morocco: tinghir to aït ben haddou

We left the hotel at 9:10 after a nice breakfast in the hotel basement overlooking the pool.  I had orange juice, coffee and two hard-boiled eggs, forgoing the pancakes and honey because I was feeling full after our two large meals the day before.

The town of Tinghir was quite large with a lot of rather new-looking red stucco hotels, government buildings, and homes.  Red dirt was in abundance all around the town.

We stopped at the Route des 1000 Kasbahs, Vallée du Dadès.  From the roadside hilltop, we could see the long spread of kasbahs spread out in the green valley.  Vendors were selling beautiful amber and silver decorative containers; I managed to avoid the temptation to buy.


Route de 1000 Kasbahs


Route de 1000 Kasbahs


Route de 1000 Kasbahs


Route de 1000 Kasbahs


Route de 1000 Kasbahs

We saw camels in one town.  Roses are famous in Roses Valley.  Tents were up for the Rose Festival, held every May.  Families dance and sing among rose petals floating everywhere and the scent of rose oil is in abundance.

We made a long stop along the Route of the Kasbahs at a souvenir shop and cafe and a long row of flush toilets. A shop sold rose oil and rose lotion.  I rubbed some almond lotion on my hands and could smell it all the way to Ouarzazate, another 1 1/2 hours, where we would stop for lunch.


Route de 1000 Kasbahs

We continued our journey through more heartless desert with scrubby bushes, reddish in color, with the snow-covered High Atlas Mountains to the north.  A few palms dotted a parched river bed lined with a few unfinished concrete block houses.  It was a desolate environment. Interspersed were nicer houses with stucco gates and wrought iron window covers.

All around us was dry reddish-brown hard desert with little to no vegetation and small plateaus, strewn with rocks.  It was a harsh and barren landscape. Aziz played music in the van, an Irish song about “Bows and Arrows:  Time is coming fast but I think this day is here!” and “down the roady road.” 🎶

At noon, we reached the town of Skoura.  Mud ruins were sprinkled among viable businesses, Cafe Restaurante Valentine and Riad Skoura.  Whole villages were crumbling around dusty tired palms.  Skoura is home to the most famous of all the kasbahs along the route, Kasbah Amridil, but we didn’t go in.

Dire Straits sang “The Walk of Life”: “Hand me down my walking shoes / He got the action, he got the motion / turning all the night time into the day.” 🎶

A wide dry wadi snaked through the town, and pottery and tajine displays lined the road.  “Money for nothing and tricks for free.” 🎵

Aziz played “Staying Alive” as we stopped at an Afriqua gas station with a painted mural of kasbahs and palms. Robed shepherds herded some goats, and donkeys carried loads of green crops.  Salt flats punctuated with tufts of dry grass spread out to the south.  “I’m going nowhere, somebody help me.” 🎶 Goats and sheep mixed together in convivial herds.


mural at Afriqua gas station

In the distance we saw a huge bright tower, apparently the biggest solar power project in the world, Project Nour.  The power is used by Morocco and exported to other countries. It has millions of reflecting mirrors, Aziz told us; we could see it glowing on the horizon like a lighthouse beacon.

We passed a dam, Barrage el-Mansour-Eddahbi, windmills, and St. Exupery Relais.

At 12:30, we reached the Berber town of Ouarzazate, which means “peaceful city.”  It is a modern garrison town of 80,000 inhabitants established in 1928 to oversee France’s colonial interests.  Aziz told us that it was a French military base built to take silver from the mines in the Atlas Mountains.

It is in the Bab e Sahara, the trading caravan route for silk, spices; it is the main road from the south to Marrakesh.  The area is too dry for agriculture.

After the 1950s, when the French protectorate left, the movie business took off.  “Ouallywood” movie studios have provided backdrops for movies supposedly set in Tibet, ancient Rome, Somalia, and Egypt.

We stopped to look through the gates of the Atlas Film Studios, which has “Ouallywood” display sets and props from movies filmed here, such as Gladiator, King Tut, Cleopatra, and Exodus.  The nearby CLA Studios has sets from Game of Thrones, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia.


Atlas Film Studios

I loved the austere Pharaoh statues, the black and white film posters, and the mural of a film graced with black and white movie figures unrolling across the front wall.


Atlas Film Studios


Atlas Film Studios


Atlas Film Studios


Atlas Film Studios


Atlas Film Studios

We arrived in Aït Ben Haddou close to 3:00 and checked into our hotel, La Rose du Sable. I loved the murals of Aït Ben Haddou painted on the courtyard walls, the palm tree oasis murals, wrought iron flourishes on staircases and balconies, and the clear blue pool.


La Rose du Sable


La Rose du Sable


La Rose du Sable


La Rose du Sable

The town was a bustling little tourist town. At 3:30, we met and walked to a carpet cooperative, where we looked for some time at the beautiful carpets.  The carpets, made by local artisans, were mostly rough-textured, beautifully patterned, fringed affairs.  Finally, I ended up buying one to ship home by May 10, when we’d return home from Italy, for 3,200 dirhams, or $331.

*Tuesday, April 16, 2019*


“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose.

One of my intentions was to write about mundane places, markets, gas stations, hotels, restaurants by describing three telling details about them.

It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation.  You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. You can also include photos, of course.

Include the link in the comments below by Monday, March 23 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, March 24, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!