Inzerki: Worth the Buzz…… we have got so much to be grateful to the bees for……
Sun, Sand & Beaches with a little bit of exotic belly dancing thrown in is what will probably come to mind when you think about Morocco but the country has so much more to offer if you are willing to go on roads less travelled.
Today, we are whisking you away to the breath-taking sunny Atlas Mountains to Inzerki. Located 82 kms north of Agadir, this rural village of Argana is the home to the largest traditional Apiary (bee hive) in the world…..
Best travelled early in the morning and by a 4×4, the journey on the mountainous ranges are breath-taking. If travelling from Agadir, one of the first stops is Idmine, a small village of just about 5,000 residents that provides a spectacular backdrop to the Atlas Mountains. The area that seems bereft of any signs of water becomes a natural river when the rains comes in that provides the farms in that area with much needed irrigation. The people are very hospitable and if you are going along on a guided tour, you can visit one of the local houses where they would take you through the traditional Moroccan mint tea ceremony and have the most delicious mint tea.
Approximately an hour’s drive and the next stop on route is Bigoudine a small village. Nestled between many Dates and Argan trees is a natural oasis while in complete contrast lies the huge but tranquil manmade lake called Barrage Abdelmoumen.
Not too far away, with just a drive of another 15-20 minutes is Argana, filled with hues of red, brown and green caused by the presence of minerals and trees.
These rustic hills are filled with Argan trees. Even though the heat from the sun is intense and burning down on you by now, the hilly paths are best travelled by foot where you will enjoy an experience to see the roots of the Argan tree the many Argan fruits too. The women folk of the region pick these fruits to make Argan oil. It’s a painstaking process, where each fruit is individually smashed with a stone to procure the seed that is then ground to a paste that goes into the making of the treasured Argan oil. If your lucky enough you would even get to see goats on top of the Argan tree branches feasting away on the fruits.
A short drive will take you to the foot hills of Inzerki, from here the place is best seen on foot though I must add that if you were brave enough to go ahead with the drive you will possibly have your heart hanging on your sleeve to even see how the driver manoeuvres the 4×4 on many of the narrow mountainous paths.
1,000 meters above sea level lies Inzerki Apiary, the oldest and largest traditional collective apiary in the world. The apiary called Taddart Ugerram (the apiary of the Saint) is part of a collective where the honey is shared between the Ida Ouziki residents of the region and is passed down from generation to generation since its construction in the 19th century. The residents maintain the apiary and conserve the bee population of the region. From a distance you will be able to see the apiary that possibly looks like an archaeological site, but on coming closer you will see that it is built in a terraced structure made of mud and straw.
A local resident will lead you through the treacherous paths showing you the beautiful Eco-system that is home to many flora, fauna and humans. The walking route is filled with Cacti that is in full bloom with its ever so delicious fruit.
The apiary is home to bees of the region and is built of a 1000 racks where reed hives are stored. Massive flash floods in the 90’s destroyed part of the apiary, but a US Aid & UNESCO rehabilitation project in 2006 has brought the apiary back to life.
The bees in the region pollinate the flowers of the Argan trees, Juniper, lavender and many other medicinal flora and fauna in the surrounding area and hence the honey has a very distinct flavour. The local residents take care of the apiary which attracts the bees. The honey that is produced in the apiary can be bought directly from the local residents. You can always buy the honey from shops in the town centre, but if you are here visiting the apiary then the honey is best bought directly from the locals as the money goes directly to them rather than the most of it going to the middle men when they are bought at the shops in the city.
As part of your visit, your local guide will welcome you to their home where you will be treated to the smell of fresh baked bread that is served to you with pure Argan oil and fresh honey from the region and most certainly the Moroccan mint tea. I must add that it is an experience to be experienced! Here you will be able to buy some of the local honey, Argan oil and they would even let you pick pomegranates from their gardens too. So make sure that you carry enough money on you as the local residents are far from the technological advancements and everything is done the old fashioned way which in a way adds to the beauty of the way of life in the region itself.
A couple of hours in Inzerki and it is time to move on, as its best to see your way down these mountains while its still sunny and bright. Returning to Agadir, and if you fancy having some lunch then the next stop is Tiqqi. A bit touristic as it serves as a base camp for those who love to trek to the Atlas Mountains. A stop over at a local hotel, you will be taken to the roof of the hotel where lunch is served….. a sumptuous meal of tagine, cous cous and roasted vegetables cooked with Argan Oil and of course fruit for dessert.
If you have time and are still up for a stop over, you could stop at the Argan Factory in Agadir where they show you the process of making Argan oil, have a tasting experience and also sample some of the many Argan products that they have in store. The factory sources directly from the villages and support the local Berber people.
By now you most probably will be knackered and may need a brief rest to recuperate…… but we do hope that you have enjoyed your virtual journey to visiting one of the oldest apiaries in the world… stay on and we will take you away to a different destination in the next travel blog….