The Sahara in Morocco, it is said, begins in Marrakech. Not that sand dunes rise to greet you soon after this city is left behind, but rather gradually enter the Sub-Sahara (also known as the Petit Sahara), the land of oases, gorges, rock formations, palm groves, and, more generally, a stunningly exotic landscape of kasbahs, ksour (plural for ksar) or fortified adobe villages. Erlebnis Tours specialise in this area and will take you wherever you wish and stop for as long as you need to explore and enjoy this beautiful part of Morocco.
Southeast of Marrakech is the city of Ouarzazate, once a non-descript quiet town with perfect climate, now the Hollywood of Morocco, with the probably the largest studio in the world and a fast-growing tourist industry. Lawrence of Arabia, the Sheltering Sky, Gladiator and more have been filmed within the kasbahs and desert plains. Ouarzazate is a useful base for exploring the ksour and kasbahs of Ait Ben Haddou and Skoura. The road forks out in two directions from Ouarzazate; one through the Draa Valley toward Zagora and Tamegroute, the other through the Dades Valley (known as "the land of a thousand kasbahs") through Kala'at M'gouna (land of rose water and a rose festival held every May), Tinerhir toward Erfoud, Rissani and the archaeological ruins of Sijilmassa. Both are spectacular journeys and shouldn't be missed. The village of Rissani is a classic oasis town, with three souks each week that attract Berbers from surrounding villages.
Travelling south through the Draa Valley, which is one of the most fertile and wealthy in the country, witness vast palmaraies lining the riverbank and dramatic kasbahs standing as evidence of the region's historical importance to the trading caravans that have passed through over the centuries. Tamnougalt is an excellent example of the dramatic ksour that are found in the area; it was a regional capital for centuries and is still populated by a Berber tribe. Visit Zagora, which claims to be the hottest place in Morocco and an excellent base for touring the valley, by car or camel. Nearby, the village of Tamegroute was once a key centre of Koran studies; today, its pottery cooperative produces excellent work, inspired by Fez designs. Just south of Tamegroute are the beautiful golden sand dunes of Tinfou, whose colour changes along with the light. Dawn and night time are favoured times to climb the dunes and contemplate the surroundings.
The Dades and Todra Gorges are both magnificent landscapes that are fabulous for short or long walks. Both are excellent for birdwatching, with plenty of eagles, bulbuls and crag martins. Tinerhir is a good base for exploring the gorges and boasts an extensive palmery and interesting ksour that were home to warrior tribes for centuries. Don't miss the spectacular mountain formations of the Todra Gorge, which have been compared to the Grand Canyon in Colorado. Further east is Erfoud, an excellent base for exploring the Sahara, and host to a Date Festival every October. Travel to Merzouga, whose sand dunes at Erg Chebbi are one of the great sights of Morocco, some rising as high as 820 feet. In the spring, scores of pink flamingos gather at a nearby lake. Witnessing a sunset or sunrise in this area, or checking out fossils is a definite part of the experience.
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. Only a few kilometres away is the town of Tiout, a pretty oasis in the desert. The town boasts very impressive ruins of the ancient kasbah used as a backdrop for the 1952 film Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves (now a popular restaurant). 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".
Not To Be Missed
Pick Dates at Erfoud
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Date last edited:
12 November 2012