Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ouarzazate and the road to M'Hamid

Ouarzazate was a dusty hub to the desert with a couple of desperate attractions to entice desert seekers to stay more than one night. The old Kasbah was photogenic but the maze inside was infested with faux guides. The other main attractions were the movie sets outside the city where set from "Gladiator" and "Kingdom of Heaven" have been left behind. I was not impressed by these touristy traps and was eager to set out into the desert.

After a day of research and bargaining we found our guide and 4x4. We planned a 3 day voyage with 2 nights camped in the desert. The trip started out through the small villages in the Draa valley leading south.

We saw villages along the river featuring a sea of date palms. We also visited old desert cities where inhabitants lived in dark ancient kasbahs protecting them from the harsh desert conditions. The valley proved rich in culture, history and emphasized the adaptations required for survival in the desert. Villages were built close to the precious river and thick mud walls created shelters for villagers living in the kasbahs. Our guide was knowledgeable and an expert 4x4 driver who buttered though the sandy off-road trails with ease. I was inspired and excited about the desert to come.

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