From the Todra Gorges to the Dades Valley
Short Description. In the Todra Gorges, a gendarme encouraged me to continue my road trip to the village of Tamtattouchte. In the afternoon, I reached the Dades Valley, where I couldn’t take my eyes off the 1000 kasbahs built of reddish mud-bricks.
I had breakfast with my two Spanish neighbors who traveled with a camper-van and had two hunting dogs. Toward the Todra Gorges, I passed many official camping-grounds and traditional guesthouses. I gradually reached the sinuous valley that meandered toward the high cliff walls. The dwellings in the villages were simple rectangular volumes that stood on the rocky ground, with square small windows and terraces on the rooftop.
The section of deep, narrow gorges spanned only for a few hundred meters and was free of tourist crowds early in the morning. I slowly drove through the gorges and then a vast mountain scenery gradually opened up. Cultivated plots and lush palm trees lined the main valley here and there. The road winded along the river and immersed into the reddish mountains. It eventually narrowed down and I wanted to turn back when I reached a barrier with ’Route Barree’ (Closed Road) written on it.
A car of the Royal Gendarmerie appeared out of blue and stopped behind my car. The gendarme asked me whether something happened to me. Then he added ’Je suis ici pour la votre securite’ (I am here for your security!). I felt awestruck and stared at him. Then I explained to him I would have liked to go to Tamtattouchte village, 12 kilometers from there, but I stopped at the barrier. The gendarme checked another car which then eluded the barrier and drove across the riverbed. Then he encouraged me to continue the same way, through the river. He assured me everything should be just fine.
I felt fear. However, I took a few deep breaths and passed the shallow water of the river with my rented car. The road was bad and under construction, but it continued through a hypnotizing reddish scenery. Enormous rocky walls flanked the road that gradually got lost in the overwhelming immensity of the desert. At each turn of the road, a different fascinating scenery opened up in front of my eyes as I continued to immerse myself in the Kingdom of the Atlas Mountains.
The road was a mixture of asphalt and gravel. I almost gave up and wanted to turn back twice when I had to cross through the riverbed again. I even desperately stopped a German camper-van which came from the opposite direction and asked them about the condition of the road. They encouraged me to continue with enthusiasm and added the Tamtattouchte village was superbly surrounded by cornfields in bloom.
I passed a small white mosque, then a herd of donkeys and goats. Eventually, I saw the village of Tamtattouchte on sight. The village featured mud-brick houses, surrounded by fields of maize and barren brown mountains. The Berbers in the village worked in the fields, and their donkeys were the only mean of transportation they had. Hunchbacked women carried large bales of dried leaves from the fields to the village. I drove through the village, then reached a soccer field where children were playing joyfully. After I turned the car, I planned to leave, eager to get rid of the river crossings on my way back to the Todra Gorges.
When I was taking the last photo in Tamtattouchte, a smiling woman came from the maize field and invited me to have tea on her terrace at Auberge Café. Under her large Berber tent overlooking the blooming maize fields, Aicha served me sweet Moroccan tea, cookies, and a pear. She wasn’t able to write down her name as she had never been to school. However, we managed to communicate somehow. She had a married daughter who lived in a nearby town and two grandsons. After having tea, she led me to the maize field where she worked every day. She picked up some corncobs to cook for me. When we came back from the field, I gave her some biscuits and waffles. Then I told her I had to leave because I had a meeting in the Dades Gorges. She looked after me very disappointed.
In the Dades Gorges, Mohamed from Marrakesh had arranged a free room for me in a cozy hotel. I passed the town of Boumalne de Dades and entered the Dades Valley – also called the Valley of the 1000 kasbahs. For the next 25 kilometers, I constantly stopped in front of the impressive, picturesque kasbahs built of reddish mud-bricks. One could easily differentiate the kasbahs from the uniform mass of the brown-reddish villages.
The kasbahs had a more prominent volume, developed on several floors with geometric decorations and bordered with slightly detached defensive towers at corners. Alongside lofty minarets, the imposing silhouettes of the kasbahs rose on hilltops or in the heart of green oases with fig, olive, or almond trees. The lunar-red scenery was barren but dotted with abundant, luxuriant oases here and there. Whenever I stopped, children asked me to give them something. They left disappointed though when they felt the sourish taste of my vitamin-C pills.
I was taking a break at the rock formation named the Monkey’s Fingers when Mohamed desperately called me and said the staff of the hotel was already waiting for me. I told him how much I liked the Dades Valley and that I would be late for sure. At Hotel Babylon de Dades, I had a Berber room overlooking the abrupt valley and the staff served me a delightful dinner at candlelight.
From the Dades Valley to Ouarzazate town
Short Description. I drove one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the road through the Dades Gorges. In Kelaa M’Gouna, I witnessed how locals produced rosewater. I had lunch at a kasbah in the palmeraie from Skoura. In the evening, I camped between Berber tents and palm trees near Ouarzazate.
The last hairpin bends in the Dades Gorges are considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world. I drove slowly, with a speed of maximum 30 km per hour, while Moroccans were overtaking me and talking on the mobile phone at the same time. At the end of the narrow road bends, I stopped at a panoramic terrace overlooking the entire Dades Valley. Then, I drove down all the Dades Valley to Boumalne de Dades. In the small town of Kelaa M’Gouna, I entered the distillery of Kadari Elhoucine. He showed to me his rosewater distillery and other products made of roses. Eventually, he convinced me to buy soap, face cream, and jasmine perfume.
Skoura, named the ‘Oasis of the 1000 palm trees’, featured an abundant combination of palm groves and mud-brick kasbahs, built to protect the oases in the past. Monday was the souq day in Skoura and peddlers swarmed the streets. I had a hard time finding a parking place on a side street after I sneaked among agitated crowds and animals.
Skoura‘s town center with a bustling market was full of dust and local stalls and it didn’t inspire me to eat there. In the new town, lunch was unreasonable pricey. Eventually, I immersed into the thicket of the palmeraie and entered at Kasbah La Datte D’Or. There, I negotiated a decent lunch (tajine, olives, salad, dates, pomegranates, and grapes). I also convinced them to tell me the correct way to Kasbah Amridil, which I hadn’t found at all on the maps.
Kasbah Amridil stood on the outskirts of Skoura, at the limit between desert and palmeraie. Built-up during the XVII-th century, it was one of the largest and most coveted kasbahs in Morocco. It had several floors, intricate inner courtyards, and secret terraces. earth ovens for baking bread, old tools, olive oil press, and elaborated geometric decorations. The inhabitants of the kasbah slept on the ground on a mat which they rolled up each morning. In front of the kasbah, famished guides insisted on taking me on a tour of the kasbah or of the surrounding palmeraie.
After I passed the storage lake of El Mansour Eddahbi, I crossed the town of Ouarzazate. In the evening, I reached Camping Bivouac La Palmeraie where I camped among camel-hair Berber tents, palm trees, and mud-brick huts.
If you want to read more about my trip through Morocco, here are all my Travel Diaries from Morocco (x 21).
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