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Imlil

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Not to be confused with Imlil, Béni Mellal-Khénifra, Tadla-Azilal.

Imlil is a village in the High Atlas Mountains in Marrakesh-Safi, Morocco.

Understand

Imlil is a good starting point for a trekking holiday or for climbing Mt Toubkal the highest mountain in North Africa (4,167 m). As you travel up the valley from Asni to Imlil, the countryside around you will transform: From arid dust to green, leafy foliage. The temperature will drop also, a very welcome break from the baking heat of Marrakech.

Imlil village has a variety of shops and "pensions" as well as being a base for guides and trekking parties. The route to Toubkal starts in the village. Its a progressive community and monies from tourism go into a variety of projects organised by the Village association such as litter collection and disposal and a new Community Hammam opened in November 2004.

Imlil is a base for mountain guides and muleteers who work in the area surrounding Jebel Toubkal. It is also a main entry point for those wishing to trek in the mountains in this area. The valley in which Imlil lies is periodically flooded. The most obvious evidence of the most recent flood (1995) is the wreckage of cars on the valley floor north of Imlil. At this point in the mountains, it becomes true Berber country. The almost constant hustling continues, but it feels of a much less threatening nature.

The Imlil Village Association

There is an Imlil Village Association which is using money from tourism to address the problems it brings, like litter, as well as start new projects. A local "tax" has been agreed by many of the businesses providing tourist facilities to fund projects. To date a Land Rover Ambulance has been acquired so that the valley population has a safer way of getting to hospital, litter collections have been started and a village hammam (community bathhouse) was opened on the little road up to the school.

Oddly, while the villages in the next valley don't have running water or electricity, Imlil has its own mobile phone mast: The villagers never stop texting each other.

The Imlil Association is part of the "Valleys of Imlil Association" which is an umbrella organisation which other villages are able to join to promote and plan ecologically responsible tourism and infrastructure.

Get in

Imlil is approximately 60 km south of Marrakech, and it can be reached by road through the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. The road is being upgraded but can be prone to flooding.

First you will need to reach Asni. From there an old green Mercedes-Benz minibus shuttles between Asni and Imlil all day long (from 07:00 onwards). Wait at the taxi area until someone shouts "ImlilImlilImlilImlilImlil!". It should cost just 10 dirham. A grand taxi shouldn't cost that much more (about 15 dirham to Imlil; about 30 dirham to Marrakech). If, as a tourist, you're quoted a price in the hundreds of dirham (this happens), say it's too expensive and walk away. You'll instantly be called back and asked to name your price: they will still want your business even if they can't rip you off.

In the Rough Guide, it says something to the effect that there are open-back trucks that take the villagers up and down the mountain to Imlil. This is true, but they leave only a few times a week. Be warned there are many con men in Asni: travellers are told about the 'bus', by a 'local' who's story matches the guide book's exactly. They are told they should follow him to the village where the truck is. However, this is just a ploy to try to get them to buy his cheap jewellery. Instead, you will be better off hitching to Imlil. The road up the pass is quite busy during the day, and a ride can be found for around 20-30 dirham.

Get around

Imlil is a relatively small village, so travelling by foot is the best option. Many of the paths are fairly rocky, so appropriate footwear is recommended.

See

One of the great delights of the area is to sit on the Kasbah roof eating lunch or taking tea and watching the subtle changes of colour of the surrounding mountains as the sun moves.

Do

  • Relax at the cafe until night falls. Mind the mosquitoes though from the river. At 21:30 you will hear the sound of the call to prayer. The mosques sound even more ancient and timeless in the mountains, the sound echoing through the hills, the distant villages far down the valley seeming to reply.
  • Visitors can use the new Hammam by joining the Imlil Village Association and paying a small entrance fee.

Trekking

Trekking is one of the very best things Morocco has to offer in the High Atlas, the country boasts one of the most rewarding mountain ranges in the world. If you are used to the Pyrenees or Alps, here you will feel you are moving a century or so back in time.

Imlil is the starting point for the ascent of Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. There are many guided treks up to the mountain and a refuge near the summit for an overnight stay. You should seek guidance locally as to weather conditions. The trek can be done without guide, and rest can be found at the base camp hut at 3,300 m—maybe call ahead or send an email to confirm availability, but there is plenty of space.

Trekking resources are available here, but nowhere higher up.

Buy

There is a group of shops that cater to tourists towards the south of the village, selling items including jewellery, headscarves, and the Moroccan djellaba - a full body garment with a pointed hood worn by men.

Eat

  • Chez les berberes
  • Dar Tighoula

Drink

There is a small café near the tourist shops selling soft drinks. The Kasbah du Toubkal also sells soft drinks at higher prices.

Sleep

Leaving the stress and insanity of Marrakech for this little mountain village and surroundings is a good idea, even just for a day or two. You can pitch a tent in a grassy clearing beside the French Refuge. You can stay in the Refuge too. Both options are cheap. The refuge was washed away, along with part of the village in 2000-2003. It's since been rebuilt and is fine for use again.

  • Chez Les Berberes, douar ait souka imlil, ☏ +212 667910760. Chez les berberes features a panoramic view of the Atlas Mountains. It offers a terrace with seating area and a Moroccan living room with a fireplace. Free Wi-Fi is available in all areas. All accommodations include a shared bathroom fitted with a toilet and shower. Upon request, Guests can enjoy Moroccan specialities in the dining area. Free public parking is possible at a location nearby. €20.
  • 1 Dar Tighoula (Dar Tighoula), ☏ +212648688808. Rooms (Double, Triple, Family, Appartment) with ensuite bathrooms (shower + toilet). Terrace with seating area and panoramic view of the Atlas Mountains. Living Room with fireplace. Free Wi-Fi. Upon request guests can enjoy traditional Moroccan food for dinner. Hiking map + information about available hiking routes in the surrounding Atlas Mountains. Low season: €20, High season: €35.

Go next

From Imlil the trekker can strike out into the mountains. The most popular route is southwards, towards Mt Toubkal. However heading North over the pass to Ikkiss and Tacheddirt is possible too.

When heading out, it is possible to hire a mule or donkey to carry your luggage. If you're inexperienced, or the weather looks dodgy, a guide might be a good idea too.



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