The Rif Mountains in northern Morocco has seen less activity from adventurers and hikers alike. Although the region has rugged terrains, and unparalleled natural beauty. It is an area less touristic and off the radar of usual tourists and travelers.
It’s no surprise that the few travelers that explored the region were captivated by its beauty. That includes scenic villages, ancient souks and weekly markets, lush greenery, and beautiful sandy beaches. However, there is one adventurer who has always had a special connection with the region. That is the story of a man who embarked on a journey to rediscover the villages he always wanted to see as a kid.
As a child, Mourad Elhankari had always been intrigued by the Rif Mountains. He would listen to stories told by his grandfathers and grandmothers about the region’s past, and this instilled a fascination in him that remained for many years. However, life got in the way, and Mourad had to put his dream of visiting the region on hold.
Fast forward a few years, and Mourad found himself with the opportunity to finally visit the Rif Mountains. He was determined to make the most of this opportunity and embarked on a solo journey to explore the region on foot.
The journey was not without its challenges, but Mourad persevered. He walked through the mountains, taking in the scenic views and meeting the locals along the way. As he walked, he was struck by the beauty of the region, and hidden gems, unseen and unknown to many even the locals. This has finally reconnected the stories to reality and see by his eyes how much things have changed since his grandfather’s stories.
Mourad’s journey also took him to countless villages in the region, each with its own unique character and history. He spent time talking to the locals, learning about their way of life, and taking in the stunning views.
Maghreb Magazine reached out to Mourad to share his experience.
What inspired you to travel around the region?
Mourad: since I was a kid I was fascinated by traveling and nature. I was also always fascinated by the stories about the Rif from family and elders. So I always wanted to discover the Rif mountains and see in my eyes all the villages and tribes that my grand-parents were talking about. That itch has never faded. Until I became employed and have both the time and finances to do.
You travel mostly on foot, how are you able to do that?
Mourad: It is hard to drive and coordinate so it was even special to do it on foot. I wake up early at sunrise. Sometime I take some form of transport to a known center that is connected and then walk to my destination on foot. Sometimes, I just hike from my hometown to a known location and camp overnight, before continuing to my destination. I walk sometimes 20 km each way in a day, and some days up to 40 km.
How challenging is it to travel around?
Mourad: For the most part it is safe and secure. People are very welcoming. The main challenge is traveling alone. Also I am traveling through the mountains which are tough and mostly untravelled. These areas so remote with have no cellphone signal or water. Often I am not even aware of my exact geolocation. Sometimes I am afraid to get injured and get stuck somewhere and left a pray to the wild animals. The main challenge is more logistical. As the lack of proper equipment and materials is hindering my ability to capture the true beauty of these villages.
What do you like the most about your journey?
Mourad: Each village has its own uniqueness. I am often astonished by the rugged beauty of the region. From mountains, beautiful Mediterranean shores, unspoiled sandy beaches, to picturesque and charming villages. Each region has its own flavor. I can mention Ibakouyan for its beaches and greenery, Eit S3id for the rugged mountains and beautiful sea views, Ait Touzine for the forest of Raqqan and its rivers, then Eit Waryaghel and Tidighin for the mountains. I can't get enough of it all.
What are some funny stories that happen on the road?
Mourad: Many stories to remember. Some classic ones from forgetting a lighter after a long journey only to be saved by someone passing by at the last minute. One often recurring story is how curious people about my journey. When I approach them to interview or take pictures, they would often question me about my intention, ask about who I am, why doing this, and many questions. Only to have them refuse my invitation to take picture or interview at the end :) People in the region are very private and camera-shy.
Mourad’s mission to rediscover the hidden gems of the Rif mountains is one that requires support. As he journeys through the region, his goal is to document and preserve the essence of the quintessential villages that have long been forgotten.
Mourad’s journey through the Rif Mountains was a life-changing experience. It allowed him to reconnect with his past and explore the beauty of the region that had always captivated him. His journey serves as a reminder of the power of travel to help us rediscover our roots and explore the world around us.
As he walks every day, Mourad realizes that his journey was not just about rediscovering the villages he had always wanted to see as a kid. It was also about reconnecting with his roots and understanding the stories that had been passed down to him by his grandfather.