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Travel: Oasis-Dades Valley, Solar & Films-Ouarzazate, Morocco. 4/16/2023

Continuation of a Guided Group Ttrip. which started on:

4/10 - From Tangier to Casablanca (part 1) 4/14- Atlas Mt. (part 5)

4/11 -Rabat- Imperial capital (part 2) 4/15 - Atlas Mt (part 6)

4/12/Meknez - Imperial Capital (part 3)

4/13 Fez -1st Imperial Capital (part 4)

The bus drive crossing the Atlas mountains continued from the oasis of Todgda Gorge (mentioned in the previous post 4/15) via the lush

Dades Valley and toward Ouarzazate

Dades valley is the principal route, a nomad crossing between the desert and the ancient trading oases of the Tafilalt. dramatic gorge cutting into the mountainside that forms one of Morocco’s greatest natural sights,

From the daunting High Atlas to the north to the rugged Jebel Saghro range south, the valley is dotted with amazing rock formations, lush green oases and reddish mudbrick structures

Dades Town

The contrast in between the reddish dramatic desert's rocks and the green lush cultivated fields by the river watered oasis valley, provides amazing seductive scenery..

A it Youl- a small village of about 5000 inhabitants

Rose Flowers in the Oasis

Ait Sedrate Jabe El Soufla

A smaller community also of about 500- inhabitants, where we stopped to

visit an economic initiative of

Rose Flower products run by women only cooperative

Distilled Rose flower water processed and infused into eatable, cosmetic and perfume products, (oils/creams) was demonstrated, and products are sold in this road-side distillery/store,where an explanation on the production process was given to the incidental tourists, along with tea hospitality,in hope to gain some income from sold products.

The cooperative is supported by few European investments and is run the women from the local surroundings.

If this Rose water topic is of interest you can gain more info here

Rose growing fields

The continued bus drive via the spectacular serpentine Tizi n’Tichka also called Col du Tichka road, towards Quarzazate , reveals from a far a huge bight light over the arid desert horizon

Solar plant - Quarzazate Solar Power Station

Morocco works on getting more than half of its energy from renewable sources.

This part of the country is one of the sunniest places on Earth, so it became a natural site for a sprawling complex of solar power plants named Noor= "light."

Gleaming, 20-foot-long curved mirrors stretching out in every direction across the barren plateau — about 500,000 in all. project a huge blinding ball of light on the backdrop of the arid landscape

The curved mirrors concentrate the sunlight like lenses, focusing a huge amount of heat onto long rows of metal pipes filled with molten salts, heating the liquid up to more than 700 degrees. That heat is then used to boil water, make steam and spin turbines, just like a regular power plant.

The technology is called concentrated solar power, or CSP, and as with the photovoltaic panels of more conventional solar power plants, the mirrors here follow the movement of the sun,, from its rise over the desert in the east to sunset over the mountains to the west.

Quarzazate Town - the door of the desert, and film making

Noted as a film-making location, with Morocco's biggest studios, many international companies are attracted to work at this exotic desert town of approximately 100,000 inhabitants.

Founded in 1928 as a small Berber settlement, the city and capital of Ouarzazate Province in the region of Drâa-Tafilalet, is located 200 kilometers south of Marrakesh, at an elevation of 1,160 m, in the middle of a bare hot plateau south of the High Atlas Mountains

For a long time,Ouarzazate was a small crossing point for African traders on their way to northern Morocco and Europe, with the Kasbah Taourirt, which is well-preserved, and later used as a garrison town, administrative center and customs post..

However now a days, the town is a primary tourist destination in Morocco during the holidays, as well as a starting point for excursions into and across the Draa Valley and to its fortified village- Aït Benhaddou west of the city -a heritage site

Ksar Ait Ben Haddou

Ksar Ait Ben Haddou - clay town

UNESCO Heritage site since 1987

The ksar, Ait-Ben-Haddou, is a collective grouping of dwellings, made up of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls,

In this is traditional pre-Saharan habitat.

the houses crowd together within the defensive walls, and a buffer zone protects its environment

Located in the foothills on the southern slopes of the High Atlas next to the Ounila River in the Province of Ouarzazate, the site had a strategic value due to its location in the Ounila Valley ,along one of the main trans-Saharan trade routes

The site was one of the many trading posts on the commercial route linking ancient Sudan to Marrakesh by the Dra Valley and the Tizi-n'Telouet Pass.

The bridge over the Ounila River connecting the newer village with the older Kzar

The ksar has been fortified since the 11th C, during the Almoravid period. However none of the current buildings are believed to date from before the 17th C, but they were likely built with the same construction methods and designs as had been used for centuries before

The site is the most famous ksar in the Ounila Valley. and a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture

Inside the defensive walls which are reinforced by angle towers and are pierced with a baffle gate, the houses are crowd together - some modest, others resembling small urban castles but there are also buildings, shopes, and community areas

Structures are made entirely out of rammed earth, adobe, clay bricks, some mixed with straw and wood.

The compressed earth and mud, mixed with other materials to aid adhesion. was

highly practical and cost-effective material , however it was permeable and easily eroded by rain over time. thus requiring consistent maintenance.

At Ait Benhddou, taller structures were made of rammed earth up to their first floor while the upper floors were made of lighter adobe so as to reduce the load of the walls

As a result, villages of this type can begin to crumble only a few decades after being abandoned.

A Sign notifying where allegedly a Synagogue once stood

The community areas of the ksar include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, an caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the Sanctuary of the Saint Sidi Ali or Amer.

Climbing upthrough the narrow widening alleys and in between the small mud brick structures, now housing many stores selling trinkets and tables with Berber alphabet writing was like being thrown back in time.

The area is also known for its Ouazguita carpets with geometric designs of red-orange on black background, and for the films props created here

The ksar has been significantly restored in modern times, thanks to to its inscription on the UNESCO Hermitage ,and in part to its use as Hollywood filming location

A large number of films shot in Morocco have used Aït Benhaddou as a location, including:: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Sodom and Gomorrah (1963) Queen of the Desert (2015)

Ouarzazate film studios

Ecla Studios

Atlas Studios

The Cinema Museum is in the center of Ouarzazate. located right across from the beautiful Kasbah Taourirt,

Deserted Movie sets seen across from the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou

On both sides of the the Ounila River

Jewish Community: In the 17th C after, the local an Amazigh ruler built a kasbah known as Taourirt Jews - many who were merchants, peddlers, and jewelers, soon established a mellah just outside the kasbah palace. .and 170 Jews lived but almost all had left by the 1960s, though one Jewish peddler of animal skins remained, living above the synagogue until he grew old. Today that synagogue is a carpet store, producing and selling Ouarzazate’s distinctive woven carpets. (more) Surrounded by a high mud wall capped with a barbed-wire crown, the Jewish cemetery of Ouarzazate appears mostly to be an earthen field, with clumps of stones and a few concrete slabs marking old graves. An important saint of the Ouarzazate region is Rabbi David u Moshe, Timzrit, north of Ouarzazate

Lunch in Ouarzazate


L-Oasis Ait Ben Haddou +212 527-585490

Following lunch , the long 4 hours bus drive, left the Atlas mountains with its towering cliffs , dramatic gorges, enchanting oasis and exotic desert dunes continuing, that late afternoon, all the way from Ouarzazate to Marrkesh

The sites on the way up North still presented enchanting views as glimpses of

it were captivated in the photos below.

Rest Stop at Tizi n'Tichka -pass

at the elevation of 2,205 m

A mountain pass linking the south-east of Marrakesh to the city of Ouarzazat through the High Atlas mountains

The road to the summit,known as

Col du Tichka

I It was way after sun down when we finally reached Marrakesh

To be Continued,,,,,,


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