Holiday in Morocco: over the High Atlas to green valleys     Click here for the map

High 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 (Italian).
From Ouarzarzate we headed southeast through a varied landscape. From bare, brown and black
PHOTO 1 the scenery changes around Agdz into the lush green Valley of the Drâa, which is completely packed with palm trees.
Here 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)
PHOTO 2. 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. PHOTO 3 
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
PHOTO 4, 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)
PHOTO 5 featured also in many movies; this kasbah is  inhabited by five families and well maintained, so well worth a visit.
On 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.
Kasbah Amerdihl
PHOTO 6 is 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 negociating.
PHOTO 7 
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 great!
PHOTO 8 9, 10 AND 11 On 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. PHOTO 12

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