On the Terraces - High Atlas Style

At 4071 metres, Jebel Mgoun is the fourth highest mountain in Morocco.  Attached to its lower slopes are mud walled villages that are surrounded by stone terraces full of of barley and wheat.  It can take five painstaking years to build the terraces, they need constant maintenance after the heavy winter rain and some have had crops growing in them for over 300 years.

In late March they are vivid emerald, completely free of weeds and are watered by a complicated irrigation system which, it turns out, doubles up as the ultimate Pooh Stick course.

Above one of these villages, high up in clumps of cumin coloured grass, is another terrace, much bigger than the rest.  At first it's hard to work out what could possibly be planted here – no water channels bubble along the path and there's nothing in the way of fertile earth, just dust and small stones. 

The terrace is completely flat and framed with rocks with a gap at either end.  It would  have taken a great deal of time and effort, and must be tremendously important.  

The mountain peaks stretch long shadows in the evening light and the boys who've followed us up from the village rush onto the terrace, running in and out of the sun.  As one of them kicks an imaginary ball towards the gap in the rocks and throws his arms over his head in celebration, it becomes clear what this terrace is. 

There might not be much in the way of hallowed turf this high up in the Atlas Mountains but season tickets are probably easy to come by and the transfer fees are non existent.  In Morocco at least, football's still a beautiful game.

Posted by: Alex

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