Central Morocco – one week itinerary

The endless desertic see and its waves shine with shades of gold, orange, pink and purple-red, it is warm and cold, dead and alive at the same time.

The itinerary I planned started from Marrackech: I travelled across the central region of Morocco reaching the Sahara desert, the Erg Chebbi, near the algerian boundaries.

Three months before the departure I booked the flight to Marrackech and I started a comparative research to select a good local tour operator: I ended up booking a four days guided tour (all inclusive) with Sahara Exploring Expedition runned by Ali Haddou.


tour Marocco

Marrackech

I spent the first and the last night in a tipical maroccan riad (Riad Ghemza and Riad Kerdouss) located in the medina, the very heart of the the old fortified city (free from car traffic).

Marrackech overwhelms you as soon as you start walking along its street and covered labyrinths. The best thing you can do is to lose yourself and look around to discover the teeming old streets packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina), the largest traditional Berber market (souk) in Morocco.

Do not miss:

  • the souks
  • Jemaa el-Fnaa square
  • Koutoubia Mosque
  • Madrasa Ben Youssef
  • Badia Palace
  • the tanneries
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Souk
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Jemaa el-Fnaa square
Spices shop in the souk
Spices shop in the souk
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Madrasa di Ben Youssef
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the tanneries

During the journey to reach the city of Merzouga, located on the edge of the Erg Chebbi, there a number of spectacular locations to be visited:

Ksar of Ait Benhaddou and the Gorges du Dadès

Driving direction south-east from Marrackech we crossed the Zat valley and the n’Tichka Tizi Pass in the Atlas Mountains (2.260m). The name “Tichka” means “difficult” because of the numerous hairpin turns!

Proceeding through the Dedès Valley we reached Ouarzazate the “the door of the desert”, a pretty modern city inhabited by Berber-speakers. On its west side rise up the magnificent fortified village of Ait Benhaddou a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ancient trading post on the commercial route linking Sudan to Marrakesh.

This giant village is made up of kasbahs and ksars dated from the 17th century: the buildings are earth and wood structures made largely from soil providing a complete panorama of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques propagated from a very early period in the valleys of southern Morocco.

The view from the top is breathtaking: looking all around you are surrounded by the stony desert and the palm trees oasis.

This unique location has been chosen as a set for masterpiece such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000) and many others.

Ait ben Haddou
Ait Benhaddou

Starting from the village of Boumalne du Dadès we drove along the R704 to reach the Gorges du Dadès. This is one of the most scenic drive in the world: the landscape changes with desert landscapes, villages, kasbahs, palm groves, and the color of the rocks blending from red to pink, orange and violet. At the end the road become a series of hairpin turns until finally passing through the famous gorges.

        IMG_0481  Gorges du Dades

Gorges du Todra and the Erg Chebbi desert 

Early in the morning we drove from Boumalne to the little town of Tinerhir: from here a road (15 km) brings you to the magnificent Gorges du Todra. I step out from the car and I walked along the street inside the gorge.

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Gorges du Todra

Proceeding on the N10 and the 3451, passing through Rissani village, we arrived arrive at Merzouga.

Merzouga is the starting point for a camel ride across the Erg Chebbi desert. In the middle of this magnificent sandy hills we took some time to walk up and down the dunes and to relish looking at the spectacular sundown. After another half hour riding we reached a traditional berber bivouac where we overnight and we enjoyed a very good dinner tasting some traditional maroccan dishes.

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IMG_0708 The Erg Chebbi desert

Kasbah des Caids

This Kasbah is located in the Draa oasis near the village of Tamnougalt, an ancient trading center on the Spice Route.

The entire fortified area is made up with mud bricks, earth and wood and it is surrounded by green palm gardens: due to its unicity a lot of famous movies scene have been filmed inside its walls (Babel, the English Patient, the Bible, the Passion,..).

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Kasbah des Caids
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Kasbah des Caids
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