May 2009

Part 6: Drâa valley to Merzouga

« Part 5   -   Back to Index   -   Part 7 »

Drâa valley (May 9th, day 12)

After my morning visit to Aït Benhaddou we headed south towards Zagoura. This was still just day 2 of our car trip.

Walking on the moon near Aït Benhaddou A kasbah near Ouarzazate

Tizi n'Tinififft

The road from Ouarzazate (the city near Aït Benhaddou which we'd visit on our way back) to Zagora first leads across the Tizi n'Tinififft pass. This was indicated on our map but was otherwise not mentioned in the LP, which in fact states that the most scenic part of the route to Zagora was the 2nd part. As it turned out, the Tizi n'Tinififft pass was a fantastic ride that offered many different fabulous views - I thought it was even better than the Tizi n'Tichka pass across the Atlas mountains the day before.

Before the pass we'd picked up a Malinese berber whose car had broken down and who wanted a ride to the next village - which turned out to be 60km further beyond the pass.

The guy dressed in blue is our passenger, the guy dressed in black was the driver of that truck which also broke down. I thought we'd take a second passenger but this guy just wanted some tape to fix his truck - Lotte is giving it to him here - and that actually worked.

Though our passenger was patient and we did stop several times to watch the landscape, I was still annoyed because I wanted to stop and pause even more. These were the best landscapes we'd see during this trip and I hated rushing through them.

View while driving up the Tizi n'Tinififft pass The gorge of the Drâa river View while driving down the Tizi n'Tinififft pass
Panorama while descending from the Tizi n'Tinififft

We dropped our passenger in the village of Agdz beyond the pass. Though we were very short on time he insisted on offering us tea "in his family home" which would take "just 5 minutes". We gave in because Lotte was curious to see it, but we were just brought to the family shop and after 15' still had no tea and left.

Drâa valley

Beyond Agdz the road goes through the Drâa valley all the way to Zagora. Though very nice the landscape was extremely monotonous, with both sides of the valley flanked by the same rock walls all the way.

The kasbah of Timiderte in the Drâa valley Pit stop in the Drâa valley, with Lotte pretending to look at the engine. We'd actually opened the engine cap because some big insect was stuck between it Old village in the Drâa valley

Kasbah Said Arabi

There are 4 big kasbahs along the road between Agdz and Zagora. We sought them out and decided on the spot whether we felt like visiting them or not. E.g. we didn't visit the kasbah of Timiderte in the first picture above.

At the Kasbah Said Arabi in the village Ouled Atman we did get out to visit and were immediately assaulted by locals - like we were at most stops. One looked angry because I didn't want to pay him to "look after the car".

Kasbah Said Arabi in the village Ouled Atman Kasbah Said Arabi in the village Ouled Atman

Another guy followed us into the kasbah and would have followed us around (as a "guide") if I hadn't told the warden that I wanted my money back if we couldn't visit without a guide. While visiting I was constantly worried that those guys would do something to the car.

Entrance to the kasbah - another beautiful Moroccan door. This kasbah had lots of arches and must have been an impressive place once.

The warden was actually living in the mostly ruined kasbah with his family - he'd even installed a big satellite dish on it, funny sight.

Lotte looking out from the kasbah Said Arabi Drinking tea with the warden

Some more views along the way to Zagora...

Drâa valley Drâa valley
Panorama in the Drâa valley near Zagora

Zagora (May 9th-10th, days 12-13)

Zagora lies some 50km from the Algerian border and is a major holliday destination for Moroccans, so it's full of hotels. We arrived around 18:00, checked into a hotel with a swimming pool and enjoyed our first swim this trip as the sun was setting.

Our silhouettes cast on a wall by the swimming pool by the setting sun Hotel room

Jebel Zagora

I'd enjoyed my morning excursion into Aït Benhaddou so the next morning I woke up early again (6am) to climb Jebel Zagora, the little mountain at the edge of the city. We'd picked a hotel right at its foot so I could climb up from the back of the hotel.

Jebel Zagora as seen when we drove out of town later.

The climb was shorter than expected, it only took me 35'. Since I was climbing on the shadow side I didn't even break a sweat. On top of the mountain there's a military installation - mostly antennas.

Antennas on top of Jebel Zagora. This picture is for Lotte who loves antennas. Attempt at a self pic on top of Jebel Zagora. I got it right on the next try but this pic is funnier.

The view on the Drâa valley all around was very nice.

The Drâa valley beyond Zagora Drâa valley The town of Zagora in the Drâa valley

Back in the hotel we took another swim - how nice to be able to do that after a climb - and then went on our way again around noon. We were in no hurry because we thought we were only going to drive a short distance that day.

Zagora to Merzouga (May 10th, day 13)

From Zagora we drove back up the Drâa valley some 50km and then turned east. The little map in the LP showed a smaller road to Merzouga there that runs along the south of the Jebel Sarhro mountains, whereas the main road runs north of it. I'd figured it was a dirt road until I read that some shared taxis drive there irregularly, so I concluded it must be paved and thus got the idea to take this route to go east and return west over the main road - much nicer than taking the same road twice.

On the road again

As it turned out this little road, which had very little traffic on it (sometimes we'd drive tens of kilometers without seeing any other car in either direction), was in perfect condition, and since there are few villages here it's actually a faster route than the main road. The first part of the road still looked exactly like the Drâa valley.

Heading east from the Drâa valley towards Merzouga Camel sign!

After a while the landscape got more varied and showed beautiful rock formations.

Cool rock That rock in the middle is wearing a funny hat Close up of the same rock - there are two buildings on top! Old guard towers I think, we saw many of those on mountain tops throughout the valleys.

We were planning to end that day's ride after about 1/3 of the way to Merzouga, in the oasis village N'kob where, and I quote the LP, "no less than 45 mud-brick castles will make you stop and stare". Well we stopped and we stared everywhere but all we saw were a bunch of featureless one-level buildings that we felt to lazy to explore. Not the only time I wasn't very impressed with the Morocco edition of the Lonely Planet.

After having lunch in N'kob we decided to push on to Merzouga, where we'd intended to go the day after, on this same day. So while we'd been taking it easy before we were now suddenly in a hurry.

Around 16:15 we still made a stop in the oasis town of Alnif, which lies near a very rich finding place of fossils, mostly of trilobites of 400-250 million years old. They were selling them everywhere but we went to an LP-recommended shop run by a geology graduate.

Lotte in the Ihmadi Trilobites Centre Lotte in the Ihmadi Trilobites Centre, mostly interested in the minerals though

You could buy clear fossils for 20-30 euro here, but while I think fossils are very cool to look at I wouldn't have any use for one. Later I read about small trilobite fossils made into necklaces, that I would have loved to have (a 300 million year old creature hanging around your neck = très cool) but I didn't spot it anywhere.

From Alnif we continued eastwards towards Rissani through more beautiful landscapes.

Between Alnif and Rissani Between Alnif and Rissani
Football match along the road between Alnif and Rissani One of our many stops along the road to look at a beautiful rock

We arrived in Rissani around 17:45 and then headed south towards the desert dunes, but that's all the subject of the next part.

« Part 5   -   Back to Index   -   Part 7 »

Vivien Sat 13 Nov 2010 @ 21:36
Beautiful photos and well narrated travelog. It gave us a good preview of the trip we planned for this April. We are planning a twelve day trip to Morocco following a similar itinerary. Thank you for sharing.

Curtis Reynolds Wed 28 Jul 2010 @ 04:20
Great photos... However I lived in Morocco in 1973 and my photos are also impressive. Give me a little fed back.


Site: (optional)

Email: (optional, not shown on site)