|Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 30, 2015 at 6:35 AM||comments (45)|
There is a much-photographed sign in Zagora, in the spectacular Draa Valley in Morocco. Beside the image of a blue-swaddled desert nomad is written: "TOMBOUCTOU 52 JOURS." The journey is considerably quicker today, but if you go by camel, it probably still takes 52 days. Zagora is a popular starting point for trips on camel back into the Sahara Desert and this famous sign gives some indication of the significance of this area back in the mists of history. Camel caravans (or - more accurately - dromedary caravans, as it is the one-humped version that is used in the Sahara) have existed since the 3rd century; the last caravans were officially closed down during the French and Spanish Protectorates in 1933. For centuries the camel trains were the main means of transportation of goods and people between North African ports and economic hubs (such as Marrakech and Fes), across the Sahara to sub-Saharan Africa and eventually the Levant. For example, the camels travelled from as far West as the Moroccan Atlantic Coast right across to Ethiopia and Sudan in East Africa. An important north-south trade was salt (from Morocco) with gold (from the then Ghana Empire). One of the key caravan routes connected Tifilalt in Morocco, one of the largest oases in the world; Sijilmassa, an important salt mine; Tindouf in the deep south of Algeria, and Timbuktu in Mali.
Cloth, manufactured items and paper were brought in from Europe. On the return leg, they carried gold, slaves, ivory and ostrich feathers as well as beads and shells for currency. On the way, the traders may have picked up silver, salt, dates or handicrafts for exchanging on route. Slaves flowed in both directions, but particularly northwards. It has been estimated that from the 10th- 19th century, as many as 7,000 slaves were transported northwards into Morocco. The procession of the camel train was a carefully planned affair. In previous times, the Sahara fringes and the Sahel were greener than today and the camels would be fattened for a number of months on the plains before being rounded into a caravan. The famous 14th century Moroccan explorer, Ibn Battuta, describes the size of the camel trains: 1,000 camels but occasionally as large as 12,000. The leaders of this solemn procession were well-paid Berbers and Touareg tribesmen who literally knew the desert like the back of their hands. Along with their camel herds, this knowledge was a valuable commodity. Furthermore, they had invested time in building the relationships and connections necessary to ensure safe passage of the valuable cargo. The routes changed according to these allegiances, the rise and fall of economic might of different towns and cities and - importantly - the existence of rivers and oases, many of which in the desert are ephemeral and unpredictable. Runners would sometimes be sent ahead to oases to bring water back to the caravan because of the difficulty of transporting the water necessary between sources. It was not unusual for them to travel 3-4 days in each direction to provide this service. The peak of the caravan trade coincided with the boom in the fortunes of the Islamic rulers of the greater Maghreb and Al-Andalus region, from the 8th century until the late 16th century.
These routes were even responsible for the spreading of Islam from North Africa into West Africa. The decline was caused by improvements in maritime transport by the European powers and the discovery of gold in the Americas. However, the link between, for example, the port of Mogador (modern day Essaouira) and Timbuktu was significant as late as the 19th century, when Jewish traders in both cities exchanged goods and slaves from sub-Saharan Africa with produce imported from Europe and further afield, such as gunpowder tea from China. Today, some sections of the routes are passable. In fact, many of the unmade trails used today by all-terrain vehicles to traverse the desert are actually the remnant of the old camel routes. Modern political tensions have made many Saharan borders impassable to tourists and travellers. However, the local tribesmen still know the routes and still use ancient navigation techniques passed down through the generations. It's unlikely they would let a modern construct such as a line on a map hinder their passage! 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.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 22, 2014 at 7:25 AM||comments (0)|
Morocco is known for its artisans and the art of the jeweler or silversmith is one of many crafts practiced today. During your trip to Morocco you can watch artisans at work, marvel at the workmanship and detail of pieces in the jewelry souks and even negotiate the purchase of a unique piece. Many items of jewelry are appealing for their aesthetic value, but all pieces - whether new fabrications or antique treasures - draw on a fascinating history and symbolism.
Berbers traditionally wore silver and still do today although gold has become increasingly popular, especially in urban areas, due to its higher value. This probably was due to its availability: Morocco is a top 20 global silver producer and mines have been in use in the Souss-Massa- Draa region since the 1st century AD. Due to this resource, the town of Tiznit has grown as a major center of silver production and sales. The arrival of Islam in Morocco in the 7th century added a religious justification to the preference for silver, as certain texts of the Quran forbid the wearing of gold jewelry. As in many traditional cultures, jewelry was and remains multi-purpose. It serves practical and adornment purposes as well as embodying a protective aspect or indicating wealth or social status.
Morocco has for many centuries been a melting pot of cultures and trading routes and as a result, many techniques were imported alongside materials or came with immigrant groups. Jews (coming from the Middle East during early migrations or later from Al-Andalus) were masters of the silversmithing techniques and passed their knowledge to their Berber neighbours and colleagues. In many places, such as the Mellah (Jewish quarter) of Marrakech or the village of Amezrou near Zagora, it is possible to visit craftsmen who still practice these methods of casting, piercing and enameling today, although the Jewish craftsmen are long gone. In Essaouira and in Fes, you will spot modern filigree work typical of the Jewish jewelers of a bygone era.
Berber women often receive elaborate silver jewelry from their husbands at the time of marriage. This ensures that she has her own wealth in the event of hardship or of becoming widowed. Traditionally, these pieces are worn at the wedding and include headdresses, earrings, necklaces, bangles, bracelets and rings. One of the headdresses worn by all Berber women at weddings is called a Tasfift and is essentially an ornate headpiece adorned with silver or nickel coins featuring King Mohammed V or Hassan II. It has a rooster or chicken featured on the tip of the head to promote fertility of the new bride.
The pieces worn by Berber women at weddings often feature beads of coral, amber or semi-precious stones plus cast coins and linked chains. Shapes and forms include those which are intended to ward off evil or geometric shapes reflecting both the Islamic tradition and Berber symbology. Many families sadly no longer have these heirlooms and in modern cities has become common to hire costume jewelry for the wedding day. It is possible to see examples of traditional Berber jewelry in the excellent Museums of Berber culture in Agadir and at the Majorelle Gardens, Berber Museum, in Marrakech. A typical silver piece is the 'fibula'. These are still made today and make unusual gifts as brooches. In fact, although decorative, the fibula has a very practical application in that it is used to join or fasten fabrics such as cloaks. It usually consists of either a singular triangle with a pin for fastening, or two such sections connected by a chain. The fibula design came to Morocco with the Romans and is essentially an early form of the safety pin. However, Berber craftsmen brought this useful item to a whole new level of aesthetics and symbolism. The triangular shape is said to represent woman (and fertility) and the tent (and therefore home or family). During your visit to Morocco, you will see the Hand of Fatima or 'khamsa' represented everywhere from door knockers to decorations to jewlery. Common to the Islamic and Jewish faiths, it is believed to ward off evil or jealousy. The hand - with its five digits - is intrinsically linked to symbols of other faiths and cultures such as the five-pointed star or the pentagram. Modern and older khamsa pendants are available in souks all over Morocco. Another common form is the 'agadez' or southern cross. These pendants are traditionally native to the Touareg tribes of the desert and are available across Morocco.
There are said to be at least 21 variations on the central theme of an elaborate cross, each representing a tribe or homeland. Agadez crosses are made in the traditional way using a lost wax technique. Silver is melted on coal embers, and poured into a wax mold, placed in a mold of clay. Inserts of wood, glass or semi-precious stones, are sometimes added. It is said that these items are used for navigation in the desert, with the central cross denoting the four compass points. The traditions and designs related to Berber jewlery are sure to give any visitor to Morocco a great insight into local culture... As well as making a great gift or souvenir purchase!
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. You can contact Lynn at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Berber Silver Jewelry or a Berber Village Tour 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 September 23, 2014 at 6:30 AM||comments (0)|
The Erfoud Date Festival takes place in early October for 3 days (dependant on the harvest) and makes for the perfect pitstop on a Morocco Private Tour. Erfoud is a small oasis town in the Moroccan Sahara desert, about 6 hours to the east of Ouarzazate. It is a quiet little town with red buildings surrounded by beautiful scenery and date palms stretching from Er Rachidia to the North, and Rissani to the south to form the largest expanse of palm groves in Morocco.
Each October, after the dates are harvested, the town comes alive for the celebrations of the annual Date Festival. Erfoud is at the centre of the date producing area with almost a million date palms. The festivities are accompanied by traditional music, dance and processions and it is a chance for tourists to sample the local festival food, especially dates, and enjoy the fun of the three day celebrations which include a fashion parade through the streets and the crowning of the ‘ Date Queen’. There is also an exciting dromedary race.
There are official tents for companies and cooperatives to promote their dates or date related products, with an official Governmental opening held on the first day. There are a hundred different varieties of Moroccan dates with 45 alone in the South of Morocco. There are various hotels in Erfoud where visitors can stay during the date festival . It is essential to book well in advance. These include the Kasbah hotel, Chez Tonton, Auberge Derkoua Chez Michel and the Belere hotel, amongst others. Dates have played an important part in Moroccan cuisine for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests the cultivation of dates all the way back in 6,000 BC in Arabia. The date palm was a major source of life for thousands of people throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa and is said to have provided people with thousands of different uses including the palm and fronds to make thread, mattresses, lumber, rope making, and many other household and dietary uses. Dates are part of the first breaking of the fast, Iftar, along with milk and a bowl of harira soup. Dates are also very important in Islam with the date palm regarded as the “tree of life” as mentioned in the Story of Genesis They are also important for the local and national economy. Around 90,000 tons of dates are exported from Morocco annually, so the festival allows the people give a harvest thanks giving and pray for a good crop next year.
The largest and perhaps the best-known variety of the Moroccan dates is the Medjool date. Often referred to as “the king of dates” it was once reserved only for Moroccan royalty and their guests. They were, and still are, considered a precious confection and are typically the most expensive of the date varieties because their cultivation is more labor intensive. The date has a soft wrinkled flesh that gives way to a firm meaty center. When ripe, the date turns a dark brown color and with hints of wild honey, caramel, and cinnamon it is no wonder this date is considered a gourmet dessert. In the 1920’s date palms in Morocco were threatened with extinction by a disease, to save their dates Morocco sent eleven date palms to the USA. Nine of the eleven palms survived and are responsible for the millions of Medjool dates that can be found throughout California and in parts of Arizona. The Deglet Noor date, originally from Algeria, are the dates commonly used in Moroccan stuffed date recipes. Primarily an export crop, these dates are semi-dry with a firm texture and a sweet and delicate flavor. The Halawi Date is a soft wrinkled date with a meaty flesh and a sweet caramel flavor. While not as large or as favored as the Medjool Date the Halawi Date is still considered a delicacy and because of its soft sweet flesh and high sugar content it is often served as a dessert at Moroccan meals. Other date varieties include Boufeggous, Bouskri and Jihel.
For more information about Erfoud and the Erfoud Date Festival 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.
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|Posted by Alecia Cohen on June 28, 2013 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
The Sagro Mountain region and Ait Ouzzine is the ancestral village of the Ait Atta a Berber tribe which resisted the French up until a treaty was concluded 1933 and never submitted to Thami El Glaoui Pacha of Marrakech during the French protectorate 1912-1956. The Ait Atta belong to the Ait Atta Confederation which covers Ouarzazate, Errachidia, and Azil Provinces. The tribe existed prior to the Arab Islamic conquest in the 7th century and was the leading Berber tribe between the 15 and 19th century. Fiercely independent, their stronghold was the Saghrou Mountains which surround Nkob and its villages. A trek in the Sagro Mountain region includes a five day treks tarting from the Dades valley via the Saghrou Mountains to Nkob.
You can also visit the Valley of the Roses on the high plateau of El Kelaa MGouna when visiting this region as well or arrange a home stay with a Berber family through a reputable Moroccan travel agency that specializes in travel in Morocco's Berber villages, the Draa Valley and the great South. Nkob has 45 kasbahs, a tribute to its ancestral importance and its key role in the caravan trade route with Timbuktu. It reveals much about Berber life and culture in southern Morocco as well as being a tranquil haven and a staging post for trekking in the region and the Saghrou Moutains. The Saghro Mountain region was also once known for having a significant Jewish population. The Jews co mingled with the Berbers and lived side by side and intermarried, prior to the 7th Century Arab invasion.
Nkob is located on the road between Ouarzazate and Tazzarine. This is on the southern road which connects Marrakech (340 kms from Knob) with the Erg Chebbi Dunes in Merzouga. Ouarzazate is 136 km from Nkob. As well as investigating the village of Nkobs' Kasbah’s there are two surrounding oases. There is a Friday animal market and a Saturday and Sunday Market for local produce. The Nkob souk is the 2nd biggest in Zagora Province. Items include handmade leather shoes and sandals at the Ait Atta Shoes shop. Nkob also specializes in high quality henna as Nkob located in the Zagora region of Morocco where henna grows. Nkob is also known for its organically grown almonds. Other items include berber cosmetics and clothing such as caftans and colorful berber dresses. Restaurants include the Kasbah Ennakhile with home cooked Berber food serving lunch time from 12pm to 3pm and dinner from 8pm to 10pm. At the Restaurant Merzouga you can eat traditional Moroccan fare cooked on a real wooden fire. It is a great chance to taste authentic Berber cuisine .
There are a number of hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations in Nkob including: Hotel Kasbah Ait Omar, a charming five star well-restored Kasbah located in Nkob with views of the palmeraie and luxuries equivalent to those provided in Imperial City Riads. This quaint restored Kasbah is owned by a German couple who bought the Kasbah from a family and restored it to its original glory. Fitted with a Roman style swimming pool, a glorious hammam, floor heating and charming Berber decor, this Kasbah Hotel is the place to stay in Nkob. A Travel Exploration favorite and the best in the region. Excellent amenities, service, food and location. Ksar Jenna is 2km before Nkob on the road to Ouarzazate and just across from the village Ait Ouzzine. This lovely Riad has a garden setting and rooms built around a center courtyard. Boutique and charming with a small view, the Riad has an Italian tiled and Moroccan decor. It serves as a wonderful place to stay. No swimming pool yet the food and atmosphere make up for it. Midrange traveler option for the region. Excellent food, service and location. The Kasbah Imdoukal is in the centre of Nkob. It is family owned, has traditional decor and a swimming pool. This Kasbah is for those traveling on a mid-range budget and want comforts not provided by for example Kasbah Baha Baha. Good food and location. Kasbah Baha Baha is a restored 10 room Kasbah with a restaurant and swimming pool on the road to Saghrou. It is family owned and reasonably priced for those traveling on budget. There is an option to sleep in a standard room within the Kasbah or a Berber tent. Good Budget traveler option in the region. Good food and location.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 29, 2012 at 2:20 PM||comments (0)|
The Draâ Valley is Morocco's longest river. It's formation is that of the Dades River and Imini River and flows from the High Atlas Mountains southeastward to Tagounit and from Tagounit mostly westwards to the Atlantic Ocean somewhat north of Tan-Tan. The water from the Draâ is used to irrigate Palmeraies and small horticulture along the river. The inhabitants of the Draâ are called Drawi, used to refer to the dark skinned people of Draâ that make up the largest portion of its inhabitants. The Draa Valley originally was known as the Valley of Olives but when the 19th Century caravans passed through the date palms arose within the trails they traveled. The palms proved to be a better choice to continue as a grown commodity because they bare dates, are used to make baskets, leafy carpets and over shade for the inhabitants.
The Draa Valley is surrounded by and made up of volcanic rock and breathtaking landscapes that lend to traces of the old routes of the caravans. Agdz, referred to as the Door to the Draa Valley and famous for its market of dates and palmeraie is a charming, town with a palmeraie view worth visiting on a Draa Valley one-day tour. From Agdz Moroccan travelers can journey on a seven-kilometer pise in the Draa Valley to discover old Ksars where the Berbers have been living for centuries. This area is known for the Haritine people who are black descendants from the region of Mali. Located in the heart of the Draa Valley is Kasbah Tamnougalt. Kasbah Tamnougalt is an incredible example of a traditional Moroccan Kasbah with its soaring spaces built of red pise (mud), tunnels and interior spaces. Kasbah Tamnougalt also has a large Jewish quarter (mellah)
A visit to the Draa Valley is not complete without experiencing an afternoon or a Moroccan lunch with a Berber family. Just 5 kilometers after Nkob, another Sahara and Draa Valley town, one can find a famous village called Ait Ouzzine (the nice village). Ait Ouzzine is nestled within the Middle Atlas Mountains. Aït Ouzzine is a Berber village inhabited by over 300 families who live in beautifully painted crenulated Kasbahs, with their own henna fields, water wells, livestock and gardens. This peaceful village is tucked away along an impressive desert route connecting the Draa Valley (Tansikht) and Rissani. On a Draa Valley tour travelers can meet a Berber family, partake in a cooking lesson of how to make traditional bread and a tajine. This unique experience includes waalking in the green fields and see how the traditional Berbers live with their gardens of herbs, livestock, and henna plants. For an in-depth experience, Moroccan travelers can have lunch in Ait Ouzzine. An example menu would include a traditional meal of fresh baked bread with spices and a chicken and vegetable tajine and fresh local fruits for desert. Compliments of the Berbers guests who travel the Draa Valley region can end their visit with a Henna party or if visiting during the month of October, they can participate in date selection and date picking in the Draa Valley.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on January 5, 2011 at 10:55 AM||comments (0)|
Things to do in Ouarzazate. The Top 10 Things to do in Ouarzazate, Morocco is a hot list of activities and experiences that one can do alone, with their spouse or friends and family in the the door to the Sahara Desert. The most popular activities on a Ouarzazate Tour typically included spending time visiting the Oasis of Fint, the many Kasbahs in the region such as Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, Kasbah Tifoultilte, Kasbah Taouirirt, Kasbah Telouet and Kasbah Telouet in the Tizzin' Tichka Pass. A Sahara Tour from Ouarzazate to the region of Zagora where one can pass through the Draa Valley's volcanic rock, the old road of Caravans and have lunch with a Berber, Moroccan family is not to be missed. In Zagora or the M'hamid Sahara Desert one can take a 4x4 tour by pise and explore the unique flora and fauna of Morocco's Sahara region.
The top 10 activities in Ouarzazate are Visiting Kasbahs in Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Taouirit, Kasbah Tifoultilte, Kasbah Telouet, the Oasis of Fint and have Tea With Azziz, the Atlas Film Studios, a Sahara journey, the Draa Valley region and have lunch with a Berber, Moroccan family, Valley of Nomads in the region of Bouthgrar, the Dades Valley and Todra Gorg and dine at Le Kasbah D'Sable, a work of art with the finest French- Moroccan food in Ouarzazate.
Top 10 Things To Do in Ouarzazate:
For more information about the Top 10 Things To Do in Ouarzazate and Ouarzazate Tours For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit 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 Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or 1 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today. Top 10 Reasons to Visit Ouarzazate, Imperial Cities Morocco, Ouarzazate Sahara Desert Tour, Morocco, Ouarzazate, Kasbah Ait Benhadou, Oasis of Fint, Kasbah Taouirirt, Kasbah Tifoultilte, Kasbah Teloute, Atlas Film Studios, Ouarzazate Tours, Sahara Desert Adventure, Zagora Tour, M'hamid Sahara Desert Tour, Merzouga Sahara Desert Tour, Valley of Nomads, Bouthgrar, Dades Valley, Dades Gorge, Gorge of Todra, 4x4 Ouarzazate Adventure, Morocco Holidays, Morocco Travel, Travel Exploration, Travel to Morocco
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on August 3, 2010 at 1:15 AM||comments (0)|
A Zagora 4×4 Sahara Desert Tour of Amezrou Silversmiths and the Ancient Jewish Mellah offers a unique flavor of Morocco's Sahara. Places to visit include the Dunes of Tinfo, the Amezrou Silver makers workshops, the Tamagroute Pottery Cooperative, the old Spiritual Zaouia site, the Koranic Library and an adventure into the M’hamid Dunes of Sahara Desert. Zagora is a town that is nestled within the Draa Valley river in Souss-Massa-Draâ, southeastern Morocco. Zagora is surrounded by the mountain Zagora and is how this Saharan town got its name. Zagora was originally called ‘Tazagourt’ the singular of plural ‘Tizigirt’, Berber for ‘twin peaks’, referring to the form of the mountain. In old European maps the mountain Zagora is can be found however the town itself was only built in the 20th century.
On the top of the Zagora Mountain the remains of an Almoravid fortress can still be seen. A famous sign in Zagora is located at the town Border States “Tomboctu 52 jours”, the estimated time it takes to get to Timbuktu, Mali by camel. One of the most interesting and artistic places to visit in Zagora’s Sahara Desert is the Amezrou Silversmiths workshop located footsteps inside the old Jewish Mellah.
The Silversmiths workshop offers a look back in time at how traditional Moroccan silversmiths and blacksmiths worked with silver by hand from the stage of creating a mold from scratch, melting silver, pouring the silver into the mold, with the final outcome being a creation of what is referred to as a Southern Crosses. The Southern Cross in Morocco and North Africa is made by both Berber and Tuareg Tribes. The Berbers refer to the cross as a Southern cross and also sometimes a fibula, which differs from an actual cross. The Tuareg refer to their crosses as either a Tuareg Cross or “Cross of Agdez.” Berber and Tuareg parents are known to give these exquisite crosses and silver beaded necklaces to their children when they are about to depart from home but they are worn by all as a form of good luck and protection. These well crafted crosses are 50% silver and 50% nickel.
The Silver-making Workshop in Amezrou is the perfect place to discover silversmiths and blacksmiths working by hand and side by side creating silver jewelry and other precious items. The silversmiths and the blacksmiths, trained by the old Jewish population, are still using the models left by them to make fibula (pins to hold garments together) and medallions. The overall process of silver making is one that can be observed on a tour to the Zagora and M’hamid Sahara Desert during an M’hamid Morocco Travel vacation.
In Amezrou a demonstration of how silversmiths and blacksmiths work is available along with a workshop where artists and guests can participate in the process and keep what they make. Amezrou, located just footsteps outside the 17th Century Jewish Mellah and home to the old Jewish Kasbah boasts a petite museum that is attached to its silver making facilities. Silver jewelry is still produced there and workshops are available through Travel Exploration Morocco.
Jewish people lived in this old Jewish Mellah for many centuries and controlled the silver trade. However they moved en masse to Israel in 1948, leaving about 7,000 Berbers to carry on the tradition. Today, Draouis are the sole occupants. The Old Jewish Mellah in Amzerou has narrow streets and covered areas that accentuate the high walls. The west door was once used by the Jews and the east by the Muslims.
Amezrou has an old synagogue, which is in better shape than others in the Draa Valley.
Jewish people lived in this old Jewish Mellah for many centuries and controlled the silver trade. However
they moved en masse to Israel in 1948, leaving about 7,000 Berbers to carry on the tradition. Today, Draouis are the sole occupants. The Old Jewish Mellah in Amzerou has narrow streets and covered areas that accentuate the high walls. The west door was once used by the Jews and the east by the Muslims. Amezrou has an old synagogue, which is in better shape than others in the Draa Valley.
The old museum in Amezrou, Zagora has precious finds, some that are just for viewing and others that are for sale. On a recent tour Travel Exploration Morocco uncovered an old Jewish Menorah along with a fabulously decorated old Passover Seder plate. These antique Jewish items are treasures mong the ancient Jewish population which has mostly disappeared in the Moroccan Sahara. The Jewish menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum that is lit during the eight-day celebration of the Jewish Holiday called Hanukkah. The ninth holder, called the shamash (”helper or servant”, is for a candle used to light all other candles. The menorah is among the most widely produced articles of Jewish ceremonial art and also a traditional symbol of Judaism.
The Passover Seder Plate is a special plate containing symbolic foods used by Jews during the Passover Seder. Each of the six items arranged on the plate has special significance to the retelling of the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt;which is the focus of the Passover ritual meal. Visiting Zagora and the M’hamid Sahara Desert takes you off the beaten path. These Sahara Desert excursions are for those who are looking for a unique Moroccan adventure or die-hard authentic Sahara Desert Experience.
ZAGORA & M’HAMID MOROCCO TRAVEL ADVENTURE ITINERARY
This Morocco Sahara adventure will take you off the beaten path, visiting Zagora, Amezrou Silver makers and the M’hamid Sahara Desert of Erg Lihoudi, south of Zagora. It is for the die-hard Sahara Adventurers and is a great way to visit Southern Morocco’s Sahara from Marrakech and Ouarzazate.
DAY 1: MARRAKECH – ZAGORA
►Pick-up from your Riad or Moroccan Hotel in Marrakech. Then take the Tizin’ Tichka pass through the High Atlas Mountains.
►Stop for lunch, in the village of Tadart and then witness women making Argan Oil, butter and cosmetics from the Argan Nut. Continue the road to Zagora. Spend the night in a beautiful Riad that is set within a palmary in Zagora.
DAY 2: ZAGORA – TAMAGROUTE- AMEZROU- M’HAMID- ERGLIHOUDI SAHARA DESERT DUNES ►Visit the town of Zagora, the Tamagroute Pottery Cooperative, the ancient Zaouia site and the Amezrou Silver makers Workshop in the old Jewish Mellah. Visit the old Jewish Synagogue in Amezrou and the ancient alleys. Then take the road to the M’hamid Sahara. This part of the Sahara Desert is vastly different then the Sahara Desert’s Erg Chebbi Dunes in Merzouga.
►The M’hamid Sahara Desert claims a more rocky and desolate landscape with mile wide dunes and very quiet. Visit the Erg Lihoudi after having your head fully wrapped with a dark blue turban by your camel guide. Take a camel trek at sunset across the M’hamid Dunes. Have dinner in the M’hamid Sahara Desert at your bivouac tent. Then, watch the blue men of the Sahara Desert bake fresh bread and prepare a meat and vegetable tajine.
►Spend the night in the M’hamid Sahara Dunes under the stars.
DAY 3: M’HAMID – AIT OUZZINE- SKOURA- OUARZAZATE – AIT BENHADDOU
►Breakfast in M’hamid at sunrise and then explore by piste in 4×4 across the M’hamid Sahara Dunes.
►Continue the road to the Draa Valley, stopping for lunch with a Berber, Moroccan family in the village of Ait Ouzzine. Have couscous and grilled meat in Ait Ouzzine and enjoy discovering the Moroccan village’s green fields. Have your hands and feet painted with henna and then take the road to discover Skoura, the valley of one thousand Kasbahs.
►Discover Skouras’s Valley of one-thousand Kasbahs and then arrive at sunset at in Ouarzazate, visiting the ancient Kasbah and UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Benhaddou. Ait Benhaddou is located 32 km from Ouarzazate lies the picturesque village. Aït Benhaddou of Aït Benhaddou is situated in Souss-Massa- Draa on a hill along the Ouarzazate River. Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and Orson Welles used it as a location for Sodome and Gomorrah; and for Jesus of Nazareth the whole lower part of the village was rebuilt. In recent years more controlled restoration has been carried out under UNESCO auspices. Aït Benhaddou is one of many locations in this region used for shooting Hollywood films.
►Dinner in Ait Benhaddou and then continue the road and spend the night in either Ait Benhaddou or Ouarzazate at a traditional Moroccan Riad.
DAY 4: OUARZAZATE – MARRAKESH
►Breakfast at your Riad and then take the road to visit the Oasis of Fint. Have tea with Aziz at the headmaster’s house in this quaint, beautiful Moroccan Oasis.
►Next visit Kasbahs Telouet and en route to your return to Marrakesh, driving through the High Atlas Mountains.
For a complete more information a M’hmid or Zagora 4×4 Tour For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit 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.
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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