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Carnet de voyage Haut-Atlas, Maroc. Jacques Bravo
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The river of which only the gorges remain, shearing an ax-cut nature. An obligatory stage, already famous. This shepherd moves his thin flock to "pastures" inaccessible to cars. A rare moment.

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Agoudal, Todghra gorges.

A fresco of Creation, in black and white: sheep and goats which weave their way, merge with the rocks in the scree. I had the impression that the stones were moving, but the stone was a sheep. Permanent visual hide and seek. Abused by the telephoto lens, I doubt, I no longer know what I see: everything is camouflage, the mountain lives.

This is where the Dadès and the Todghra come together to soon become the Draa.

An austere life, but reinvented by spring, started all over again.


The fame of this region outside the world, far from our landmarks, comes from an event that has often been narrated, if not scripted: the feast of Imilchil's fiancés. Since we cannot meet people on the Net, we must try this fair which drains the entire population of the high valleys, three days a year in September. It is the very young girls who are supposed to take the first step. The equivalent of the English quarter of an hour for old surprise parties. The agreement can be sealed very officially under a caidal tent. Then the couples formed in a few hours disappear from the statistics.

Lake Isli means "engaged", Lake Tislit "engaged" ...


On the road to Imilchil

Geographically, this province is located between Marrakech, Rich and Ouarzazate, but these cities are at the other end of another world and are never a reference. Accessible by mule tracks which make the most seasoned off-roader dizzy, the high valleys are rafts on a motionless sea, surrounded by reefs and cliffs. Like these pieces of land torn from the American continent and slowly drifting in the Pacific. The size makes you dizzy. The visitor, certainly delighted, is dominated. The feeling continues even when you come back to it. Because we come back to it when we tasted this unique sensation on the plateau of lakes protected by some of the highest peaks in Morocco. But since it must be left, it is advisable to do like all the rivers born at three thousand meters: to descend.

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The Agoudal plateau

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Arrival in Imilchil

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It is the capital of Aït Hadidou, planted at 2,193 meters above sea level. It is obviously the big annual fair of September, where everything is exchanged, even the promises of engaged couples. It is half past five, and if I am there it is because I slept in a refrigerated tent by the river. This peasant escorted by his friends drives a calf for sale; they pass between these walls which prevent the collapse of arable land threatened by the vagaries of the stream.

campement à flanc de colline des éleveurs pendant le moussem d'Imilchil


Herders' camp on the side of a hill

le village d'Imilchil au Maroc


The village

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A little away, the camp of breeders who came to sell dromedaries, donkeys, mules, sheep and goats.

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The dromedary market:

part of the crowd, a few hundred dromedaries and all the trades (not necessarily visible!) which are active and make this hill a fairground town, ephemeral, but complete.

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Toilettage d'un dromadaire à Imilchil pendant le Moussem


Grooming before the sale, one of his recipes of the year.

Vérification dentaire d'une mule pendant le moussem d'Imilchil


Checking for good dental health!

essai d'une mule avant de l'acheter à Imilchil au Maroc


Goodwill driving check before purchase!

Moussem d'Imilchil . un marchand fait ses comptes


A merchant does his accounts!

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the souk is a place of commercial negotiations where everything is negotiated by word and by gesture, under the moral and spiritual aegis of the patron saint of local tribes. putting a finger to his mouth, placing his hand on his heart, concluding the sale or the purchase of a friendly slap is worth more than a written contract.

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Le lac Tislit à Imilchil au Maroc

Imilchil. Lake Tislit

Capital of the high valleys and weddings.

The engagement party is called "Agdoud N'Oulmghenni" and the Aït Yazza maintain the tradition well before that of Romeo and Juliet: a girl and a boy loved each other, their families keep them away.

Legend has it that in this mountain, they began to cry for days because of their fate. Their sorrow was the source of inexhaustible tears in which they drowned and died of love without managing to marry. This is how the tears of their heartache gave birth to the two lakes which bore their names 'Isli and Tislit'.



Village of Aït Ameur, near the tomb of the patron saint Oulmghenni.

Participating for the first time in the fiancé feast, also known as engagement, the young girls learn the code of seduction to return in the following years.

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The undulating round of Imilchil's fiancés

" the light of day settled on your cheeks like a bed of roses "

The young girls of the Aït Hadidou tribes, dressed, made up, dressed in their handira, striped woolen cape woven by them, prepare to marry under the auspices of the symbolic weddings of heaven and earth.

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Les fiancés sous la tente ou le mariage sera célébré.



The engaged brides of the collective marriage.

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Imilchil. Collective circumcisions

Circumcisions, weddings, religious and national celebrations are the highlights of the holiday.

Moments of grace and respite in the course of a rough life

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Neither gratuitous frivolities, nor individualism exacerbated in these regions of the High Atlas, where private parties - birth, circumcision or marriage - are most often public. on the threshing floor or on the village square, the neighbor as well as the foreigner are welcomed to share couscous or méchoui, mint tea and the airs of ahwach, the berber round.

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Seasonal festivals to give thanks to Heaven for its benefits. Religious festivals - Mouloud-Achoura, Aïd-el-Kebir- and family celebrations whose young girls from the highlands are often the heroines.

The twenty-seventh night of Ramadan, the night of Destiny, the little girls are dressed like queens, made up, covered with jewelry, wearing a diadem, they walk, intimidated and proud, on their parents' arms.

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champs de fleurs dans le Haut-Atlas à Imilchil


In spring, very short after the snow has melted; nuances of intensity that would have seduced Monet.

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