Day 1: Marrakech – Ouarzazate – Draa Valley – Agdz Or Tamnougalte Oasis
Our journey from Marrakesh will get us to discover the High Atlas Mountains, a mountain range across a northern stretch of Africa extending about 2,500 km. The highest peak is the Toubkal Mountain, with an elevation of 4,167. Along those curves and turns, we will see scattered Berber villages on both sides of the road. Where hundreds of superb Berber villages scattered on the mountains. Unexpectedly you will see a fascinating presence of hundreds of houses in Berber villages which are made from mud and straw; in the middle of nowhere; thousands of satellite dishes on roofs. All this makes you feel that nothing has been changed in life here through thousands of years. Getting to Ouarzazate, the Africa version of Hollywood. Why this town is nicknamed Hollywood of Africa? Simply because it has been noted as a film-making location, with Morocco’s biggest studios inviting many international film companies to shoot their movies, like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven) and Babel (2005).
After lunch in Ouarzazate, we will have to drive one more 95 km along Draa valley, which is Morocco’s longest river (1200 km). The water from this river is used to irrigate one of the biggest palm groves of the kingdom. The inhabitants of the Draa are called Drawa. Outside of the Draa region, this name is mostly used to refer to the dark-skinned people of Draa which make up the largest portion of its inhabitants. 225,000 people live in the valley of the Draa, which measures 23,000 km.
Arriving to Agdz, which is located about 65 km from Ouarzazate. Agdz means “resting place” is located on the old caravan route linking Marrakech to Timbuktu. Agdz long played an important economic role. Then, because of the drought years of 1970/1980 and lack of facilities of transportation, it has lost its importance, leading too much of the population to leave town in search of work.
We go back centuries by visiting Tamnougalt Kasbah, it is situated on Draa River valley some 95 kilometers south of Ouarzazate. In Berber, Tamnougalt means ‘Meeting Point’ Tamnougalt was possibly a garrison in the Saadian dynasty. The Glaoua were to play a big role in the Draa region. At the beginning of the 20th-century relations between the Glaoua and the Mezguita became more and more strained because of the struggle for power over the Draa. For this purpose, T’hami El Glaoui held war to Tamnougalt in 1919. We spend a night here in a Kasbah styled hotel.
Day 2: Agdez – Zagora – Tamgroute – Mhamid – Sahara Erg Chigaga
On the next day, we go on our 4 day trip to Erg Chigaga by discovering Tamnougalte oasis, full of palm trees and more than 100 different kinds of dates. Here you will see that time hasn’t been changed over centuries and centuries. Tamegroute has been a religious center since the 11th century it has a history as an important center of learning and religion through its famous Sufi zawiya, the historical center of the Nasiriyya Sufi order, one of the most influential – and at one time one of the largest – Sufi orders in the Islamic world.
Tamegroute’s green pottery is also very well-known. The founders of the religious brotherhood Nasiriyya wanted to raise the status of the village of Tamegroute to that of a “Medina”, that is to say, to make it a city. They assembled the merchants and craftsmen that they had brought from Fes, a city that enjoyed good relations with Tamegroute at the time. Today Tamegroute is a little village, but the pottery has become its main characteristic and the ancient techniques give the glaze infinite variations.
We leave the ultimate Saharan village of Mhamid behind and drive through an off-road of around 60 km to get to the Erg Chigaga Dunes, crossing the Hamadas and exploring the wild Sahara of Morocco. Enjoy the sunset and climb the dunes or assist the shooting stars. Night in Berber tented camp.
Day 3: Erg Chigaga – Iriki – Foumzguid – Ait Ben Haddou
From Er Chigaga dunes, we drive along sand dunes on a peaceful and fascinating wilderness some Dakar tracks. Passing by the natural dried lake of Iriki.30 years ago this lake was full of water and different kinds of birds. After a long way of driving on an off-road, we get into the regular road and pass the small town of Foum-Zguid, which is a noiseless and sleepy Berber town. It was a former road of caravans coming up from the southeast to the west north. It lies in a desert area north of the Jbel Ouarkziz and is part of the Sahrawi-inhabited region of Morocco.
After a long way of driving on a rocky off-road, we stopover in Taznakht. It was a former trading post for this large region. This little Berber village is one of the biggest centers of carpets in the kingdom.
We finish our day arriving at the fortified village of Aït Benhaddou, built in the 11th century. Once upon a time, this Kasbah was the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. It is situated on a hill along the Salty River and has some beautiful examples of Kasbahs, which unfortunately sustain damage during each rainstorm and windstorms. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other bank of the river; however, three families are still living within this Kasbah. Aït Benhaddou Kasbah has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and several films have been shot there, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Time Bandits (1981), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Kundun (1997) Gladiator (2000) and Alexander (2004).
Day 4: Ait Ben Haddou – Telouet– Marrakech
Just 40 km from Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, we will see the Kasbah of Telout, a former route of the caravans from the Sahara over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. It was the seat of the El Glaoui family’s power; they were given political power of Morocco south of High Atlas Mountains by King Moulay Hassan. The Glaouis were almost as strong in power as the sultan himself. The palace can still be visited but it is steadily becoming more damaged and is slowly collapsing. In 2010, work was underway to restore the property. After lunching in Telout we drive straight away to Marrakesh.
MARRAKECH TO ERG CHIGAGA 4D/3N DESERT TOUR, WHAT′S INCLUDED
- Transportation in private licensed 4WD or Minibus with A/C, fuel throughout the tour
- English speaking driver
- Accommodations in typical Moroccan hotels, Kasbahs, Riads and Inns with Ensuite rooms, air conditioning/heating
- Half Board – 2 meals each day Dinner & Breakfast, (Vegetarians are welcome)
- Possibility to upgrade accommodations category with extra cost
- Swimming stops (April to September), we select hotels that have a swimming pool facility for this period
- Walks & Explorations for example in Ait Benhaddou & Gorges
- Night at Erg Chebbi desert dune in a nomad tented camp (possibility to upgrade to Luxury camp)
- Erg Chebbi Camel Trekking tour at sunset
- Local Taxes