Travels

Morocco car route: the Draa valley and the desert gate (2)

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Second day of car route through the Berber Morocco
Ait Ben Hadu - M'Hamid
290 km (approx.)
Approximate 4 hours without counting the stops
See previous day: First day (Marrakech - Ait Ben Hadu)

In the morning of our second day en route, we say goodbye to the beautiful ksar of Ait Ben Hadu, the fortified adobe city that has appeared in multiple movie films, and we got into the car on a day that was going to take us through the valley from Dräa and H'amid, at the gates of the Sahara desert, as the final destination of the day.

We make a technical stop in Ouarzazate, the last town with facilities before entering the south. Ouarzazate is a large city and has always been a meeting point between nomadic and sedentary cultures and symbolically represents the desert gate. We took the opportunity to find a cashier and get money since later we would not be able to do it.

Rushing the sunset hours over the car

However, a stop with a specific objective in Morocco usually becomes many more. Cesare, one of our travel companions, found an old friend who met in another of his adventures in Morocco and we had tea and agreed on possible routes through the desert of Erg Chigaga with a cousin of his. Our only idea was to find a cashier and we left Ouarzazate with a route prepared for the desert and a recipient for that money that we had just taken out of the bank.

We continue the road in the direction of Zagora crossing the Draa Valley. A very long palm grove caresses the road for long kilometers. The Draa is the longest river in Morocco, born in the snowy mountains of the Atlas and dies in the Atlantic Ocean north of Tan Tan.

The Draa Valley is the largest in the country with a length of about 100 kilometers between Agdz and Zagora. The river feeds the arid terrain and in its path it populates its side with palm trees and the kasbahs follow each other along the valley. These adobe buildings enliven the landscape with its beautiful buildings that seem to emerge from the same arid land and its magical alleyways where one does not know what to expect when turning the corner or crossing one of its multiple tunnels.

A signal indicating the start of Tombouctou 52 jours crossing the great Sahara from north to south welcomed us to Zagora. The poster announces the starting point of a long crossing that camels with camels in the direction of Tombouctou already in Mali. Imagine the long journey of almost two months crossing the Sahara mounted on camels with the minimum load to stock up throughout the journey. Today the poster is one of the most famous tourist claims in the area and everyone runs the mythical photograph under the sign.

Zagora is one of those places that you should avoid in summer. In this town a few kilometers away from Algeria, temperatures oscillate 45 degrees during July and August. We did it in November and we found few tourists visiting the area and making the typical excursions through the Draa Valley, its gorges, visiting ksars such as Tissergate and some hiking route with the ascent to Jbel Zagora.

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