cerebral museum

Dades Valley, Morocco

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on February 25, 2010

After Marrakech, I decided to go South toward the Sahara to find some dunes and to get away from the cities. I met up with a Basque couple headed in the same direction, and decided to go with them. We took an offroad bus out of Marrakech and over the Atlas mountains. It was pouring rain for hours through the mountains and it didn’t take long to understand why a 4WD was necessary. The strength of the colors seeping out of the mountains was something I’ll never forget.

the aptly named 'red valley'

Many of the homes and buildings are built of the local soil. As we ascended the mountains the terrain became much more grey and rocky– along with the buildings in each village. This use of locally-sourced materials seemed to be in use in almost every city and town I visited in Morocco. An especially beautiful example is in the Dades Valley (above) where the homes are the same vibrant pink-red as the soil.

atlas fog and flora

The driver (a very tiny and stoic berber man) was skilled, but it was still one of the more treacherous rides I’ve experienced.

snowy peaks in the distance

overflowing creek

The rain let up as we descended the Atlas and came into the other side of the Dades Valley, about halfway to Todra. The rock formations were insane. It was all so mind-blowing I forgot to get carsick.

Above (to the right) is a famous kasbah Ait Benhaddou in Ouarzazate. We hiked down to it and walked on rocks and sanbags over a shallow but wide river to get closer. There were a lot of kids hanging around charging to get in, and I read that it’s really only used for movie sets (most famously in Lawrence of Arabia) so I decided to skip going inside. When it came time to cross back over, only about 30 minutes later, the river had grown substantially. I don’t know how this happened or if it’s normal or not, but it was a surprise to us. Started out walking across on the sandbags placed by the kids, but ended up just taking off my shoes and wading.

More of the kasbah:

It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, and was built originally in the 11th century, but a local I talked to excitedly compared it to a movie star that never ages because of ‘too much plastic surgery’.

Passed through a few more villages before making it to Todra, the trip from Marrakech ended up taking a whole day.

(disclaimer: gratuitous landscapes ahead)

this guy is named Rad. he's from Okinawa, and lived up to his name.

That night, finally made it to Todra and stayed at a riad that was actually in a gorge. Had to cross a river on a 2×4 to get to it… really exciting.

Todra post up next, then the DUNES!