Secrets of the Draa Valley

by | Dec 9, 2023

When I reached the Draa Valley at sunset, I gazed at sunlit brown hills, deep valleys, and faraway snow-capped mountains. Despite their beauty, they failed to hint at what lay ahead.   

Most people associate sand, camels and intense heat with the Sahara. Few know about the deserted ancient kasbahs and ksours lying in South East Morocco.  

A kasbah comprises a fortified house behind defensive walls, while a ksours forms a fortified village or town. In the past, these structures protected their inhabitants from bandits, enemy attacks and hostile families. Today, most lie crumbling.   

The Draa valley holds some prime examples of old kasbahs and ksours, especially near Agdz and in Tamnougalt, 6 km away. Agdz lies 65 km south of Ouarzazate.  

The mud walls of Tramnougalt hide secrets, which the traveller senses while walking through the narrow lanes. Their decaying walls and abandoned houses mix past significance with present curiosity. Few live here today. Most prefer the modern homes of neighbouring Agdz. Kasbahs serving as hotels house the more adventurous visitors.  

As I wander about these lanes, anticipating camels or donkeys loaded with dates. Arched gateways and passages beg to be photographed. Mud-brick walls and tiny windows create a mysterious atmosphere demanding to be preserved and explored.

Walking over the stone paths presents striking vistas with each step. High walls surround me while new alleys draw me in. Thoughts of the past fill my head. An eerie silence creates mystery.  

The Draa river meanders through the valley, presenting a green backdrop to the sun-backed villages. Date palms rule this essential oasis. Donkeys carried the goods and their owners. I hear the complaint of an overworked donkey in the distance. Their life resembles the loads they carry, heavy, unchanging and unforgiving.   

Today, the coo-COO-coo of the Eurasian dove and the chirping of other birds break the silence. Only the occasional tourist stops to view the valley’s hidden treasures. Most visit Morocco’s cities without ever seeing its desert history.   

Agdz lies hidden one hour away from Ouarzazate, Morocco’s film capital. Filmmakers shot Cleopatra and the hit show, Game of Thrones, in this city. Few venture further, more should see this side of the country and feel the atmosphere of past lives.

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