Anti Atlas Mountains
The Anti Atlas mountains extend from the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest toward the northeast to the heights of Ouarzazate and further east to the city of Tafilalt (altogether a distance of approximately 500 km). In the south it borders the Sahara. The easternmost point of the Anti Atlas is the Jebel Sarhro mountains and its eastern boundary is set by sections of the High Atlas range. On the heights of Ouarzazate the massif is cut through by the Draa valley which opens southward. In this chaos of rocks the contrasts are astonishing: water runs in some remote places, forming clear basins. The rare villages are reduced to a handful of small houses surrounded by palm trees. The Anti Atlas is inhabited by the Chleuh Berber. Their centre is the city of Tafraoute in the beautiful Ameln Valley.
The summits of the Anti Atlas reach heights of 2,500-2,700 m. To the north lies a plateau 1,700–1,800 m in height. To the south lie the Sahara highlands at approximately 700 m. One peak, Jebel Siroua, of volcanic origin, reaches 3,304 m. The area is a dissected plateau with a wide range of volcanic features, including numerous craters and lava plugs. Siroua is located about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Toubkal, and thus it is in the rain shadow of the High Atlas, receiving much less precipitation. The Anti Atlas range is strongly fissured, particularly in a southerly direction.
In the Anti Atlas the precipitation annually is typically below 200 mm, while the climatic conditions on the north and west slopes are locally more favourable. Climatically the mountains are separated by the High Atlas to the north and the Mediterranean's influence and belong to the Sahara climate zone.
In the most moderate areas to the west and the north, large surfaces are covered with thyme, rosemary and other low-water demand plants like Argan. The quilt-like cover is endangered by overgrazing, and in the south little but thorn shrubs remain. Most agriculture takes place at oasis locations and along the rivers, and is heavily reliant on spring runoff. There is some dry-land agriculture: barley is cultivated with limited yields in the highlands. The transition to the desert is gradual as you move southward.
The landscape is marked by picturesque kasbahs (castles) which are found in many places in the region including the older parts of Agadir. In former times the kasbah was important as a place of shelter, and a supply depot for kinsmen. In close proximity to these settlements, terraced fields with dry-stone retaining walls cover the landscape. However, increasingly, houses are vacated and fields left uncultivated. With the continued migration from the land the irrigation systems necessary for agriculture are also decaying.
Not to be Missed
The drive from Tiznit to Tafraoute is one of the most spectacularly beautiful that you can make in Morocco. The amazing splendour of the Anti Atlas mountains, the contrast between oasis greenery and barren mountain slopes and the bizarre lunar landscape around Tafraoute make this drive very worthwhile and memorable.
The village of Tata is a pretty oasis on the far side of the Anti Atlas mountains. The road climbs up through rocky canyons to 2000m and out here doesn't go much further than Tata so you will be safely 'away from it all'. Rose-coloured walls and arcaded streets are surrounded by the beautiful palms made fertile by the water off the mountains. In the summer the temperatures can reach 50°C. One place in Tata is truly luscious, and that is the park where nobody appears to do anything but water the plants. Look out for all the butterflies.
The town of Taroudannt is an easy-going Berber market town, known as "Little Marrakech", whose souks are an excellent place to shop for traditional jewellery, but without the hustle & bustle of the real Marrakech. A tour of the city's ramparts is a pleasant way to spend some time enjoying the fine views of the town and the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Tiout, 36 km south east of Taroudannt, has ruins of a very impressive kasbah. In 1952, this kasbah was used as decor for the film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The oasis of Tiout is green and fresh. Through the palm groves run small roads and water canals. In all, this is among the best organized oasis you could come across in Morocco. You may like to have a ride on a donkey hired out by the local villagers in the palmaraie.
At the base of the Anti-Atlas and not far from the coast is the city of Tiznit, famous for silver jewellery craftsmen and a definite attraction for the traveller. Every Thursday the ambulating souks of this region comes together in Tiznit, making up the largest market within miles. Travelling further southwest towards the Sahara is the town of Guelmim, often nicknamed "Gateway to the Desert" (la porte du désert), home to the biggest weekly camel market and famous for the "Blue Men of the Desert".
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© COPYRIGHT 2006-2008 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED LAYTEN LIMITED Date last edited: 12 November 2012