In this Moroccan mountain village, snow in winter means months of isolation

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For residents of the remote Moroccan village of Timahdite, nestled in North Africa’s highest mountain range, heavy snowfall results in weeks, if not months, of isolation.

The nomadic Amazigh tribes who live there depend on the sheep that graze in the lush forests around the village.

Timahdite, east of Casablanca, is located at an altitude of 1,800 meters in the mountains of the Middle Atlas.

But as winter sets in, they are gradually cut off from the world.

Life goes on once snow covers the village.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

The mountains, known for their red-shaded ground, give way to what appears to be endless white.

The isolation persists until the road to the village is reopened by tractors from the local authorities.

But they are often delayed.

A woman returns home amid heavy snowfall.
The roads leading to the Amazigh village Timahdite are cut off by heavy snowfall.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

After just a week in the first snowfall of the season, the pool and foosball tables that kids use to pass the time are fully covered.

A foosball table is covered in snow in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas
It doesn’t take long for the mountain range to be covered with snow.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

The sheep are nestled together in a small barn for days.

When the snowy weather finally recedes, families try to get their lives back on track.

Children walk along winding roads to reach the nearest school.

Children walk home from school in the Amazigh village of Timahdite.
Children continue to go to school all winter, walking through the snow to their classes.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)
A man and his daughters pose for a photo with a wide snowy landscape behind them.
Al Hassan, 42, poses for a portrait with his daughters as they make their way to their village house.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

While most men return to work in neighboring towns, women bear the brunt of village life.

They chop wood from a nearby forest that is used for heating and bake Amazigh bread from flour stored weeks in advance for the winter.

A woman cuts firewood outside in the snow.
A woman cuts wood for cooking and heating.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

In the afternoon, they walk or ride donkeys to nearby lakes or water sources and wash clothes that can finally dry in the sun.

Sometimes they also have the role of shepherd.

Brown and white sheep in a stone barn.
Nomadic Amazigh tribes depend on these sheep for a living.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Heavy rains and snowfall are generally welcome in Morocco, a coastal country bordering the Sahara with few sources of fresh water.

Farmers look forward to the rainy season as agriculture depends on storing rainwater in dams, and the prices of vegetables and fruits can be affected by rainfall levels.

An older woman wearing a headscarf and holding a cane.
Aqli Fatima is used to the snow that cuts her village every winter.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

But for people like Aqli Fatima, standing in his house while his daughters feed the chickens and clean a carpet, winter is a hardship.

Despite her family’s best efforts to use bricks or nylon bags for protection, rainwater and sleet seep into their small living room.

“It’s like that every year, there is nothing else to do but pray,” she said.

A family of four sits and drinks tea against a teal wall.
Mohamed Miloud is having tea with his wife and children, Houda and Ihsan.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)
A child stands outside the door of a simple house, with snow-capped mountains in the background.
Ihsan, 5, stands in front of his house, which has a solar panel to provide heat and electricity.(PA: Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Mohamed Miloud sits at home as his children are dropped off in a school transport vehicle.

A solar panel perches atop her brick house as her daughter Ihsan peeks out the door.

“Maybe things will be better for them,” he said.

PA

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