At MIDELT, reached through a bleak plain of scrub and desert, you have essentially left behind the Middle Atlas. As you approach from the north, the greater peaks of the High Atlas appear suddenly through the haze, rising behind the town to a massive range, the Jebel Ayachi, at over 3700m. The sheer drama of the site – tremendous in the clear, cool evenings – is one of the most compelling reasons to stop over. Though the town is comprised of little more than a street with a few cafés and hotels and a small souk, it’s a pleasant place to break a journey, partly because so few people do and partly because of its easy-going (and predominantly Berber) atmosphere. Indeed, there is a hint of the frontier town about Midelt, a sense reinforced by the deserted mining settlements at Mibladene and El Ahouli, 22km to the northeast.
Midelt is so far inland that it has a microclimate of extremes: bitterly cold in winter and oppressively hot in summer. Consequently, one of the best times to visit is autumn, particularly at the start of October, when the town hosts a modest apple festival. Year-round, try to arrive for the huge Sunday souk, which spreads back along the road towards Azrou and is a fruitful hunting ground for quality carpets.