I took a picture of the sink in our hotel room in Erfoud before we set out on the road to Ait Ben Haddou (also called Ait Benhaddou). As one can see, there are a few fossils embedded in the granite. Considering that all of the rooms in the hotel had sinks, and a few other items of decoration, of the same nature, it is an indication of the prevalence of fossils in products from this part of the world. I would never have guessed!
We started our journey for the day early, as usual. We turned west as we left the hotel premises and headed back towards the middle sections of the country, away from the desert.
We drove past a system of water wells called Ketthara (use Google Translate to read the English translation of the link!) just outside of Erfoud. Even though we were close to the edge of the desert, there used to be a system for underground water distribution in this area. A series of underground connections is used to carry the water to these wells. The ketthara is not in use today.
I got a fleeting glimpse of the flag of the Amazighs as we were driving past it, but I could not get a good picture of it. This is what it looks like in its fullness. You can read about the symbolism in this flag here. The flag is relatively new, first having been proposed in the 1970s, and then becoming official in 1997. If you also consider the fact that the language of the Amazighs was made an official language of the country of Morocco only very recently, one gets the impression that the recognition of these native peoples of North Africa is on the upswing in recent years.
We passed wild Barbary Sheep. They are reddish, the color of the rocks. Fortunately, these animals have not gone the way of the Barbary Lions. I could not get a picture of these animals.
In yet another town, I took this picture of a sign at a gas station. The price of gas (petrol) indicated here translates to roughly 6 dollars a gallon. The current prime minister of Morocco, who also happens to own one of the companies importing oil and gas into the country, apparently has a role in setting these prices. There is unhappiness in the general population over the steep increase in the cost of gas recently. Tthe prime minister has been accused of corruption in this regard.
After reaching the town of Tinghir (on the highway N10), we turned right off the highway to continue our drive through the town – to head into the Todra valley close by.
This is a picture taken as we were heading out of town. You can see the traditional clothing of the women of this particular town. The nature of the clothing worn by the the locals can actually change from town to town.
The picture below shows a valley we had to cross on our way to Todra gorge. The green of the valley from the fields of date trees and alfalfa is striking. We had to drive over a dry stream bed at the bottom of the valley to get to the other side. We eventually ascended up the other side of this valley. You can see the road that we took in the picture.
Todra (also called Todgha) gorge was stunning. I took a walk on the other side of the waters of the Todra river, inadvertently getting one of my sandals wet in the river on my way across. It dried up nicely as I made my way further upstream.
Black long haired goats with pointy horns, and donkeys, hung out closer to the building seen in the above picture.
It was a busy place. It was a place for locals to visit during the weekend. The weather was also nice.
Moroccan dishes included tajine couscous and vermicelli. Almost all lunches and dinners that we were served in Morocco during the trip included fruit for dessert. Sliced melons and grapes were the most common fruits. We were also offered many local specialties.
The next landmark that we reached was the Dades Valley (also called the Valley of the Roses). We drove on a section of a road called The Road Of A Thousand Kasbahs. I struggled to identify specific Kasbahs. This is one that I managed to take a picture of as we approached Ouarzazate.
Roses were introduced in Morocco by the French. They have a rose Festival in this part of the world that lasts a week. We were told that the Jewish people initially populated this area of Morocco.
Ouarzazate used to be a movie studio town. It is now a tourist destination. The castle for Game of Thrones was set up here. Some well known movies were made in these parts over the years. The two studios associated with the town are The Atlas Corporation Studios, and CLA Studios.
Our drive took us not too far from the Quarzazate solar power station. It is the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant. It is mostly a thermal solar power plant, with a small section generating power from photovoltaic cells. From the distance you can only see the tower in which the molten salt is formed from the focused radiated energy of the field of solar reflectors.
We were staying in the Riad Ksar Ighnda Kasbah in Ait Ben Haddou that night. A few miles after we left Ouarzazate, we took a turn off highway N9 onto one of the local roads, and we continued our drive west beside the Ounila river for the last few miles to reach our destination. We were told that that the Ounila was a salty river because of the minerals in the mountains. The road to Ait Ben Haddou that we were taking used to be the route of the caravans traveling along the Ounila Valley to Marakkesh in times past.
Our hotel turned out to be a unique and impressive establishment. Our room, in a building separated from the main Kasbah, was at the highest level of the building and adjacent to a terrace. It might have been one of the better rooms in the hotel. We could get a good view of our surroundings from the terrace, including a distant view of the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou itself.The picture below offers a zoomed in view of the hill at Ksar Ait Ben Haddou – with its agadir, or granary, on top. It appears as a dot in the picture above!
We stayed in at the hotel for dinner, and for breakfast the next day. The meals were all very sumptuous – as usual. Of note was the small fried fish (which I suspect were sardines) that tasted remarkably like the fried fish we used to eat as children growing up in India. Enjoyed it all!
We stayed only one night at Ait Ben Haddou. We would be climbing up the hill at Ksar Ait Ben Haddou after checking out of the hotel the next morning. We would then depart for Marrakech.