Where the roads between the Drâa, Dadés and Ziz valleys cross, Ourzazate marks the beginning of the great journey by dazzling the traveller with two magnificent kasbahs. Taourirt, the former residence of the Glaoui, is frighteningly beautiful. A series of towers rising out of a mass of closely packed houses, thrusting their turrets into the blue of the sky, jostling to be first in fine to receive the sun. Aït Benhaddou is 30 kilometres from the town. Just imagine a fabulous sand castle transported, as if by magie, to stand in the middle of a field of flowering almond trees. So beautiful and playing so artfully with the light that it has often been used as a setting for films such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Un Thé au Sahara”. Indeed, this kasbah is so exceptional that UNESCO has given it world heritage status.
The point of departure for the road to the oases, Ouarzazate is also the destination for a wealth of produce and craftwork. Every Sunday, in the souk, can be found an abundance of henna, roses, cumin and distilled wormwood together with Berber pottery, carved stone objects, blankets and the blue and golden yellow motifs of the famous Ouzguita carpets. An ideal place to break your journey, Ouarzazate offers splendid hotel accommodation in which to relax. Generous, welcoming and amazingly different, it serves as a gentle introduction to the powerful emotions that lie ahead in the desert.
NOT TO BE MISSED
THE CASBAH OF TAOURIRT
Near the city center, on the road of Tineghir city, this sumptuous residence of the Pacha of Marrakech is proof that we can make superb constructions only with soil. The whole forms a walled village, served by a ‘network’ of alleys. You can visit the ruins of old apartments of the Glaoui. They have preserved their decoration of painted stuccos and their cedar ceiling. The Casbah has been recently remarkably restored.
Every spring, during one week, a folk festival takes place in the exceptional Casbah setting.
THE HANDICRAFT CENTER
In front of the Casbah, this modern building gathers the studios of the sculptors of stone, of copper or of silver. You can find embroideries and carpets, principally some “ouzquita” which are characterized by the originality of their design and of their brilliant coloration. They are woven with some silken wools by a tribe with this name. On the right of the building, there is a cafe where it is pleasant to have a drink during the evening, when the Casbah is illuminated.