Morocco 2017: The Todra Gorge and the Ikelane Mosque – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To keep myself sane during the pandemic lockdown, I started reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text and additional photos.  

My travels have taken me through Italy, Turkey and Spain. In 2017 I hit the top of my bucket list with a belated birthday gift to myself – a guided trip to Morocco. Today we tour the Todra Gorge and the ruis of the Ikelene Mosque.

We return to Said’s home the next day for mid-morning tea, and to visit his camels which are tethered as a road side attraction and photo op for passing tourists.  His home offers a beautiful panoramic view of a patchwork of fields in the valley, overlooked by one of the many kasbahs in this area. (The group shot with the camel is courtesy of Mark Charteris.)

After saying our goodbye’s, we set out for Todra Gorge, with its red rock canyon walls soaring 1,300 feet above your head.  It’s a magnificent geological site, popular with tourists and rock climbers. You might recognize some of the scenery if you have seen “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns.” The river runs down one side, and on the other side are concrete canals that carry crystal clear water down into the irrigation system below.

I reach the end of the paved road and take a goat trail part of the way back, putting me above the merchant stalls but below caves with stairways carved into the rock, that appear to be inhabited. There are two nomadic tribes who rendezvous at Saturday market here … the Haddidou and the Merghad.  The area was also once inhabited by a Jewish population. Today the gorge is lined with carpet hawkers and jewelry vendors. There’s a hotel nestled at one end, and merchants set up along the other side, some with locking cases.  

We backtrack to Tingher and the Ikelane Mosque. The abandoned mosques are the only ones non-Muslims can visit here, so we take our time exploring.  

The Ikelene Mosque is a ‘historic’ and yet obscure mosque in Tingher. I cannot find any information regarding its history other than it was re-plastered in the 19th century and then destroyed in a heavy rain that wrecked many of the mud brick buildings here in 2005. Restoration work began in 2007 but was obviously still underway when we visited here. The mosque is composed of the elements you would find in most sub-Saharan mosques – an ablutions room, a prayer room with its mihrab directing towards Mecca, a terrace where calls to prayer were sung out (in lieu of a minaret), and areas for study, as this mosque also served as a medersa.

I remember a conical wicker structure outside of the mosque, but did not capture a photo of it and never did find what its purpose was. I think there was also a large clay caldron on the roof, full of rags. It was an interesting visit but I wish I knew more of its history.

Next stop – Skoura, where I would be entranced by a famous kasbah, and would spend some time at a Berber carpet loom.

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