1001 Warm Up Trip

Imin Tanoute Travel Blog

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OK, it’s August 15 now and I’m flying to Cairo in 5 days. I’ve got two days off work and I haven’t travelled in over a month. I figure it would be good to do a little “warm up” trip to get the adventurer juices running, start getting myself back in shape, and condition myself for hiking in extremely hot weather.

So where can I go? I’m kind of running low on new locations for a “2 day trip” in Morocco—most of my unexplored areas would require at least 4 to get to. But there is one town that has been beckoning me for 15 years and I’ve never visited it.

15 years?! Yep, you heard me right. Ever since I first visited Morocco back in 1996, I’ve been intrigued by a little town between Marrakech and Agadir, positioned right where the plains end and the Atlas Mountains begin: Imin Tanout.

I’ve never stopped there because I’ve been told that if I wanted to get off there I’d still have to pay for the whole fare to Agadir and that just doesn’t seem right. Well, today I’m going to push my stinginess to the side, get on the overnight bus to Agadir, and get off in Imin Tanout somewhere around 4 in the morning for an early start to my mini-adventure.

Or make that more like 1 in the afternoon. The bus breaks down multiple times along the way, turning a 5 hour trip into a 14 hour trip. Not exactly a thrilling start to the New Saga of my journey… sitting on a greasy curb while another frustrated passenger screams at the driver. I guess that’s another way to “warm up” for my Big Trip—a reminder that things to always go as planned, and you’ve got to just go with the flow sometimes.

Reaching Imin Tanout

It’s always a mild culture shock going from Cosmopolitan Casablanca to some little village in the hinterlands. You’re suddenly reminded of the reality that many Moroccans still live a pretty rugged, isolated life. And just by the looks on people’s faces here in Imin Tanout you get the feel for the hardships endured by those trying to earn a living in this arid, mountainous terrain. There are dirt roads that snake up the steep slopes which I’m tempted to follow to really get off the beaten track… but that could be a long hike before I reach any sort of village.

I wander through a small, covered market area that still has some life to it, even though it’s the middle of the day, then down a narrow street lined with a handful of clothing and kitchenware stores where mountain villagers come to do their shopping.

When I reach the short, main street I see a dozen or so guys sprawled out along the shaded portico beside the road. If this were Casablanca I would assume that they’re homeless winos or glue sniffers—but I know that that’s not the case here in Imin Tanout. This is Ramadan, and people don’t get enough sleep at night, so they sleep during the day. These guys must live to far away to be able to go home for their mandatory midday Ramadan nap.

I continue on across the dry riverbed and across the old Agadir-Marrakech highway, which gets considerably less traffic now, thanks to the impressive now freeway that slices right through the mountains. There are a couple of neighbourhoods that climb up the steep slopes on the other side, so I figure I’ll explore them. They are mainly new but lower class cinderblock houses—not quite the charm of the traditional earth homes and castles of out east…

I wander up and down the dirt alleys that are mostly empty—and for good reason.

A sign says that it’s 43 degrees! Yep, this should be a good warm up for my trip to Egypt…

Finally I decide to duck into Imin Tanout’s small, shady oasis to play my music. It’s clearly not enough farmland to support a town this size, and the canals running through it seem to be full of sewage water… so this is definitely not one of my “Shangri La” discoveries-- magical, self-suffient little enclaves of humanity tucked away…

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Imin Tanoute
photo by: nathanphil