The Hotel of A Thousand Stars

After our time in Marrakech, we spent the next three days hiking and visiting Berber villages in the High Atlas Mountains. We learned from our guides that the term “Berber” actually comes from the word “barbarian” and was a derogatory term given to all non-Arabs in northern Africa. Most of the villagers themselves don’t know the term anyway, and the educated among them (like our guides) put up with it because it’s a recognizable term that is good for Internet marketing of trips. A less distasteful term for the Berber people is “Chleh.” It is pronounced something like shleh (although we never seemed to be able to pronounce it exactly as our guides did, causing them to chuckle and us to try again).

A mule train carried our Chleh cooks and some of our heavier bags and food as we hiked along from village to village. The mule train would take shortcuts and beat us to stopping points, and the cooks would have amazing feasts prepared for us at every stop. To us, meals in the wilderness always taste better than meals at home, and the feasts these guys were preparing knocked our socks off. We ate like royalty.

Each evening upon arrival in a village, an elder welcomed us. We didn’t speak the same language, but we had no doubt of their warm feelings as trays and trays full of tea and homemade donuts were dispersed with smiles and greetings. Each night after dinner, many of the village men would join with our own cooks and guides for drumming, singing, and dancing. As we settled down for the night with bellies full, tired from hiking and dancing; we couldn’t help but reflect that while some nut job in Florida was making a spectacle of planning to burn copies of the Koran, we were being welcomed into the homes of devout Muslim villagers and sharing songs, joy, and laughter. The feelings we felt are hard to describe in words and won’t soon be forgotten.

Dancing in the Gite from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

We spent our nights sleeping on the flat roofs of the gites (the traditional square houses built in all of the villages we visited), looking up at a million stars (including multiple shooting stars each night). Our guides fittingly called this “The Hotel of A Thousand Stars”, and we never wanted to check out. The nights weren’t super restful as the mules and roosters would set each other off periodically, but it didn’t seem to matter to anyone in the group. We were all quite content to fall asleep with the Milky Way in our eyes (never before have we seen so clearly why it is called “milky”) and to wake up to beautiful mountain sunrises and the melodic sound of the Muslim call to prayer. It was an awe-inspiring trip with wonderful people, and we are very thankful to have had the whole experience.

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librarian, writer/editor, floundering guitarist, breakfast addict

mobile software developer, dog owner, hiker, adventure racer, enemy of bureaucracy
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