Mt. Toubkal – June 25th, 2016
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Sir Edmund Hillary
Why This Mountain?
Mt. Toubkal in Morocco in Northern Africa is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. The idea of staying in the ancient city of Marrakech built in 1062 seemed very exotic and different than any other place we were thinking to go. Tami especially wanted to hike in the Atlas Mountains because of the name connection to one of her favorite books – Atlas Shrugged (see the book club suggestion!) We also wanted to do a camel trek in the Sahara and sleep in the desert in Arabian night style tents. We’ll be spending two days in the desert after the trek in the Atlas Mountains!
Mountain & Route Facts
Mt. Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountain Range of Northern Africa at 13,671 ft and is in the Toubkal National Park. The first official ascent by Europeans was on 12 June 1923 by the Marquis de Segonzac, Vincent Berger and Hubert Dolbeau.
Our trek for Mt. Toubkal is two days. We start the trek in the Berber village of Imlil at approximately 5,700 ft and hike about 5 hours to the basecamp for Toubkal which is at 10,500 feet. We pass by the tiny settlement of Sidi Chamharouch, which has grown around a Muslim shrine and stay at basecamp in two stone-built refuges (old Neltner Refuge and new Refuge du Toubkal). If that elevation is correct, that is a tough first day trek in terms of elevation! On Day 2, we start early to make the summit attempt of Toubkal and then return to the town of Imlil that night. Day 3-5, we travel to the Northern Sahara for a camel trek and a night in the desert.
Historical and Cultural Information
Mt. Toubkal and Mt. M’Goun are in the Atlas Mountains which extend some 2,500km across northwestern Africa, spanning Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, separating the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline from the Sahara Desert. Actually a series of mountain ranges with diverse terrain, climates and wildlife, the Atlas are dotted with Berber villages and riven with canyons and ravines.
Toubkal and M’Goun are in Morocco which is officially called The Kingdom of Morocco and is located in Northern Africa. It is one of only three countries (with Spain
) to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. It is bordered by the African countries of Western Sahara and Algeria and lies on the other side of the Strait of Gibralter
from Spain. The capital is Rabat and the biggest city is Casablanca. Arabic and Berber are the official languages and French is also nationally recognized. The unit of currency is the Dirham. The official language is Islam, but Judaism and Christianity are practiced as well. The current king is Mohammed VI
and the Prime Minister is Abdelilah Benkirane
The area of present-day Morocco has been inhabited since Paleolithic times
, sometime between 190,000 and 90,000 BC. North Africa and Morocco were slowly drawn into the wider emerging Mediterranean
world by the Phoenicians
, who established trading colonies and settlements in the early Classical period. Morocco later became a realm of the North African civilization of ancient Carthage
as part of its empire. The earliest known independent Moroccan state was the Berber kingdom of Mauretania
under king Bocchus I
. The Roman Empire
controlled this region from the 1st century BC, naming it Mauretania Tingitana
was introduced in the 2nd century AD and gained converts in the Roman towns, among slaves
and some Berber farmers. In the 5th century AD, as the Roman Empire declined, the region was invaded from the north first by the Vandals
and then by the Visigoths
. In the 6th century AD, northern Morocco was nominally part of the East Roman, or Byzantine Empire
. Throughout this time, the Berber inhabitants in the high mountains of the interior of Morocco remained unsubdued.
In 670 AD, the first Islamic conquest of the North African
coastal plain took place under Uqba ibn Nafi
, a general serving under the Umayyads
. The Umayyad
Muslims brought their language, their system of government, and Islam to Morocco. Many of the Berbers slowly converted to Islam, mostly after Arab rule had receded. From the 11th century onwards, a series of powerful Berber
dynasties arose. The Berbers are still a prominent ethnic group in Morocco and the Atlas Mountains. There are some twenty-five to thirty million Berber speakers in North Africa.
In 1549, the region fell to successive Arab dynasties claiming descent from the Islamic prophet
: first the Saadi dynasty
who ruled from 1549 to 1659, and then the Alaouite Dynasty
, who remained in power since the 17th century. In 1666, Morocco was reunited by the Alaouite Dynasty
, who have been the ruling house of Morocco ever since.
Morocco was the first nation to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation in 1777. On 20 December 1777, Morocco’s Sultan Mohammed III
declared that American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage. The Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship
, signed in 1786, stands as the U.S.’s oldest non-broken friendship treaty.
Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco after Casablanca
. Marrakesh is possibly the most important of Morocco’s four former imperial cities
(cities that were built by Moroccan Berber empires). The region has been inhabited by Berber
farmers since Neolithic
times, but the actual city was founded in 1062 by Abu Bakr ibn Umar
, chieftain and cousin of Almoravid
king Yusuf ibn Tashfin
. Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina
), bordered by modern neighborhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz
. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market (souk
) in Morocco, with some 18 souks
selling wares ranging from traditional Rural carpets
to modern consumer electronics. The Jemaa el-Fnaa
is one of the best-known squares in Africa and is the centre of city activity and trade. It has been described as a “world-famous square.” Snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, mystics, musicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, story-tellers, dentists, pickpockets, and entertainers in medieval garb still populate the square.