Taroudant - little Marrakech
The ancient Souss capital resembles its bigger sister because of its beautiful ramparts and its lively and superbly stocked souks. Taroudant is marked by a very strong Berber cultural identity which can be found in its craftsmanship and its natural resources such as argan oil and saffron.
Steeped in history
Just like Marrakech, Taroudant has imposing adobe ramparts, adorned with square towers. A 7km horse-drawn carriage tour around it reveals its five gates, Bab El-Kasba being the main one and the most majestic. The excellent condition of the crenellated fortifications demands respect. Large fruit orchards surround the city. Its medina and its souks are very lively. The profusion of decorative items, jewelry and other antiques is astonishing.
The surrounding area
Surrounded by mountains – the Upper Atlas to the north and east and the Anti-Atlas range to the south – Taroudant is at the center of a fertile valley. Perched on a rocky outcrop 30km to the south east, the village of Tiout looks over a palm grove which is reminiscent of the one in Marrakech. The ruins of an ancient kasbah transformed into a restaurant for tourists looks down onto the site. From the top of this outcrop, there is an exceptional view over the Upper Atlas and the Souss valley. Out of interest, Fernandel filmed Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in this palm grove in 1954.
As well as being specialized in Berber craftsmanship and silver objects, the city of Taroudant is famous for its tannery. This is easy to understand when you visit the tanners' souk. Around 40 craftsmen work the hides of sheep, goats and other more exotic animals in front of you. On the agricultural side, the area around Amagour, a pretty village located 32km south of Taroudant, is covered in argan trees. Argan oil, used in cosmetics and cooking, is therefore ubiquitous in the region. As is the precious and sought-after saffron, harvested from flowers whose meadows spread around Taliouine and which will enchant you.
In the souks, as well as a wide range of ceramics, spices and beautiful fruits and vegetables, you will fine magnificent Berber silver jewelry. This is the city's speciality. Silver also decorates pretty daggers and is found along with mother-of-pearl on the butts of ceremonial rifles. Taroudant is also known for its "marble", a soft, chalky stone from the neighboring mountains from which many different objects can be sculpted using a bradawl. Quality rugs are easy to buy. They come from Ouzguita, from the mountains where the wool is particularly soft and silky. Their designs in geometric shapes are remarkable.
Argan cooperatives have flourished everywhere to some extent. Visiting them is always fascinating, especially since the argan tree grows only in the south west of Morocco. In the dry season, you can admire the picturesque scene of goats climbing the trees to devour their fruits. An oil of a high nutritional and cosmetic quality is obtained from these nuts. The lush green Souss valley is also home to vast plantations of early fruit and vegetables as well as citrus fruit.
A land of colors
Having admired the colors of the spices, clothes and flowers on the Berber market, you will be struck by the indigo blue of the women's clothes, reminiscent of those of the desert men who long frequented Taroudant in the time of the caravans. And orange is the dominant color during the saffron festival, a high point in Berber culture, which takes place in November in Taliouine. This rarest of spices is also used to make make-up on festival days.