Travel Day: Along The Dadès Valley

Travel Day: Along The Dadès Valley

Heading east from Ouarzazate, the landscape immediately turns desert-like. The vistas are huge and the vast undulating plains are distantly surrounded by the High Atlas to the north and the Jebel Sarhro to the south. There is much evidence of past and present water having sculpted the landscape here.

Situated by the Dadès and Draâ Rivers, the reservoir of El Mansour Eddahbi is the first planned stop of the day. This huge reservoir stores water for all year-round supplies. Bringing many benefits, there are negative consequences too, such as the capillary rise of mineral salts into the soil, all of which can be discussed. A gigantic solar power plant is currently being developed in this area, another hot topical issue to consider!

Continuing eastwards, many oasis settlements are encountered. Where there is a spring, a well or a river, the landscape is richly green and intensively cultivated. Low earthen walls surround small farmed plots of cereals and vegetables. Where there is no water, by dramatic contrast, the land is baked, brown and barren; in such areas, sheep flocks and goat herds can be spotted, tended by individual herders.

A herder might be a man, a woman or, indeed, a young child. In some situations, a man might be away from his settled farm for up to 4 months with his flock, seeking pasture and fattening up his animals for eventual selling at a market. Whilst away from home, such herders will return to a temporary tent each evening to eat and sleep. Where possible, a stop is arranged, allowing pupils to talk to a farmer and gain some insight into the reality of life in this demanding environment; what great knowledge, wisdom and appreciation these very fine people have.

El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, famous for the cultivation of roses, is a late morning stop. The rose bushes are planted like hedges around the small farmed plots. In May, the petals are collected and all sorts of soaps, perfumes and creams are made.

Now the ‘Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs’ is entered, once the fortified strongholds of the prominent past chiefs of the area. 

Boumalne Dadès is a bridging point over the river Dadès and the lunch stop. Many recently-built, fine buildings suggest the considerable wealth generated in and around this settlement. An overlook above the town provides an almost ‘aerial’ view of the town, the farmland, the hills and the High Atlas that form the backdrop.

The journey now continues into an ever-more remote region, as you are inching ever-closer to the Sahara (dry river beds continue to be seen across the landscape with time for students to enter one-such river bed). The fact that this landscape sometimes rushes with water is graphically, and somewhat surreally, illustrated by the road signs!

Journey’s end today is the 300m deep Todra Gorge. At the entrance to the gorge, tiny, carefully tended, irrigated plots are to be seen; every scrap of potentially productive land is used, the fertile alluvium being a geographical bonus in such a location. The gorge itself is a narrow cleft in the red-stained limestone rocks, demonstrating just how powerful the action of running water can be. You need to crick your neck to view the top of the gorge as the rock walls rise sheer from the river. This is a glorious area to walk through at the end of the day, perhaps to take a side path to a higher vantage point to enjoy the silence and savour the sunset.

EITHER return to Ouarzazate for accommodation.

OR continue back to Tinerhir for accommodation before heading on to the Sahara next day.

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