Between Marrakech and Ouarzazate is the atlas. It can be seen from the top of the ridge that divides Morocco, with a stunning view. The peaks are red and arid. Death and wind seems to shout from there. Far away from the last village children that bring herbs to sell that they collected from the mountain. Water appears but not a lot. Palm trees and some grass can be seen around the houses that spring from the sand, as if they were just a continuation of the soil itself.
While decidedly not as grandiose and exotic as some other Kasbahs in the region, the Taourirt Kasbah has it's own merit and is definitely worth a visit if you're in Ouarzazate. It's be completely restored and is in (what I can imagine) similar shape as it was in its heyday hundreds of years ago.
It's right at the edge of town and easily reached in a "petiti taxi"...the entrance costs 10 Dirham (around one dollar) and you'll of course be offered plenty of "guided tours," which I'd suggest turning down with a smile and a polite "la shokran" ("no thanks" in Moroccan Arabic). The building itself is like a maze. Each floor is filled with tiny corridors and passageways and multiple staircases, and the fact that many of the rooms are empty or unadorned might lead you to breeze on through. Big mistake. Right when you think there's nothing special, just more empty rooms, you stumble on an amazing chamber with Arabic engravings, gorgeous original tilework, and impressive views of the surrounding Kasbah.
The best rooms, though, are towards the top, and typically farther away from the staircase. If you go during the off season, it's an amazing sensation to be crawling around an ancient adobe palace all by yourself. Really cool place!
In the past, Ouarzazate was a tiny crossing point for African traders who wanted to get to cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate expanded as a city, becoming an administrative center later on.
During our adventure into the south of Morocco and the Merzouga dunes, we visited the Dades Gorges and Todra, which are two narrow canyons that helped the nomads to cross the Atlas mountains. They are places with a special charm but do not forget the wonderful surprises that you'll find on the way.
The Draa River Valley is over 100 kilometres in length, stretching between Ouarzazate and the beginning of the desert. It's a very green valley, with date palms, but a very poor region once you get away from the water, and into the red desert area, but rich enough on the riverbank. I got off the bus to Mahmid to visit this region, around the city of Agdz. Agdz has a campsite and a couple of hotels, but there's a lot of desert influence. The Bedouin cover their faces in a dark blue veil, and the people are darker there than in the north or near the coast. You can stroll through the palm trees, which is nice because trees provide shade and a lower temperature. There's also not a lot of dust, and you can relax with your feet in the water if you want. There are many walking paths, which is how people reach their fields to look after their cattle, goats and sheep, and go home. On the riverbank, you can the Ksar, impressive castles of dry land that served to defend the inhabitants of the region.
The views from the top are stunning, on one side the oasis, the other the people. You pay to enter but I think with a stroll around it is enough. It is just 5 kilometers from Agdz, visible from the road to Zagora, and you have to take a detour to get to the bottom of the mound, then have to walk a bit further even to get on the Ksar.
The valley of the M'Goun River, also called Rose Valley, is the major producer of the much appreciated Rosa damascene rose. From the beginning of May the women gather the flowers one by one which serve as the basis for making various cosmetic products, including the valued rosewater. After the harvest the inhabitants of the neighboring villages and people from all corners of Morocco gather in the town of El Kelaa Mgouna to celebrate the great festival of "The Moussem of Roses". During this three-day festival there is a program of folk songs and dances.
At the edge of Ouarzazate, the film studio (Atlas) is a peculiarity worth visiting. It's very popular because many directors have chosen to film their films here due to the beauty of the landscape. Alexandre, The Mummy Returns, Asterix: Mission Cleopatra, those are some of the films filmed here.
Mgoun River springs flows forth from the snow-capped mountains of the same name. In its descent into the valley of the Dades, the river has carved a deep limestone canyon. In order to completely traverse the canyon you would need two full days of trekking, during which you would for sure run into little hidden places in the wild that you'll enjoy. This route is only viable in summer and more boxed sections, water can reach us at the waist. Mgoun River springs from the snow-capped mountain of the same name. In its descent into the valley of the Dades has carved a deep limestone canyon. Completely traverse requires 2 days trekking in which we will run into hidden corners that we enjoy in the wild. This route is only viable in summer and more boxed sections, water can reach us at the waist.