Travel from Agadir to the Erg Chebbi Dunes in Merzouga via Taroudant, called the little Marrakesh, Talouine, a saffron growing area with a government-run saffron museum, and Taznakht, full of co-operatives selling Berber rugs and gelims. Pass the Bouazzer cobalt and copper mines to reach Agdez, the head of the Dra’a Valley, the longest valley in Morocco.
Visit Kasbah Tamnougalte in Agdez, drive down the Dra’a Valley as far as Tansikht, where you turn east to drive through Nkob and Tazzarine to reach the Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga. After a relaxing glass of mint tea and Moroccan biscuits, take a camel ride to the top of the dunes to enjoy the spectacle of the sunset. Enjoy dinner in a desert camp followed by an evening of Berber music around a campfire under the stars and an overnight in your own private nomad tent. Walk barefoot on the soft sand dunes.
Explore the Dra’a Valley with its palm trees, ancient kasbahs, and local life. Visit Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah and take photos of splendid views from the high Atlas Mountains. Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of the main attractions of Marrakesh before driving back along the motorway to Agadir.
1st day: Agadir – Taroudant – Taliouine – Agdez
Departure from Agadir at 8 o’clock by 4WD to Taroudant, known as “the little Marrakesh”. It is spectacular for its massive ramparts and beautiful medina.
We continue to Taliouine, the heart of the saffron growing area of Morocco, where there is a little government-run museum about saffron agriculture. As you enter the scent of saffron is delicious. After crossing the Tizi-n-Tighatine and Tizi-n-Ikhsane passes, we arrive in Taznakht, famous for its Berber gelims and carpets.
From here the road continues to Agdez via the cobalt and copper mines of Bouazzer to spend the first night in the Dra’a Valley.
2nd day: Agdez – Merzouga
After breakfast, there will be a visit to Kasbah Tamnougalte, which is the oldest Kasbah in the Dra’a Valley and still inhabited by some 13 families, while the Jewish quarter has been abandoned and is slowly crumbling.
From here we drive south to Tansikht where our route crosses the Dra’a River. Just before you reach it, ask your driver to stop for you to look at the dinosaur footprints in the rocks at the side of the road! Now travelling east, we stop for lunch at a riad in N’Qob overlooking the mountains.
Later we pass through Tazzarine, featured in the film “Babel” and reach the bivouac in Merzouga, where you will be greeted with a glass of tea. After you have settled a little, you take a one -o one & a half-hour camel ride to watch the sun go down over the dunes.
You have dinner and spend the night at an authentic nomad camp with shared bathroom facilities and a private tent for each couple or family.
Alternatively, you can choose a luxury camp with private bathroom, king-sized beds, beautiful Moroccan furnishings and lamps tastefully arranged to enhance your enjoyment of the silence and beauty of the dunes.
3rd day: Merzouga – Tinghir/Toudgha – Dades Gorges
If you wake up early enough, you can watch the spectacle of the sunrise, when the colour of the dunes and the play of shadows are an awesome sight. After breakfast at the camp, we leave for Tinghir and the Toudgha gorges.
On the way, you pass the water channels – “khettarat” – which you can descend into to appreciate the architecture and genius behind this form of irrigation which prevents evaporation in the summer heat. The channels start at a higher gradient at one end until they finally emerge at the surface of the soil where they are fed into the fields. You can find out more about these channels by reading Andrew Wilson’s work.
In the gorge and the valley, there are opportunities to walk beyond the gorge itself or by the village gardens and fields before you reach it. Later the itinerary continues to the Dades Valley. The area, which now forms the Dades Gorges, lay at the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. Great quantities of sediment were deposited around giant coral reefs, and over time this material became compacted into a variety of sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and limestone. Eventually, the movement of the earth’s crust caused the region to rise above the sea, forming the Atlas Mountains and surrounding landscape. The night is spent in a hotel or kasbah.
4th day: Dades Gorges – Marrakesh
After breakfast, a visit to the Dades gorges and a short walk there is scheduled. We continue through the Valley of the Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in May. Cosmetics and toiletry items are produced and valued throughout the country.
In Skoura and the oasis there, Kasbah Amredhil waits for a very worth-while visit. The kasbah has been beautifully restored and gives a clear idea of life within such housing. It is made entirely of adobe, an excellent building material; warm in winter and cool in summer, due to the thickness of the walls.
Our route goes on to Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, one of Morocco’s seven World Heritage sites, and the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters. It is the most famous Kasbah in Morocco and some of the buildings date back to the 17th century. From here you drive along the beautiful and awe-inspiring Ounila Valley, full of bends in the roads and surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs.
We continue to Telouet set right in the midst of the mountains and once the seat of the last Pasha of Marrakesh, El Glaoui, from where the highest pass in Africa, Tizi-n-Tichka was controlled. Each addition to the building now stands in ruins exposed to the wind and the rain, having been abandoned and plundered after Thami El Glaoui, fled the country following the departure of the French in 1956. Wait to be pleasantly surprised by the traditional interior decoration as you reach the farthest end of the Kasbah. At the end of the afternoon, having crossed the Tichka pass, we arrive in Marrakesh.
5th day: Marrakesh – Agadir
After breakfast, the morning is spent with a guide visiting the sights of your choice before returning to Agadir after lunch.
Recommended sights are the Madressah ben Youssef, the Saadian tombs, the souks, the Bahia Palace, the Majorelle Gardens which used to belong to Yves St Laurent. There is a famous special Majorelle shade of blue, which is used for the walls and the plants’ pots all over the gardens.
Not all of these sights are possible in one short morning but you could always add a sixth day!
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