On your way to the Sahara desert? Don’t forget to spend a couple of days in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Here’s everything you need to know, things to do, what to see, where to stay and how to get there from Marrakech.
Ouarzazate was once an important stop on the trans-Saharan caravan route that connected traders from Africa and Europe. During French colonial rule it served as a garrison town, and today it is a popular stopover for tourists on their way from Marrakesh to the south of Morocco. Some visitors come to discover the film sets and studios that give the city its other nickname, Ouallywood. Its Atlas Mountains panoramas and the many ksars and kasbahs of the surrounding area have featured in a slew of major films and television series including The Mummy, Gladiator, and Game of Thrones. Others use Ouarzazate as a convenient base for exploring the nearby desert with its lush oases and rich Berber culture.
Apart from the well-known big cities of Morocco, the small cities and oases of south-east region, such as Ouarzazate, Kelaa Megouna, Bomalne Dades, Tinghir, Zagora and Arfoud are causes for wonder. While these cities have certain commonalities, including culture and dialect of Tamazight language; their landscapes range from mountains to desert. Having written on Boumalne in a previous article, I will address Ouarzazate: the gate to the Sahara and the Holly wood of Africa.
Ouarzazate is the largest city in southeast Morocco. Previously, several other cities were its provincial subordinates, now it is known as the Big Ouarzazate. Located 540 kilometers from the capital, Rabat, and 205 kilometers from Marrakech, the region was comprised of about 56.000 habitants (2004 census). Aside from its demographics, Ouarzazate has many fascinating features that are of interest to tourists and aficionados of Morocco including city’s historic and economic composition as well as landmark sites such as cinema studios, Kasbahs and oases.
In terms of tourist attractions, Kasbah Taourirt is a main event. It was built in 20th century, and was occupied by Caide Glaoui during the period of French powers in Morocco. It was a symbol of authority and French colonization. Now, it is a favorite tourist site by virtue of its beautiful architecture and significant history.
Besides Kasbah Taourirt, Ksar ait Ben hddou “Ait Ben hadou Palace” is a popular must-see sight when visiting Ouarzazate. It is situated 30 km away from the center of Ouarzazate, it is a collection of adobe Kasbahs surrounded by a tall fortified wall. It is worth mentioning that Ait Benhdou Palace was considered a world heritage by UNESCO since 1987. Shots of the palace can be viewed in famous films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky, The rules of Engagement and the 2000 award-winning “Gladiator”.
What to do in Ouarzazate
- The market road, the rue de la Poste and the avenue Mohammed VI enclose the downtown, where the majority of the shops, cafes, and restaurants of Ouarzazate are located. Go for a stroll around the 3rd of March square to check out the city’s lively evenings. The city souk is held on the edge of the avenue Mohammed V. For your purchases, head to the city’s artisanal center. Here you can visit the workshops of stone carvers, and copper and silver sculptors.
- When visiting Ouarzazate a stop at the kasbah of Taourirt, the ancient palace of the Pasha of Marrakech is mandatory. It faces the artisanal center on the other side of avenue Mohammed V. This colossal adobe edifice shelters a true labyrinth of halls and stairways as well as sumptuous rooms. In the kasbahs fortified village, venture through the maze of shaded alleyways, the peaceful atmosphere here is very pleasant.
- Around Ouarzazate, you’ll observe a number of movie studios in the middle of the desert plateaus. These sets are often fake antique villas or temples used to film historical epics or other American productions. The most interesting sets can be found at the studios of the Atlas Corporation, easily recognized thanks to the enormous Egyptian statues guarding its entrance.
Hiking around Ouarzazate…
- On the road to Zagora discover the Tamesla kasbah the “stork fortress”. It is near Tabounte only two kilometers from Ouarzazate. From here, go for an enchanting walk in the surrounding area, well removed from the usual tourist haunts. Back on the road to Zagora, turn right after the Tabounte bridge towards the Tiffoultoute kasbah. This place offers a magnificent view of the Draa Valley. After 3 km, follow the trail coming up on your left. Admire the black rocks of the pre-Saharan Anti Atlas that surround you. Follow the oud’s course on a beautiful walk through the Fint gardens.
- East of Ouarzazate, you can take the Tinghir road about twenty kilometers to reach the shores of the great El Mansour Eddahbi lake at the feet of Jebel Kissane. This site is a starting point of many excursions in the surrounding area. Drive south on the kasbah road to M’Hamid where many desert expeditions await…
Morocco travel tours offer lots of activities in Ouarzazate visite including visite kasbah tawrirt ,visite kasbah ait ben haddou,offer a local guide,local food,explore the town of telouet,enjoy tizi n tichka ,meals including breakfast and dinner,panoramic views,amazing and traditional item to shop,
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