Trapped by snow in a Moroccan mountain village

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TIMAHDITE, Morocco – For residents of the remote Moroccan village of Timahdite, nestled in North Africa’s highest mountain range, heavy snowfall means 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, located at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Middle Atlas Mountains. But as winter sets in, they are gradually cut off from the world.

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.

After only a week in the first snowfall of the season, the pool and foosball tables that young people spend time with are fully covered. 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.

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, bake Amazigh bread from flour that had been stored weeks in advance for the winter. 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 play the role of shepherd.

Heavy rains and snowfall are generally welcome in Morocco, a coastal country on the edge of 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.

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, using bricks or nylon bags, 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.

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.

A shepherd crosses a road with his sheep as they graze among the snow in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco, on Saturday, December 4, 2021. The nomadic Amazigh tribes who live there depend on the sheep grazing the lush forests around the village, which sits at an elevation of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) in the Middle Atlas Mountains. But as winter sets in, they are gradually cut off from the world. (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo Sheep that nomadic Amazigh tribes rely on to live in a barn amid snowfall in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco, on Saturday, December 4, 2021. Nomadic Amazigh tribes live here depend on the sheep that graze in the lush forests around the village, which sits at an elevation of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) in the Middle Atlas Mountains. But as winter sets in, they are gradually cut off from the world. (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo A woman chops wood for cooking and heating in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021 (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo Muhammad Miloud is having tea with his wife and children, Houda and ihsan, in the Amazigh Timahdite village of the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco, on Saturday, December 4, 2021. For residents of the remote Moroccan village of Timahdite, nested In North Africa’s highest mountain range, heavy snowfall results in weeks, if not months, of isolation. (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo A family crosses a road amid heavy snowfall to collect water in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021 (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy )
Photo A woman carries her son after feeding her family’s sheep in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021. 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. (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo A woman puts clothes to dry amid the snow outside her home in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021 (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo A view of snowfall in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021. The nomadic Amazigh tribes who live there depend on the sheep that graze in the lush forests around the village , which sits at an elevation of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) in the Middle Atlas Mountains. But as winter sets in, they are gradually cut off from the world. (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Photo Al Hassan, 42, poses for a portrait with his daughters as they travel to their home in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021 (AP Photo / Mosa ‘ ab Elshamy)
Photo A foosball table is covered in snow in the Amazigh village of Timahdite in the Middle Atlas, near Azrou, Morocco on Saturday, December 4, 2021. The nomadic Amazigh tribes living here depend on sheep that graze in the lush forests around the village, which sits at an elevation of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) in the Middle Atlas Mountains. But as winter sets in, they are gradually cut off from the world. (AP Photo / Mosa’ab Elshamy)
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