Thursday, 13 March 2014

12th March

Driving to the Dadnes Gorge
Today we had to pack a lot in.  We started off with the Dadnès Gorge and then we were driving the route of the Kasbahs.  These are fortified castles lived in by one family, which generally have square turrets joined by crenulated battlements based around square courtyards.  They are made from local rocks or mud bricks and mud which are compressed and are then plastered with a mix of local soil, water and straw – not dissimilar to lime render being put on a cob wall.

Dadnes Gorge
The road to the Dadnès Gorge was much better than the one to the Todra gorge and we drove through some lovely countryside for about 20 kms before we got to the gorge proper.  On route, we drove along one side of a river valley with fertile, cultivated plains below and the most astounding rock formations forming the sides.  The gorge itself was amazing with lots of switchbacks in the road to get us to the top where we parked up.  One of our guidebooks described the gorge as looking as if a huge sword had been wielded and cut a huge cleft in the limestone, which we decided was pretty accurate.  Chris got chatting to a local hotel owner who was very friendly and invited us in for tea and some cake and a view from his balcony.  The view was incredible and we were most grateful for the hot beverage as it was pretty cold up there.  As we took our leave from our host, we were ushered into his carpet shop “just to take a look”, but nothing appealed so we left empty handed. 

We continued up the valley a little further, but when the valley opened out and the scenery became less dramatic, we turned round.  We had hoped to pick up a minor road, possibly not tarmacked, so we could drive back to the main road via the Valley of the Roses.  However, we never found the road so had to retrace out steps completely, which was not a hardship at all as got to see the incredible scenery from the opposite direction.

Amerhidil Kasbah - panoramic
We drove on towards Skoura, which is surrounded by a huge palm oasis laid out in the 12th century.  Some of the most beautiful Kasbahs in south Morocco are to be found here.  We stopped off first at the recently restored Ben Morro Kasbah, which is now a hotel.  We were warmly welcomed and had a cup of tea and then a tour of the rooms and taken to the roof for the panoramic view of the oasis.   From there we could see the imposing Amerhidil Kasbah, part of which has been fully restored and is used as a guest house but the rest kept as a living museum. 

Similar to the image on the 50 dirham note......
We decided to drive to this Kasbah and again, had a tour around it. The rooms were incredibly dark with tiny windows, but I imagine the thick walls kept the rooms at a constant temperature throughout the year.  The image of this Kasbah is actually on the 50 dirham note.  It was really interesting to compare the newly restored pristine Kasbahs with older ones in various stages of decay.  Our guide then directed us through the oasis to an area which gave us the most fantastic panoramic view of the whole oasis which is 25 km long.  Unfortunately, low rain clouds obscured the snow capped high Atlas Mountains which all our guide books showed as being the incredible backdrop.

Ait-Benhaddou from the granary
We continued our journey on to Ait Benhaddou, a picturesque village tumblling down a hillside on the left bank of the Wadi Mellah.  It used to be fortified and has an abandoned igherm, or granary, on the top of the hill side, which really stands out.  The village is now a UNESCO world heritage site.  We enjoyed wandering through the narrow winding streets and followed the steps up to the granary to be rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding countryside.

We then drove on to our accommodation which was an unexpected delight – Kasbah I Roccha in the tiny hamlet of Tisselday.  Our rooms were off a small central courtyard.  Another door off the same courtyard led to a couple of large and cosy dining areas heated by a log fire and some gas heaters as it was rather chilly.  From here, you could get to a large outdoor terrace with lovely views up and down the valley.  We had a superb dinner here – the best chicken tagine yet washed down with a couple of bottles of the delicious Sahari Reserve red from near Meknes.

When we went to bed, it was raining quite hard, but I’d promised Hanna that the rain would stop for the next day so we would have some superb views of the high Atlas Mountains – I had a good feeling about it!!

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