Travel Day: Skirting the Sahara

Travel Day: Skirting the Sahara

There are yet more new and equally awesome landscapes to be seen on this day; the return to Ouarzazate takes a very different and truly remote and wonderful routing. A short transfer to Rissani begins the day for a visit to the Maison Tuareg.

Here, surrounded by a treasure trove of native Moroccan crafts in a kaleidoscope of colour, the story of nomadic tribes is explained through their carpet designs. Each carpet’s colour and weave style depicts an aspect of their lives. Plenty of time is available for browsing and haggling!

Journeying westwards continues between the Jbel Ougnat and Chorea mountains. This stunning route has vast, wide open vistas towards wonderful, uplifted, sedimentary mountains with classic escarpments all around. Everywhere there is evidence of rock structure and geological formations – dipping strata, wind-blown sand, screes, alluvial fans, hamada desert. Many won’t have ever been somewhere so remote before.

Apparently empty of permanent settlement, it’s surprising how people just seem to appear! Nomadic pastoralists are seen (sheep, goats and camels) and the occasional person trying to sell rocks and fossils may well appear out of nowhere.

Clusters of small, white boxes might be seen in the middle distance of the flat plains. These are bee hives and evidence of a Community Sustainability Project – a way of increasing rural incomes. The bee hives are relocated depending on the season and where the rains have recently fallen. Where vegetation blooms, this is where the best chance of honey production is to be found.

Acacia forests begin to appear, with their umbrella-topped trees; an indication of a more savannah type environment. Drought has recently been prolonged in this area of Morocco and only acacia trees have survived due to their long tap roots. The trees’ adaptations can be appreciated whilst standing under a canopy’s welcome shade. 

After lunch in Alnif, another famous fossil town, it’s on to a bridging point across the Drâa River. The Drâa valley floor is rich in date palmeraies. Date stalls may tempt you at the end of the bridge. There are often little children on the bridge too, fishing and weaving camels with blades of grass. Water brings the landscape to life, making it clear how important water is to making human activity possible.

After Agdz, the road begins to climb steeply up through the Ante Atlas (the Jbel Sarhro). The landscape becomes arid and empty of vegetation. The thin strata and bedding planes of the rocks are very evident. Cutting down into the rocks, rivers have carved deep, steep-sided valleys, but with flat floors. These valley floors are often bare, polished rock, abraded when these occasional rivers flow. The Tizi-n-Tinififft Pass (1,660m) is simply amazing.

As darkness begins to fall, it’s time to return to your hotel in Ouarzazate and reflect on the sights and experiences of the day.

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