|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 7, 2016 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 6, 2015 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
Canyoning is an adventure activity which involves walking, scrambling, sliding, wading, jumping and abseiling down a canyon or gorge, and can be experienced almost year round in Morocco. You can spend a halfday or more canyoning in the Ourika Valley, only 45 minutes drive from Marrakech. Sliding down stunning waterfalls, and cliffs and traverse gorges and ravines is part of an Ouirka Valley exceptional Canyoning adventure.
Canyoning is perfect for families traveling to Morocco for a private tour and serves as adventurous way to enjoy the countryside. To canyon in Ourika you need to be fit and to have be open to participating in sports that involve heights. Canyoning on a family tour is recommended for those aged 16 and over. There are a few companies that specialize in canyoning and rafting in Morocco with Splash Morocco being at the forefront.
Professional and experienced guides along with all necessary equipment including ropes, harnesses , helmets sturdy footwear and wetsuits are provided on a Canyoning adventure along with jackets for the colder months of November through to March. You will have everything necessary to ensure a thrilling day out. Scramble and climb over boulders and rocks, slide yourself down rockslides and jump into shallow cascade pools going further into the heart of a canyon, surrounded by lush green vegetation with birds and wildlife.
For real adventures who want to discover Morocco on a family tour there is also the option of rafting trips on the Ahansel River, the Oum Er Rbia, the Ourika and the Nfiss rivers and exploring which were the best and most scenic rivers in Morocco for rafting and camping. Canyoning is an all round activity and offers the adventurous a variety of dry and wet conditions. It's just one of an increasing number of outdoor activities available in Morocco. White-water rafting and tubing, kayaking, surfing, quad-biking, desert tours, mountain-biking or hot air ballooning can all be booked as standalone adventures or part of a Morocco Private Tour for those wanting to get out of the city and enjoy energetic adventure in a stunningly beautiful countryside.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on June 29, 2015 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
Some of Morocco’s Best Kept Secret Valleys and Seacoast Regions for Hiking are location in the provinces of Essaouira, Azilal, Al Haouz, Ifrane, Ourika and Chefchaouen. With its diversity of geography and landscapes, Morocco offers plenty of opportunities to hike and trek. And even less experienced walkers need not miss out on the stunning coastal views, mountain panoramas and picturesque river valleys - there are many shorter or less challenging walks as well as the opportunity to trek on mule, camel or horseback. Here are five of Morocco's best-kept scenic hiking destinations.
Essaouira Province A longer stay in Essaouira offers the chance to get out of the medina and explore the surrounding countryside. The Cap Sim promontory, south of Essaouira and between the medina and the small seaside town of Sidi Kaouki, is reachable along the broad sandy beach when the tide is out. Given the prevailing trade winds from north to south, it is advisable to start in Essaouira and either organize a ride back from Cap Sim or the nearby village of Sidi Ouassane (beyond the lighthouse and home to a large wind farm) or continue to Sidi Kaouki (around 20km/12 miles along the beach from Essaouira) and pick up transport there, rather than turn back into the wind. Cap Sim can also be reached overland from the village of Ghazoua (8km/5 miles south of Essaouira). Walkers will be rewarded with views of deserted beaches, rock pools and caves and the occasional herd of goats grazing on the vegetation which clings to the windswept dunes and cliffs. The panorama is particularly attractive at sunset.
Azilal Province Beyond the city of Azilal, the Provincial capital, a road - only paved since 2001 - climbs up to Morocco's so-called "Happy Valley" at Ait Bougemez. Remote and apparently untouched by many aspects of modern life, it is like a Moroccan Shangri-La. The Ait Bougemez Valley itself is a plateau in the High Atlas Mountains offering plenty of walks alongside babbling brooks where women wash their clothes, beside verdant green fields and under ancient walnut trees on the outskirts of small villages. Two cone-shaped peaks rise from the valley floor, one of which is home to the communal granary (agadir) of Sidi Moussa. It is a short, steep hike up to the granary, where a caretaker will happily show visitors around a small museum inside and up to the roof for the stunning views. For the more energetic, Ait Bougemez benefits from its proximity to M’Goun (Morocco’s 2nd highest peak after Mount Toubkal at 4,071m/13,350 ft) and its surrounding massif. Al Haouz Province Accessible on a day trip from Marrakech, the Ourika Valley is a very popular destination among Moroccans and tourists alike. Typically, day trippers visit the town of Setti Fatma in the valley to eat in a riverside restaurant and hike up to the seven waterfalls, which are easily reached with sturdy shoes via a combination of steps and scrambling over rocks. However, in the peak season this small town becomes overwhelmed with visitors. For those wishing to get off the beaten track and experience a more peaceful hike, Ait Ashok is a recommended destination. Hikers in the Ait Ashok area walk among fruit tree orchards fed by bountiful water flowing off the High Atlas Mountains and between small farming villages. In Spring, when the wind scatters the fruit blossom like snow, a trek is particularly pleasant. Later in the year, hikers can see the harvests of walnuts, almonds, apples and other fruits. Ifrane Province The area around Ifrane, in the Middle Atlas Mountain range, is known as the Switzerland of Morocco, due to its altitude which results in snow and skiing in winter. The protected area of the Ifrane National Park covers an area of 500 km² (193 sq. mi) and although the last Atlas Lions are long gone, it is one of the last remaining habitats of the Barbary Macaque monkey. Hikers in this region walk among huge forests of Atlas Cedar, where the birdlife is unparalleled. Ornithologists can expect to see birds of prey such as the red kits and common kestrel and the lakes in the park also support several duck species
Chefchaouen Province In the North of Morocco, in the foothills of the Rif Mountains and near the Mediterranean Coast, the area around the famous blue city of Chefchaouen is protected under the auspices of the Talassemtane National Park. The park covers some 145,000 hectares (358,000 acres). Hikers can either organize day hikes from Chefchaouen or undertake longer trekking excursions, staying within the park itself in a number of guest houses or in tents. The local environment is home to Rif Monkeys as well as countless native bird varieties and plant species, many of which are endangered. A popular destination for a day hike is the Akchour Falls and/or the Bridge of God. As long as the river is not in flood, various paths take walkers along the river banks and over a couple of hills. Routes can be selected according to fitness level and desired length of hike and in the peak season there are cafes on route where the weary can rest and enjoy a riverside tajine. The easiest hike is to God's Bridge, a steep gorge at the base of which the river flows and which is spanned by a wooden bridge. No matter your fitness level, Morocco's diverse countryside of coasts, mountains and valleys is easily accessible and enjoyable. Hikes and walks of varying durations and challenge level can be arranged in many regions. It really is worth getting out of the cities to enjoy Morocco's beautiful nature, stunning vistas and perhaps the hospitality of a rural Berber family along your route. Written by Lynn Sheppard Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.
For more information about Hiking in Morocco within the Essaouira Region For more information about Hiking in Morocco within the Chefchaouen Region Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on April 7, 2015 at 4:45 AM||comments (0)|
Morocco is such a photogenic country. The Best Times to Travel to Morocco and discover the 6 Best Views is spring and fall. The bright, Mediterranean sunshine makes for a special light, whether you are photographing deserts, mountains, cities, dunes or coastal scenery. The colors of the natural elements, the architecture and the handicrafts such as carpets, highly polished teapots, hand-stitched and embroidered leather babouches slippers or flowing caftans make for great subjects, as do the people and animals of Morocco. It's best to always ask before taking someone's picture and don't be offended if they refuse given many Moroccans are modest and private. Morocco also has several stunning vistas which you will want to snap during your trip. Here is a lowdown of where to go to capture the six best views of Morocco.
Fes The ancient capital of Fes is such a dense, labyrinthine city that when you are in it, it is hard to imagine getting an overview of the place. To get the best view, it is necessary to climb above the hustle and bustle of street level, to get away from the jostle of the souk and rise above the walls. The best place to do this is actually outside the medina (old city) at Les Merinides Hotel. Situated on a hill overlooking the medina, this five-star hotel has three restaurants (La Kouba du Ciel on the top floor; L’Impérial French restaurant and La Terrasse de Fès at the poolside), all of which offer panoramic views of Old Fes.
Moulay Idriss The main draw of this most holy of Moroccan cities is the mausoleum of Idriss I, the founder of the Kingdom of Morocco and credited with the introduction of Islam to this north western corner of Africa. The mausoleum occupies a large footprint in the medina, but is not accessible to non-Muslims. However, it is still worthwhile stopping at Moulay Idriss and hiking up to the highest point in the medina to look down on the huge mausoleum complex with its mosaic patios and glazed green roofs. From here, it is also possible to see the full extent of the ruins of the Roman city at Volubilis, just a few miles away.
Marrakech The most special moment in Marrakech occurs just before dusk. Pick your spot on a roof terrace in one of the many cafes which surround Place Jmaa el Fna and watch the magic unfold. As the sun begins to set, the hawkers and street food vendors roll their mobile stalls onto the square to set up for the night. As the call to the sunset prayer sounds from the Koutoubia mosque's minaret, the electric bulbs of the food stalls illuminate one by one, until the natural light has gone and the square is lit by hundreds of twinkling lights. Get to your chosen cafe early to secure a front-row seat and snap the sun setting behind the Koutoubia.
Essaouira The classic picture of Essaouira, which you will find on postcards all over town, is shot through a round window in the fortifications (skala) of the port. Entrance is 10DH and as well as great views looking back to the white-washed medina, you will get an aerial view of the functioning port and the canons lining the crenulations, as well seeing swooping seagulls and the islands out in the bay. For the best sunset views, head to the medina skala, or one of the many bars and restaurants along the beachfront, and wait for the sun to sink into the Atlantic.
Dades Gorge The best views of the stunning Dades Gorge are from the Auberge Chez Pierre, in the gorge itself. The ochre and red landscapes are an essential sight on your route to Zagora. Even if a night at Chez Pierre isn't on your itinerary, it is worth stopping for lunch or a drink on their terrace. The hotel is built in the traditional local style amid terraces of fruit trees, offering fantastic views of the surrounding gorge.
Erg Chebbi Dunes It is not always easy to get an accurate impression of the sheer size and majesty of the magnificent Erg Chebbi sand dunes. However, the Yasmina Hotel offers unbeatable views due to its sheer remoteness. It is located right on the edge of the dune complex and the slightly longer drive from all sense of civilization is worth it for the absolute peace and calm that gives visitors a true feeling of the vastness Great Sahara. The best views of the dunes are at sunrise and sunset. For this reason, you may not choose to sleep at Yasmina - many guests use it as a stopping point before heading into the dunes on camel-back for a night under the stars in tents. This list is offers edited and subjective highlights of our favorite views. On your Morocco trip you will certainly experience many others, take many photos and create special memories for the years ahead.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 29, 2015 at 7:50 AM||comments (0)|
Morocco is a trekker’s paradise with its diverse scenery and various levels of difficulty. With hundreds of miles to cover and many trekking paths in every region Morocco is a top choice for those looking to experience a trekking adventure. The best regions to trek in Morocco are the High Atlas, Anti Atlas, and the Great North. In the High Atlas you can climb a mountain or walk in the Ourika Valley or in the beautiful village of Ouirgane gateway to scenic walks in the fields and forests of the Toubkal National Park and meet the local Berber people in their villages.
To have these trekking opportunities so close to Europe means that a world of adventure awaits you with snow capped mountain peaks like Jebel Toubkal at 4167 meter canyons, rivers and waterfalls and the forests in the National Parks with their wildlife. If you want a day’s walk from the village of Azimiz or a ten day trek with an English speaking guide, these can be easily arranged and pre booked during a tailor made private trekking tour to Morocco. Marrakech is within an hour or two’s reach of most trekking destinations. For serious trekkers a summit to Mount Toubkal can be arranged with a professional Berber guide who specialists in summiting Kasbah Toubkal. A Berber guide arranges a planned route and along with all equipment necessary for a 3 day summit. For a 3 day summit a combination of things to bring would be trekking boots, a good sized backpack, layers or clothing appropriate for three seasons, windbreaker and water bottles. On a 3 Day summit to Kasbah Toubkal you will stay in a Gitape at night and trek during the day with all local meals being served in Berber villages by locals and at the Gitape. Mule is included for equipment during your trek and led by your Berber guide. Trekking is an all year round activity in Morocco however in the winter months you will encounter snow on the High Atlas and freezing temperature. The best time for trekking in Morocco is April to June when the weather is temperate and spring flowers carpet the valley floors.
Another region famous for trekking Jbel Saghro. Jbel Saghro at 2,712 meters is less than 100 km south of the central High Atlas and overlooks the the Draa Valley and Dades valley in the Anti-Atlas. Jbel Saghro's barren volcanic rock and deep ravines is home to the famous Ait Atta tribe. During a trek in the Jbel Saghro region you time is made to have lunch with a Berber family in Ait Ouzzine, a small village located in the Nkob region.
Located between the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas, Jbel Siroua at 3,305 is another prehistoric volcanic region perfect for trekking. The area extends over 350 km with valleys and canyons and fields on the mountain slopes. You can have fine views of the Jebel Mgoun at 4,068 meters in the Sous Massa Draa region and the picturesque Ait Bougmez valley some four hours from Marrakech. From Jbel Siroua trekking to Merzouga and the surrounding area is possible for those interest in desert scenery and a camel trek in the Sahara with a Nomadic guide. An alternative to trekking in Southern Morocco is the option to trek in the Rif Mountain region which is not part of the Atlas Mountain chain. In North of Morocco the nature offers a different environment for trekking. In the South it is arid and dry with valley views whereas in the North the trekking offer lush, green views as this region receives far more rain then the South of Morocco trekking.
In Morocco's North, there are fabulous vistas, streams and lakes with great forests of cedar, oak and fir in the Talassemtane National Park, at Jebel Taloussisse and Jebel Lakraa. During a Northern Morocco trekking experience you will see Barbary Apes, eopards, wild boars, eagles, lizards and many species butterflies. You can also meet the local Berber population who till the fields in small villages and hamlets amidst the forests. The Northern part of Morocco is a less frequented trekking area by tourists than in the south of Morocco and offers an enchanting and peaceful trekking experience. The Berbers travel by donkey or on foot and vehicles area rare sight. A Rif Mountain to the Jbel Lakraa Summit which is at 2154Meters is the ideal trek in this region. Trekkers can hike to the highest Summit in Talassemtane National Park through a magnificent Cedar Forrest. Regardless of your level of experience and fitness, Morocco offers many options for trekkers alike.
For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on January 4, 2014 at 10:15 PM||comments (0)|
The Tizi N’Test pass from Marrakech, Morocco to Taroudant leads you over the Middle Atlas, heartland of the Berber people, through hair raising hair pin bends at 2,092 meters overlooking valleys and gorges, small fields and mountain villages. It was here from Tin Mal, the site of the famous Berber mosque that the Almohads rose up and took Marrakech from the Almoravids in 1152.
This winding route is not a drive that is recommended to first timers and no one travels it at night. Nowadays the motorway from Marrakech to Agadir means that most of the commercial vehicles do not take the mountain pass which means less hair raising over taking, hoping that no one is coming round the corner. First timers are well advised to hire an experienced driver to travel in safety and enjoy the views which are amongst the best you will see in Morocco. The volcanic period centuries ago provided incredible geographical mountain features crowned now with a variety of greenery, trees and earthen berber villages.
The French administration completed the road in 1929 and it is a remarkable feat of civil engineering. It opened up a natural mountainous barrier which preserved Berber independence for centuries. When Sultan Moulay Hassan and his army tried to cross the Tizi ‘N Test pass in 1893 in a blizzard they were saved by the brothers Madani and Thami El Glaoui and the Sultan bestowed a Krupp cannon and regional powers on his saviors. It was a turning point in Moroccan history and Thami El Glaoui went on to be Pacha of Marrakech from 1893 to 1956. To travel this winding route is to understand the history of the Berbers as well as enjoying a fine adventure and some of the best views in Morocco.
The winter snow capped Atlas mountains towering over Marrakech are an unforgettable sight and the Ourika valley with its river and green pastures seen from the road snaking up from the road along the side of the valley is also one of the wonders of Morocco . You descend to the picturesque village of Ourika and go on up to the waterfalls of the Setti Fatma shrine and the stony river bed which leads on into the mountains. You can ski in winter at nearby Oumkaimeden and view Mount Toubkal close up from the trekking station at Imlil. Trekking in the area or climbing Mount Toubkal is a great adventure and you can also enjoy the forests and mountain walks of Toubkal National Park which is nearly 250,000 acres in size, or take to a bicycle or mountain bike. It is rare to find such natural beauty and extensive adventure opportunities within easy reach of a major city like Marrakech.
On the eastern side of the Atlas Mountains is the Todra Gorge with its huge canyon which is an immense rock formation running seven miles through the mountains and an attraction for trekkers. You can also visit the Dades Gorge 100 kms north of Ouarzazate between the Middle and Anti Atlas. Besides being home to many ancient Kasbahs it is a site of remarkable beauty running alongside the Dades river. South of Ouarzazate is the desert town of Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi which is one of Morocco’s two great erg’s, the other being being the Chighaga Erg near M’hamid. They are a mass of sand dunes which change their formation with the blowing of the wind so that they are never the same. They reach a height of up to 150 meters. Erg Chebbi spans 22 kilometers from north to south and up to 5-10 kilometers from east to west. This is a chance to experience the stillness and beauty of the real desert and to take a camel trek or a four wheel drive vehicle and sleep out under the stars in a desert camp. Morocco has 3,500 miles of pristine unspoilt beaches stretching from the Dakhla in the South along the Atlantic coast through Agadir , Taghazout, Oualidia, Essaouira , and new resorts such as Lixus, Mazagan, Taghazout and Plage Blanche offering excellent opportunities for surfing. Morocco’s Mediterranean coast has beaches from Tangier and Asilah to Al Hoceima and the new resorts of Tamuda Bay and Saida.
The Mediterranean beaches do not have the strong undercurrents present on the Atlantic coast and there is good scuba diving at Cabo Negro. Morocco’s natural wonders also include a number of national parks and forests in both nortern and southern Morocco. Toubkal National Park is the oldest and largest. The others are found at Al Hoceima , Haut Atlas Oriental National Park, Ifrane, Merdja Zerka ,Souss Massa, Talassemtane and Tazekka National Park. These extensive cedar forests are home to wildlife such as golden jackal, red fox, leopard, barbary apes and extensive bird life. Morocco is home to important wet lands including Merja Zerga on the Atlantic coast which hosts 1,400 species of birds many of them migrating. Between 15,000 and 30,000 ducks are said to winter at the lagoon, and it regularly holds 50,000 to 100,000 waders including flamingos.
For More Information about Natural Wonders of Morocco Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 16, 2013 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
By visiting local souks outside Marrakech you can experience local Berber country life and absorb the character of the marketplaces where they meet each week. This is an important social occasion where local producers sell their wares including, fruit, vegetables and livestock. Merchants from Marrakech sell essentials such as: tea, coffee, sugar, packaged foods, cooking items, clothing and electronics. You can also come across carpets, jewelry and pottery generally cheaper than in Marrakech. There are many things available to buy from in Moroccan souks: henna, spices, rugs, Berber slippers and sandals, pottery, Berber djellabahs for men, dresses for women and handmade wooden kitchen utensils. Amizmiz has the best Berber souk in the region on a Tuesday as well as sampling the local wares, it is a good starting off point for treks in the surrounding Atlas Mountains and meeting the Berbers in their home environment for mint tea and a meal served in their homes. Set against the majestic backdrop of the High Atlas, the picturesque village of Tahanaout attracts visitors with its landscape and attractive sturdy Berber red clay buildings. The village which is 30 km from Marrakech is surrounded by olive groves, orange and lemon trees. Its souk is also held on a Tuesday. Pottery making and cooking demonstrations are on offer from the inhabitants of Tahanaout, you can learn how to make homemade bread, makoda, couscous and other traditional regional dishes. [
There are good opportunities for bird watching whilst strolling along the riverbanks, where you can see Moroccan wagtail, white stork and cattle egret. You can trek to the Ouirgane, N’Fis and Ourika Valleys and the waterfalls at Setti Fatma. You can also ride donkeys or hire a 4X4 cross country vehicle. If you want to stay in Tahanaout you can book into the Terres d'Amanar an extensive eco lodge with gardens and stunning mountain views on the outskirts of the village. The Kasbah Angour is also nearby both establishments can arrange local tours including trekking on foot or by donkey and 4x4 overland vehicles for further afield . Other centers for weekly souks include Tnine Hem on Monday,Sidi Ghiat on Sunday and Aghmat with its ancient ruins on Friday. Asni also has a large market on Saturday, Ijoukak on Wednesday and Khemis Ouirgane on Thursday. Ouirgane itself is a delightful place to spend a few days for trekking and relaxation. It is close to the Tiz N’Test pass, Mount Toubkal, Toubkal National Park and the Tassa Ouirgane National Park. This is trekking and ecotourism country at its best. It is possible to travel around by 4x4 but if you are up to it by foot, donkey or horse is best. The air is clean the mountain scenery and the Takherkhoute forests are enchanting. One of the of the best places to stay in Ouirgane is the idyllic Domaine de la Rosaraie, set in sixty acres of parkland with a large garden filled with roses . Domaine Malika is new on the scene in Ourigane and for an upscale and chic mountain experience there is none better than the Domaine Malika. . Chez Momo is a charming auberge, Moroccan country style home overlooking the High Atlas. They are also known for the excellent cuisine and elegant dinner setting. If staying in Ourigane dining at Chez Momo is a must. Au Sanglier Qui Fume has been in existence since 1945. It started by catering to Foreign Legion soldiers working on the bridge and acquired its distinctive name because it was used by wild boar hunters. Its restaurant has great character including the heads of wild boar hanging from the walls. The food is a blend of French and Moroccan cuisine. It remains a classical French establishment. The Tassa Ouirgane National Park and the Toubkal National Park provide great trekking opportunities in amongst the valleys and local Berber villages hamlets and fields with the Atlas mountains towering above them. You can visit the salt mines at Marigha. Here the Berbers have been mining salt by their traditional method unchanged for centuries. They transport the salt by donkeys and sell it locally.
For More Information about the Souks outside of Marrakech Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM||comments (0)|
At the small town of El Kelaa M'Gouna (also referred to as the Valley of Roses) in the aSouth of Morocco, a 140km East of Ouarzazate, in the heart of Dades Valley one can see the manual harvest of Damas roses and the Rose Festival in May each year.
There is a thriving local industry distilling rose water, introduced by the French in the 1930's and cosmetic products such as soaps, gels, creams, sprays and oils and dried rosebuds these can be bought on site.The buds are dried for use in cosmetics, home decoration and cooking, while the petals are distilled into rose water and, ultimately, rose oil, a key ingredient in many perfumes. Distillation is made in two factories in the Valley of Roses area and in April and May it is possible to visit Kelaâ’s factory, set up in a former kasbah.In Kelaâ Des Mgouna , Morocco there is also a dagger factory, in the mellah, where the Jewish craft is perpetuated, with handles and sheaths made in cedar wood or in camel bones, ornate with silver, and fixed on blades coming from another small village a few kilometres away.
The distillation plants work with 3,000-4,000 tonnes of petals a year. With ten tons of petals required to produce a few liters of precious oil, the harvest is extensive culminating in the annual Rose Festival each year in May when El Kelaa MGouna becomes a colourful centre of berber dancing and music with stalls of local crafts and products for sale. A festival queen is chosen from a parade of brightly coloured floats which is a highlight of the event.
Driving across the desert from Ouarzazate you come across El Kelaa MGouna and shortly afterwards you arrive at the Valley of the Roses.The greenryof the M’Goun wadi, is a sharp contrast to the desert scenery on the way from Ouarzazate.The river is hidden by a dense patchwork of palms, olive and fig trees, pink roses and swathes of red poppies. The turrets of kasbahs in a remote village cn be seen with the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the background.Also well worth a visit is nearby Skoura which has old kasbahs and mellahs with impressive gardens.
The fresh mountain air has a hint of fresh roses which provides opportunities for walks and hiking and a long drive through the Hdida Valley to the plateau of Imi-n-Louh. There are a number of ruined kasbahs to explore and many opportunities to meet the local communities. The Damascene roses were said to have been introduced into the valleyin the tenth century by Morocans returning from Mecca.They grow in profusion in pinks and reds throughout the valley and in the hedgrows. In the Spring you can buy a garland of roses from one of the local children who line the route.
The Dades Gorge in the valley of the roses and the Todra Gorge provide some of the most spectacular scenery in the south of Morocco. The Dades Gorge runs along the Dades River valley separating the Atlas Mountains from the Anti Atlas. The Gorge is best known for its scenary stunning scenery and the Kasbahs overlooking the river below.
Gravity defying rock stacks in all shades of red dominate the skyline with deep gullies created by the persistent action of weathering and the river. After exploring the gorge, if you have a guide who knows the area it is possibble to venture deeper into the surrounding country side of the Anti Atlas. Some of the piste roads that lead off this are spectacular and properly remote and well worth taking a little more time to explore either by 4x4 or using a private tented camp as a base for exploring on foot.Continuing west brings the traveller Erfoud, a small town that for many acts as the entry point for Morocco’s western desert, the Erg Chebi. The dunes in this region are the main attraction and well worth visiting and climbing and Merzouga is close by.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 23, 2012 at 8:40 PM||comments (0)|
The Medieval site of Aghmat can be found beside the modern village of Ghmat which is 30 km south east of Marrakech in the northern foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Professor Ron Messier, Professor Emeritus Middle Tenessee State University and Senior Lecturer in history at Vanderbilt University and his codirector Professor Abdallah Fili faculte des letters Universite d’El Jadida have been following a trail of gold a it was part of the camel caravan routes from sub-Saharan Africa through the ancient city of Sijilmassa which Ron Messier’s team excavated through to Morocco’s Medieval Capital, Aghmat. Coins minted in Sijilmassa have been found in an excavation in Jordan and Aghmat too minted coins for the Almoharavid empire which stretched into Spain. The international archaeological program has been studying Aghmat Since June 2005 Medieval texts suggest that Aghmat existed before advent of Islam in the 7th Century. It flourished under the Idrissids in the 8th and 9th centuries and attained the rank of an Amazight city state in the late 10th Century. It became a capital under the Almoravid dynasty from 1056 to 1070 when the Almoravids moved their capital to Marrakech. Aghmat gradually declined in competition to Marrakech. It was an important city for routes through the Atlas Mountains on the trans Saharan trade and attracted scholars from Ifriqiyya (Tunisia) and Andalusia. The site contains the tombs the Andalusian kings al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad of Seville and Abdallah ibn Bulukhin of Granada. Zaynab Nafzawiyya settled in Aghmat married three successive rulers,the independent Maghrawa emir and the first two Almoravid emirs. Aghmat consisted of two towns Aghmat Ourika and Aghmat Haylana home to Bani Masmuda tribesmen. It was a rich city fully irrigated and minting gold currency for the Almoravids.
The archaeological excavations have so far revealed a hammam , a palace and a mosque.the archaeological process of discovery is aided by modern equipment which can identify the ancient foundations which are now under ground. Ancient texts also describe the city providing valuable clues. The excavations have been conducted to ensure preservation as well as revealing what was buried beneath the surface. The hammam, the first structure to be excavated is remarkably well preserved and fragile areas have been supported whilst respecting the original integrity of the building and its original materials. When Aghmat declined and the hammam fell out of use it began a second life as a pottery and the excavation discovered the potter’s wheel. The palace was a typical Andalusian palace of the 14th Century and at the end of the 2011 excavation a separate level revealed occupation from the 9th -12th Century under the Almoravids when Aghmat was their capital. The mosque which was definitively confirmed during the 2011 excavation was founded by Wattas ibn Kardus in 859AD. There were several phases to its construction. It was found to have a moveable minbar on wooden rails the only other of its kind was found in the mosque at the ancient city of Sijilmassa.The team also found an Islamic inscription from the Koran as they did in Sijilmassa. The inscription reads “God is the light of the heavens and the earth”
In April 2007 the Aghmat Foundation was founded by a group of patrons under the leadership of Moulay Abdellah Alaoui to provide financial support for further excavations and the construction of a museum for the artifacts that have been found and for conservation and preservations of the excavations.In 2009 a partnership agreement between the Aghmat Foundation and the Moroccan Ministryof Culture which delegates to the Foundation matters of managing archaeological research, conservation and protection of the excavated remains and the opening of the site to the public. It is easy to visit the site of Aghmat close to the village of Ghmat and the archeological work is a testimony to the close cooperation between the Moroccan Ministry Culture and The United States. Excavation work continues each season and Professor Messier is working hard to achieve more sponsorship to support the continuing discovery process, which is more difficult since 2008 during the current economic downturn.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on October 24, 2012 at 9:10 PM||comments (0)|
The Medina Gardens of Fes make for the perfect Fes Tour to compliment this UNESCO World Heritage Site's ancient Mosques, Monuments and Zaouias. The Bab Bou Jeloud is the main entry point to Fes el Bali. This area divided the cities of Fes Jedid and Fes el Bali and was developed into three palace gardens by Sultan Moulay Hassan in the 19th Century. These were the gardens of Dar Batha,Bou Jeloud and Dar Beida. The Jnan Sbil gardens (formerly the Bou Jeloud gardens) on the north-western edge of the medina has palms, eucalyptus, weeping willows, citrus trees and bamboo. The park was opened to the public by Moulay Hassan in the 19th century. Jnane Sbil encompasses 7.5 hectares and is located in the heart of city. It is one of the oldest gardens in Fes. Because of its historical importance, great care was taken to restore the Jnan Sbil garden to its original design and after four years of detailed restoration and renovation of the heirloom plants, the hydraulic systems and the famous waterwheel, the project was completed and re-opened in June 2010. The Oued Fes river and the Oued Jawahir (river of pearls) flowed through the garden and a broken down water wheel remains as a reminder of how the medieval city was powered by water wheels which provided craftsmen and their workshops with power. On the western edge near Bab Makina, the Nouria Cafe is still open and is a very pleasant place for tea or lunch.