranged driver who took me 90 minutes south to the village of Imlil for a hike in the Atlas Mountains. In early March, the valley temperatures were still chilly in the shadows, and the peaks were solidly covered in snow. Arriving in Imlil, I met up with Mohamed Aztet at Atlas Trek Shop, the area’s premier local outfitter.
He introduced me to Yusef, a fit 23 year-old trail runner from the village just up the road who would be my guide for the day. We had a bit of sweet mint tea and pored over some maps, debating which routes would be most interesting, challenging, and doable in a single long day. Ultimately we selected a loop that offered high altitude and mountain scenery, gorgeous juniper groves, a stop at a mountain refuge, and some traditional Berber villages to boot.