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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trip to Ouarzazate - Main Blog - 17 to 29 November 2011

Warning ! This blog contains over 200 photos - those with no time or stamina should just view the previous blog which gives a short summary of our memorable trip to the Ourazazate region of Morocco.

Rented a Dacia Logan car via Weekend Car Rental at 1800 hrs 16 November for 3 days (1290 Dhm).
Left the marina before 0800hrs and headed east towards Ouarzazate, the gateway to the Sahara.

The first 2 hours was very boring through seemingly endless series of unattractive dusty townships and lots of traffic including precariously loaded lorries.
Around 1030hrs we arrived at the first town of interest - the walled town of Taroudant, sometimes described as the mini Marrakech.

Wandered around the town but did not find it too interesting

Irrigation is very important in this almost desert area, with water being piped/channeled from the neighbouring Atlas Mountains. This conduit has the usual 'U'-tube to allow cars to pass through
The Argan tree dominates the landscape - the trees have very extensive root systems which spread for many meters round the tree - a survival technique in this arid area. It means these trees are always planted wide apart.

The next largish town ship - Tazanakht - we had a basic lunch here around 1300hrs

A local lady caught our eye
This  wadi has some water in it
Without irrigation the area is almost completely barren

The maximum speed allowed on normal open roads is 100 km/hr. 
Throughout the trip one had to be very careful to notice the speed limit signs which, in quick succession, reduce the limit to 80 then 60 and sometimes 40 km/hr. We got caught out once when approaching a couple of buildings after miles of open road. We thought we were in an 80km/hr area but, as the polite traffic policeman told us, it was a 60 km/hr area and, proudly showed us the reading on his hi-tech handheld radar, we were doing 78km/hr - fine 300 Dhm (30 Euros). 
In fact as soon as one approaches a slightly built-up area there are often traffic police with these radar speed detectors waiting for paying clients. The good thing about this is that, in general, everyone keeps to the speed limits
Another small town
Leaving the plains and starting to enter a hilly area

Our first view of a Kasr -ancient fortified town - El Makht ?
Interesting strata
Local village

On-site prepared building materials - Mud & straw bricks

 The Ait-Benhaddou Kasr

old irrigation channels

Entering Ouarzazate around 1730hrs, we passed these Film Studios

Ouarzazate is famous for being the location where many films have and are being produced including Lawrence of Arabia
Elegant Lampposts
The Ouarzazate Ibis Hotel where we stayed for 2 nights - very comfortable reasonable priced hotel chain with excellent good value breakfasts
The hotel is situated close to the old, renovated Kasr
Evening meal close to hotel - too cold to eat outside
morning 18 November we set off early (0800hrs) past the Ouarzazate lake
Heading NE direction Skoura and beyond
During the night we had - yes, lots of rain in the desert. The road passed over several normally dry wadis which were now rivers which we had to ford

Past interesting old buildings - mosque?

with views of the snow covered Middle Atlas Mountains
Boumaine Dades - the town at the start of the beautiful Dades Gorge - our destination.

more glimpses of the snow covered Atlas Mountains
local village

time for a break

good view from the terrace

Decided to take our coffee in the restaurant's office where a gas fire was burning
climbing further towards the gorge
more villages

interesting rock formations

Two Kasbahs - fortified mansions

Approaching the gorge proper

All the way up theDades valley, the sides of the stream are, where possible, heavily cultivated

Tabletop Mountain
We have seen walls with numbered boxes crudely drawn on them in many places in Morocco so far - we still do not know their purpose - if anyone knows their use, please let us know

Stopped for the view and were immediately surrounded by these pleasant but business minded boys
selling fossils which they had found in the mountains
so we played ball and bought a few

The wonderful scenery continues

could not resist this photo from inside the car

Msemrir market place - our turning point as we want to be back in the hotel before nightfall
The local baker
Returning via the same road is still a pleasure in this wonderful valley

Had to take this picture of the pointed hooded  Jellabah - very practical garment in this climate
and another

Just find these neatly prepared fields irrisistable to photograph
more cloaked figures

Striking formations with the sun low in the sky

A real gorge

hairpin bends

Made it back to our hotel just before dark.

Shortly after 0700hrs 19 November saw us back on the road for the return to Agadir.
We decided to go the longer but more picturesque route back over the high pass between the High and Middle Atlas Mountains to Marrakech and then via the toll motorway to Agadir

This is a well used tourist route with many places selling local pottery on the roadside

another Kasbah and Kasr
another Kasbah
another tabletop mountain

more goods for the tourists - mainly fossils and geodes here

On several high spots one sees high communications masts

black sheep

Hill covered with Argan Trees - before visiting Morocco we had never heard of this tree - here it seems to be everywhere

High up in the pass these route markers suggest that at times the road is covered in snow

a small waterfall

more geodes and fossils
We supported the local economy a bit once more by buying this geode

More support for the local entrepreneurs

donkey having a snack?
more sheep

another local character

descending from the pass to the Marrakech plains

Ploughing the old way
Palm trees just north of Marrakech
Driving at 120km/hr on the superb new toll road from Marrakech to Agadir - entering a tunnel
Descending from the Atlas Mountains to the Agadir plains
Before we handed back the car, we drove to the old Kasr on top of the hill overlooking Agadir harbour for the panoramic view

Treated ourselves to a farewell meal at the stylish La Madrague restaurant  just behind where Dutch Link was moored
The trip the the Ouarzazate  region was a very enjoyable memorable trip - we hope those of you that had the time and energy to get this far in the blog have enjoyed making the virtual trip with us.

If we did the trip again from Agadir, we would miss out the direct route to Ouarzazate and go via Marrakech to Ouarzazate and return via the southern route via Zagora and Tata.

We had a far more enjoyable time in Morocco than expected - with the Arab Spring issues , we were a bit apprehensive - however, we have seen no evidence of attitudes which might make one's stay here risky - on the contrary everywhere we went, the local people were very friendly

20 November we left Morocco and  sailed to Lanzarote

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