My Moroccan adventures continue. I’ve crossed over the Atlas Mountains into what is classed as the southern oasis, the Moroccan pre-Sahara. Yes, the Sahara dunes and the border with Algeria are not too far away & I’m slowly making my way there. The landscape of the Moroccan pre-Saharan southern oasis that surrounds me here in the town of Ouarzazate is one of a dusty & oppressively hot region of arid rock & scrub wasteland, a region the local Berbers call hammada. It’s a strikingly, not to mention surprisingly beautiful landscape, the sort of dusty red terra firma that I naively expected all of Morocco to look like pre-arrival. I’ll be spending my third night tonight here in Ouarzazate, still riding out the aching legs from my recent Jebel Toubkal assent (one more sleep and I’ll be right as rain I reckon), before continuing eastward in the morning & getting that bit closer to the desert.
Ouarzazate, one of Morocco’s new pre-Saharan towns, was created by the French as a Foreign Legion garrison in the late 1920s. A 5-hour bus ride over the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh, safe to say there’s not a whole lot going on here & if it wasn’t for the town’s cafes, its Kasbah Taourirt & the nearby UNESCO listed Ait Benhaddou, then I wouldn’t have enjoyed doing absolutely nothing here nearly as much as I have done.
Here in Ouarzazate I got my first look at a Moroccan Kasbah, which in the southern oasis region is typically a fortified citadel, something like a castle where everyone could take refuge in times of trouble. Amazingly these imposing structures were built exclusively of straw & mud-clay bricks sourced from, & dried beside, nearby riverbanks. A unique development of the Berber populations, they are typically rectangular structures with turrets at each corner that are usually decorated with Berber motifs. Kasbahs are found throughout the southern region but especially the regions fertile date palm oases & valleys (no, it’s not all arid desolation around here).
— davidMbyrne.com (@ByrneDavidM) May 13, 2014