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THE KASBAH TRIAL

In the south of Morocco, where the sand is all- invading, there are the oases of life. Orchards, fields, palm groves and rose gardens, stretching out along a strip of fertile land where men work miracles: those are the valleys of Drâa, Dadès and Ziz.

Where the landscape is a succession of vivid contrasts - burning sand and snow-covered mountain tops. breathtaking canyons opening onto  green countryside. And, wherever you go. Emerging from the midst of a palm grave, perched on a roky outcrop or by the side of an emerald green Jake rise the ornate kasbahs. the fairytale citadels of earth or the unique beauty of the ksour, "fortified villages". These are the Drâa, Dadès and Ziz valleys.
And as you follow the course of the wadis. take a journey back into time: along the kasbahs in a natural setting that literally stuns the senses.


The valley of Dades

With ils origins in The High Atlas, Wadi Dadès brings water to a numher of oases, the precious setting for a thousand  kasbahs in the valley.  After Boumalne,  the arid mountain slopes begin to invade the band of vegetation. But the wadi is determined, it digs in deeper, splitting massive blocks of limestone. And then the valley wall closed in to form  the hreathtaking gorges of Dadès.
Founded in the XlIth century by Yacoub el Mansour, the luxurious oasis of Skoura offers a magical foretaste of the "valley of a thousand kasbahs"; el Kabbaba, Dar Aïchil, Dar Aït Souss and, the most beautiful. Amerhidil,etc.

From palm groves to gardens the road leads on towards the roses, the thousands and thousands of roses that perfume El Kelaa M'Gouna, the most beautiflll rose garden in the valley.
But there are also opportunities for a change of scene. Alzag, where 120 smiths - almost ail the men in the village! - produce the most finely worked daggers; the former Glaoui kasbah lanced on a rocky outcrop; the splendid Bou Taghrar kasbah.
Open your eyes wide to take in the gorges of Dadès! An enormous block of limestone slashed open by a sabre. ln this rough, jagged universe the kasbahs take on the mauve, red, tawny, purple colours of the rocks.

The road becomes a dirt track, crosses the Dadès, winds its way upwards above an awesome canyon to lead into another, private world: where only the birds and wild sheep live. It is enough to take your breath away! There are other gorges that deserve to be visiled. Some fïfty kilometers after Tineghir there is the magnificent Todra... and the end of the world. Two sheer cliffs 300 metres high separated by a narrow corridor only twenty milres wide.An unforgettable sight!

The valley of Ziz

Once it has left the High Atlas, the Ziz cuts its way through impressive cliffs, makes a turn in the region of Rich and heads due South where it waters the immense palm grove at Tafilalet and finally buries itself in the sands of Taouz. Near Rich stands the Sidi Salim medersa, named after the wise man who had the extraordinary gift of being able to make a return trip to Mecca every Friday! But unless you can travel at the same speed as Sidi Salim it will take you some time to reach Erfoud. Luckily!

ln the Ziz valley, water is the source of beauty, making its mark in numerous places along the road into the desert. First there is the impressive Wadi Ziz, carving impetuously into the lime stone to create a long corridor lined with the palm trees that cradle the ksour
and the sublime kasbah of Ifri. Then, held back by the Hassan Addakhil dam, it forms a vast emerald-coloured lake. While on its red
ochre shores, under the shade of the apricot trees, women corne clown to do their washing.
A little further, the bille source of the Meski has the reputation of encouraging fertility. Young women wearing tufts of waal, sea shells, ribbons and amulets in their haïr, bathe in the waters of the gratta by candlelight.
At the end of the journey, the monumental Erfoud gate opens to one's sight...a million of palm trees. On the other side, billions and billions of grains of sand that make up the first rolling dunes of the Sahara. Now, to reach Merzouga, nothing could be simpler: just cross the desert!

The valley of Draa


Born in the High Atlas. the Drâa laboriously  winds its way as far as Agdz (pronounced Agadiz). But once there, what a contrast:a spectacular oasis stretching 200 kilomoters along its banks. Once  at M 'hamid, what used to be the longest river in Morocco it is finally swallowed up by the sands.Make haste to Agdz! The road following Wadi Drâa leads out from this small township dominated by its citadel, its red fort and the strange form of the Djebel Kissane.

At the gates of the desert, nature produces a flourish of colour. Bunches of yellow dates hanging from the palms, laurel bushes showing off their bright pink fIowers, brown, beige and grey mountains rooted in an ochre earth and, always in the distance, like mirages, innumerable sand-coloured ksour.
Such as Tamenougalt, one of the most typical, former Berber capital, or Igdaoun with its high towers like truncated pyramids, and then there is Tinzouline kasbah...

This is the Zagora oasis.It was here that the Saadians conquered the Souss and then the whole of Morocco in the XIVth century, before embarking on the great adventure that took them as far as Tombouctou. This will be the starting point for your most exhilarating excursions. Tamegroute with its famous mosques with blue porcelain roofs and white minarets, its influential medersa (Koranic school) and its library, founded in the XVlIth century, housing some magnificent illuminated Korans.
And now on to the sand and the dunes! This is M'hamid, the gateway to the desert where one of the most colourful souks in all Morocco takes place every Monday. And then there is M'hamid el- Ghouzlane, "the plain of gazelles", after which begins the vast hamada du Orâa desert plateau. At Merzouga, the road stops. And so must you.

Sand, burning sand, sand as far as you can see.
Shifting sculpture, changing colours, sand dunes piled up by the wind, as tall as minarets. Fascinating, grandiose and unlimited, this is the endlessly renewed desert where sand, wind and sun corne together to produce nothing but infinity.
But now the night is falling. The ears of a fennec fige out of his burrow, a skink, or sand fish, slithers energetically through the dusk, an eagle owl hoots.
Even the desert is alive. But few men can claim to know its secrets!