lundi 17 janvier 2011

South to Zagora: the Drâa oases

The road from Ouarzazate to Zagora is wide and well maintained, though it does seem to take its toll on tyres. As in the rest of the south, if you're driving make sure you have a good spare and the tools to change it with. If you're on the bus, get yourself a seat on the left-hand side, for the most spectacular views. Although Zagora is the ostensible goal and destination, the valley is the real attraction. Driving the route, try to resist the impulse to burn down to the desert, and take the opportunity to walk out to one or another of the ksour or Kasbahs. Using local transport, you might consider hiring a grand taxi for the day - or half-day - from ouarzazate, stopping to explore some of the kasbahs en route; if you intend to do this, however, be very clear to the driver about your plans.

The lake and over the Tizi n'Tinififft
The route begins unpromisingly: the course of the Drâa lies initially some way to the east and the road runs across bleak, stony flatlands of semi-desert. After 15km a side road,leads down to the El Mansour Eddahbi dam and reservoir which you can see from part of ouarzazate. In 1989 freak rains flooded the reservoir, and the Drâa, for the first time in recent memory, ran its course to the sea beyond Tan Tan.
on the main road, the first interest comes just beyond AÏT SAOUN, one of the few roadside villages along this stretch, where a dramatic change takes place. leaving the plains behind, the road climbs, twists and turns its way up into the mountains, before breaking though the scarp at the pass of Tizi n'Tinififft (1660 m). From the summit of the pass there are fine views to the north, with the main Atlas mountains framing the horizon.
The pass is just 4km beyond Ait Saoun. Beyond it the road swings through a landscape of layered strata, until finally, some 20 km from the pass, you catch a first glimpse of the valley and the oases - a thick line of palms reaching out into the hazeand the first sign of the Drâa kasbahs, rising as if from the land where the green gives way to desert.

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