Sunday, June 20, 2010

Traveling through Morocco: N'kob, Val du Draa, Kasbah Tamnougalte, Marrakech

Merzouga to N’kob
After the breakfast and shower we drove to Rissani to visit the market which is held three times a week. When parking the car we were immediately surrounded by young man offering their service as a guide to lead through the market and protect us from kids and traders. We decided to take a guide called Salid. The market offers whatever people in the Tafilalet region need including fruits and vegetables, spices, dates, medicine, goods of wood, iron, recycled truck tires, carpets, tissue, cows, chicken and goats. A curiosity is the donkey parking, during the market the farmers park their donkeys on a place aside the market – the donkeys are parked and watched for a dirham or so. Or the donkey gets some new horseshoes while the farmer is on the market.

After the visit at the market we were heading eastwards to N’kob. This part of southern Morocco is less touristy than the Val du Dades. After a while the landscape changes from sand and rock desert to almost east African scenery with acacias. The area is well known for minerals and fossils, especially Trilobites. A good place to learn more about Trilobites and also to buy some is the shop of Ihmadi Mohand in Alnif, Ihmadi has a Ph. D. in geology and is a real expert on Trilobites. Be aware of fake fossils elsewhere.

In N’kob we stayed in the Ksar Jenna, a real palace in the desert. This place offers a beautiful garden and wonderful decorated rooms.

N’kob to Val du Draa
After a nice breakfast we enjoyed the nice garden of the hotel. Later one of the hotels employee took us on a tour to the nearby village, through the Palmeraie (traditional irrigated palm gardens) and a traditional Kasbah house. It’s quite impressive seeing and meeting the very friendly people here working on the fields like 3000 years ago, with simple tools and no machines. The acres are surrounded by some walls of rammed earth. On the acres wheat, corn, potatoes and vegetables are grown, at the border fruit trees like Figues, Oranges, Lemon, Almonds, Apricots and Pomegranates etc. are planted and the huge date palm trees provide some shadow to all of them.

A short ride led us to Val du Draa and the Kasbah Timidarte. The wide Draa River contrasts to the surrounding desert. We stayed one night in the restored traditional Kasbah of Timidarte. Simple but proper rooms with a shower in a very traditional guest house made out of rammed earth! We had here another nice tour through the much bigger oasis and Palmeraie. Timidarte lays on the former caravan trail connecting Timbuktu and Marrakech.

Kasbah Timidarte, a traditional guest house

Val du Draa to Marrakech
We visited in the morning the huge Kasbah Tamnougalte, definitely a must. This huge Kasbah with only a few houses that are still inhabited consists of four parts: for the noble ones, the regular people, the Jewish part and a part for the slaves. It offers several palaces including some painted wood ceilings, mosques, and a synagogue. To visit it you have to take a guide and an entrance fee is obligatory. The Kasbah was film location for several Hollywood and European movies and there were some moments when we felt like being part of an Indiana Jones movie expecting Harrison Ford to come around the corner every moment.

Kasbah Tamnougalte

From the Draa valley to Ouarzazate the road leads over some passes offering nice sights of some canyons.

At the end of our tour through Morocco we spent another day in Marrakech, this time in the southern part of the Medina. This part appeared touristier to us, it seems that you find more traveling groups in this southern part with the Bahia palace and other points of interest. As a result the traders are more aggressive than in the northern part of the medina.

Bahia Palace

Spices on the market in Marrakech

See the Morocco slide show for more pictures.

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