time for a holiday after a year of hard work on the boat. By bus to
Marrakesh (4 hours) and on to Ouarzarzate over the High Atlas (5 hours).
The Atlas is the region where the Berbers live, Morocco's original
inhabitants before the Arabs came in 700 A.D. These mountains are at peak level more than 4000 m high, the cliffs are
steep and with thousands of hairpin bends. Unfortunately Moroccans suffer
from car sickness...
In Ouarzarzate we moved into a cheap hotel, where sleeping was almost as
difficult as when lying at anchor in a choppy bay; there is traffic on
the streets all through the night and it was also very hot (in daytime
35-40°C, at night 30°C). There are two possibilities: window open and
noisy, or window closed and almost die with heat.
The touristical high season is from February until May, with another small
peak in September and October. Good for us, because now we were able to
book a 4 days tour to all the highlights for a very
reasonable price. So we travelled by
Mercedes van (with airco) and one fellow traveller: Sergio
From Ouarzarzate we headed southeast through a varied landscape. From
bare, brown and black
scenery changes around Agdz into the lush green Valley of the Drâa, which
is completely packed with palm trees.
they cultivate dates - and sell them alongside of the road.
From the Drâa was not much left; the rivers behind the Atlas mountains
almost completely dry out in June.
At the end of this green valley lies Zagora, the gate to the desert. Here
you find the famous roadsign “Timbouctou 52 days” (per camel)
A little more to the south are the Tinfou Dunes, i.e. desert. Temperatures
over 40°C and the sand was too hot to walk on.
On the way back we made a refreshing walk between the palm trees in the
Drâa Oasis, the greenest part of the valley. We were immediately
surrounded by small boys
who guided us through the jungle, in the meantime creating dromedaires and gazelles from
palm tree leafs.
Ouarzarzate is nicknamed “Hollywood of the Desert”. We saw the
Atlas-studio’s, where a.o. “Lawrence of Arabia” is recorded. Also
the nearby kasbahs are decors in the movies, as are the local people who
are hired to act in small roles. Kasbah Aït Benhaddou is the most
famous, but worn out and abandoned.
Kasbah Tamdakhte (17th century)
also in many movies; this kasbah is inhabited by five families and
well maintained, so well worth a visit.
the second day of the tour we drove northeast from Ouarzarzate. Into the
Valley of the Dadès, nicknamed Vallée of the Roses (flowering in May, so
we were too late) and Valley of a thousand kasbahs.
a beautiful kasbah and that may be the reason that it is printed on the
50 DH billet and on a carton of orange juice. Some parts look quite new,
others crumbled. The pisé, the clay with which the walls are covered, is
constantly dissolved by rain. This applies to all kasbahs and houses that
are constructed with pisé: as a result of the elements they wear out. Walls
are reconstructed continuously with fresh clay; it is a neverending process
of decay and re-clay. And if the walls come down completely, they simply move to an other house. Berbers were and are still nomads.
The biggest town in the Valley of the Dadès is Boulmaine du Dadès. As a
true Italian Sergio (our fellow traveller) is fond of knifes, so he
wanted a Berber knife which he managed to buy after a lot of tough
The rocks in this area are absolutely spectacular. With a guide, we made a
dangerous hike with a lot of climbing and balancing; exhausting but
10 AND 11
the third day we went to the Todra Gorge: a fresh green valley with palm
trees, flowers and neat vegetable gardens, ending in huge cliff walls.