Get to Know Adventure Guide Abdou Toubkal

Abdou Toubkal grew up in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and started work as a muleteer — carrying gear for trekkers — to pay his way through school. Upon graduation, he decided to turn his passion for the mountain lifestyle into a career. Now working with Trekking Morocco Mountains as an adventure guide, he combines adrenaline-pumping activities — from trekking to mountain biking to backcountry skiing — with cultural excursions to Berber villages.
How did you get into your field of expertise?

I’m a Berber from the Atlas Mountains. … I started this job to make some money to continue my studies. I (became a guide in) 2006 — from 1994 to 2003 I was a muleteer and from 2003 to 2006 I was a local guide doing skiing and trekking around Toubkal.

How did you make the transition to becoming a guide?

I like skiing, running — I did a 125-kilometre marathon in the mountains. I like (meeting) new people and talking to them. When I’m in the mountains I feel very happy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

We offer itineraries from two days to 22 days. I have (done) more than 40 itineraries around Toubkal from easy to hard. It all depends on the client. … We are also specialists in cross-country mountain biking, and from December to April (there is) the option of (backcountry) skiing in the Atlas Mountains. There are four summits in one valley and two summits in the other valley, so you have to walk for two days to get to that valley. There’s no ski lift — you walk with your skis to the summit.

Do you have a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

All of (the trips) are different for each client. We have some itineraries available on our website, but normally our specialty is to create your itinerary.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part is guiding in the high mountains and the Berber villages. If (my clients) feel happy, I feel happy.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain the benefits of hiring a guide?

If you want to visit the Sahara Desert, if you have your own transport you can do it — if you ask anyone in Morocco they’ll explain where it is. But in the Atlas Mountains there are paths that are hard to find. You can get muleteers on the way up and down, but in wintertime and for longer treks I ask clients (to get an experienced guide) because the weather changes quickly. Sometimes it’s sunny and clear but in 15 minutes it changes — you can get lost, many accidents can happen.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job you aren’t keen on?

If you (want) to become a guide, you should respect the client and do your job from the beginning to the end.

Tell us something about the Atlas Mountains that only a guide would know.

We know (the area) — the Berber villages, the good places, the dangerous places. If you (want to trek for) two days, you can ask (the locals where to go). But if you want to do more than three days, (it’s better to take a guide). We don’t have signs (on the trails) — there’s no information in the mountains.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

They should smile every day. Our job is to make everyone happy.

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