After crossing miles and miles of landscape devoid of any life, a small, modern city rises up from the middle of nowhere: Ouarzazate. Built by the French in 1928 to accommodate their garrisons, this sand-coloured oasis is home to a growing number of luxury hotels, which respect, for the most part, traditional Moroccan architecture. Its new international airport has not only enabled direct flights from Europe, but also multiplied the number of visitors to Morocco. However, Ouarzazate remains a stopover city rather than a holiday destination and its position at the crossroads of the beautiful Drâa and Dades valleys is, in fact, the preferred gateway to the Sahara and the Southern Oasis.
The city itself presents little tourist attractions outside the Taourirt Kasbah, its fortified part. Its handcraft, which specialises in carpet weaving (originating from the ?High Atlas'); the making of jewellery or the modelling of ceramics and pottery, is, however, known throughout the world.
Due to its luminosity and its breathtaking natural decor, the cinema has also taken a shine to Ouarzazate. Films like 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'A Tea in the Sahara' or 'Gladiator' have shot scenes here and installed historical reconstructions which have also been used in television series or soap operas. Opposite the Taourirt Kasbah, it is not surprising to come across queues of extras hoping to be recruited on an upcoming film. The Atlas studios, located at the entrance to the city, have even become a tourist visit (for a fee).
Exploring Ouarzazate and its surrounding areas during the summer could prove difficult because the region has been known to experience peak temperatures in excess of 45° C.
Only 18 miles from the city, the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou, an impressive citadel of sand listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a site not to be missed. Rent a car and drive to the Dadés and the Draa Valleys and visit the Skoura Oasis.
Ouarzazate remains more of a stopover city than a holiday resort. Its position, at the crossroads of the beautiful valleys of Drâa and Dades, is, in fact, the preferred gateway to the Sahara and the Southern Oasis. The city itself presents little tourist attractions outside the Taourirt Kasbah, its fortified part.
Above all, remember to take water with you when you go to the valleys.
Avoid walking around scantily dressed and be vigilant if you take hitchhikers as it may turn out to be a scam.
Moroccan cuisine is excellent and offers a variety of dishes of subtle and varied tastes. The couscous is, of course, the typical Moroccan dish, but you must try the beef, chicken and lamb tajines. Fritters or chorba are appetising starters; the pastilla can be eaten sweet or salty or a mixture of the two and the pastries for dessert will delight any gourmand. To finish off the meal nicely, drink a glass of mint tea.
You can bring back a host of souvenirs, from jewellery and wrought iron objects to babouches (oriental slippers), tunics, spices and leather objects; handcraft in Morocco is extremely varied.
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