As we drove away from Kasbah Tamadot, the landscape changed from the Mediterranean terrain of the Asni valley to rocky semidesert. This environment soon turned into tortured layers of black basalt, glistening in the drizzle that appeared from nowhere. As we ascended into the High Atlas Mountains, the rain morphed into sleet and then snow.
By the time we reached the 7,415-foot-high Tizi n’Tichka pass, we were in a full-blown blizzard. The serpentine road cut a calligraphic path through the jagged landscape that had become entirely black and white. Numerous cars stopped at the panoramic top of the pass to take photos; others stopped elsewhere, involuntarily, having run into trouble while driving in the slippery conditions. While it was January and I knew that this pass sometimes received snowfall, I found myself unprepared for the dislocating experience of a Moroccan snowstorm.
At one point on our descent, we saw snow collecting on palm trees and cacti. After we cleared the mountains, the desert reasserted itself, with canyons and mesas alleviating the monotony of the acacia-studded plain. It felt as if we’d traveled from Tuscany through Switzerland to Arizona in less than three hours.