More to do than just lying on the beach

From Agadir to Merzouga: A Twelve Day Journey
by JL Farmer

A wonderful trip to Merzouga by road

This is a day-by-day account of a twelve day journey we made from Agadir to the Tafilalt region of Morocco in October 2010. It would be so very easy to double the hotel time spent along the way, and add M'Hamid onto the trip. That way, it would cover one whole month of a trip. Next time, we may do that,  it would be really great!

Harris, Walter B. (1895), "Tafilet; the narrative of a journey of exploration in the Atlas Mountains and the oases of the north-west Sahara," Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons. (Public domain, free digital book.)

Day 1: We drove from Agadir to Taroudant and stayed overnight. We have been there many times over the years and always enjoy it. Taroudant is just over one hour's drive from Agadir, along the A10 road.

Checked in at Hotel Taroudant, in room 9, which is a 2 bed apartment and is charged at the same price as a regular twin room - 200 dirhams a night. If it's not available, you can ask for one of the big rooms down the end of the corridor, the big room above the hotel entry (in photo below, left) - room 13, methinks, is particularly good and has three windows - two on the front and one on the side of the street, which give much light to the room. There are three big rooms along the end corridor (turn left at the top of the stairwell.)
On the down side, there are also some dark rooms around the other side of the building (turn right at the top of the stairwell.) The guy on reception may offer you room 7 - an L shaped room with hardly any light - or one of the other low number rooms. Maybe just politely refuse and ask him if you can have a look around at some of the rooms. If you arrive in the morning before lunchtime all of the available rooms will be unlocked as the two housekeeping ladies will be around. Taroudant has been pretty much bereft of stay-over tourists since the global financial crisis, so there probably won't be too many people staying in the hotel.

After unpacking our luggage and settling into our room, we lunched at the hotel. They have an a la carte or fixed menu. They have a 4 course steak meal on the fixed menu, preceded by a large salad and followed by a cheese plate and a real home-made tarte des pommes and it is excellent. Cost? Around 85 or 90 dirhams, all in. There is also a bar and a garden with a waterfall, it really is lovely. One can enjoy a bottle of wine (or beer) with their meal, in the restaurant. Very easy to spend a couple of relaxing hours there. The hotel was bought by a French woman back in 1956, the year of Moroccan independence, and she owned the hotel until she passed-on, in France in 1988. Most of the same hotel and restaurant staff still work there from that time (and it still brings a tear to their eyes if you ask about her) and all of the lady's furniture, library and posters are still there. A very interesting place to explore and the oldest hotel in Taroudant.

The guy with the tajines above (top right) sells tajines for 15 dirhams. He's based in the Municipal market and one can order a tajine around 11am and go back there to eat it around 12.30pm.

In the afternoon, we visited the main souks and our local friends who have shops on Sharia Hodra (the main street in the souk.)

Late afternoon, we took a caleche ride (horse and buggy) around the perimeter of the City Walls
(the light is at its best at this time of day, so it's a good idea to have a camera if you take a caleche ride!)

Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Taroudant

Read my article on Taroudant

Day 2: Taroudant to Ouarzazate via Taliouine
(295 Km)
Ouarzazate (Wiki)

Lunched in Taliouine

There is a restaurant on the left hand side on the main street. You can't miss it. If you bring your own meat (from the butcher across the street, we bought 500 grammes) the chef will cook it for you on a charcoal grill and provide salad and drinks, at a low cost.

On the way out of Taliouine, we made a visit to the saffron shop and museum on the east side of town "Cooperative Souktana de Safran." It's very well signposted. The days of buying saffron at 10 dirhams a gramme are long gone. It's more likely to cost 30 to 40 dirhams a gramme these days. The sellers always seem to say that there was a bad harvest. Whether this is true or just a sales ploy is anyone's guess, but one thing for sure, I've heard it a lot, down the years.

For more on buying saffron, check out my article "Visiting the Souk in Agadir."

Article: "Introduction to Taliouine, Morocco"

Drove on to Ouarzazate, checked in at Hotel Royal, on the main street, 24 Av. Mohammed V. We stayed in room 6, after checking out several other rooms. A nice, clean and quiet hotel. We also stayed here in 2001. There is an expensive French restaurant on the adjacent corner called "Chez Dimitri" which is also licensed to sell alcohol and they have a huge photo collection since 1928, when it was founded and served members of the French Foreign Legion. A variety of inexpensive restaurants can be found on the big square, behind the hotel area.

Late afternoon visit to the Kasbah Taourirt in the centre of town, on Ave. Mohammed V. There is a nice museum inside the kasbah and we visited from room to room, very nice.

Nice article here.

Overnight in Ouarzazate

Day 3: In Ouarzazate. Visited Kasbah Aït Benhaddou, 
Kasbah of Tifoultoute, (10 km north) Kasbah of the Storks, and some others, along the way.

Aït Benhaddou (Wiki)

Overnight in Ouarzazate
at Hotel Royal

Day 4: Ouarzazate to Skoura Oasis (40 km east)

There is a really good budget place to stay in Skoura and it's in the Skoura Palmerie at "Chez Slimani."

The palmerie is located about 2 km before arriving in Skoura. We missed the turn, (it was so small and badly signed by hand) but after enquiring in town, a young man accompanied us in the car and directed our way to the palmerie.

Mr. Slimani is the Mayor of the Palmerie and he and his wife are lovely people. Slimani operates an original Riad B&B, but this is not the glitzy French type of luxury Riad - this is a working riad, with gardens full of pomegranates, Madame makes her own honey, butter, bread and meals and accommodation is offered on a half-board basis - room, dinner and breakfast. We paid 120 dirhams each - and it's still the same price, three years later! Two people = 240 dirhams for a twin room with dinner and breakfast. A great deal!

When we checked in, Mr. Slimani asked us if we wanted cous-cous or tajine for dinner, later on that evening. We went for a beef and a lamb cous-cous.

Chez Slimani

Breakfast breads - wonderful!

Ancient kasbah in the Palmerie

Afternoon visit to the multiple kasbahs in the Oasis. We didn't have a clue where we going. How could we when all the narrow tracks were made of mud, no signs and low-hanging banana trees hanging all over the palmerie. We bumped into Mr. Slimani in the local grocery store and he told us that he had some free time and would accompany us to all the kasbas if we liked. If we liked? You betcha lol. He spent about three hours with us, showing us around and explaining everything and he didn't ask us for a dime. We added 100 dirhams onto our payment when we left, to show our appreciation for his kindness.

He also (later on) gave us some hand made maps of the place and.... guess what? I have scanned them and put them online here - just for you to print out! Sweet, eh. lol

Map of kasbahs at Skoura Palmerie                    Walking Map of the Palmerie (in French)

The Palmerie has no street lights after dark, so it is not possible to drive to or from the palmerie. Maybe that is the main factor that led Mr. Slimani to offer half-board? If so, then it was a great idea. We spent a very nice evening having dinner and exchanging travel stories with the other guests, a small group of young travellers from Belgium. A lovely evening. It was wonderful and very memorable, to this day. There were coloured lanterns hanging throughout the gardens in all of the pomegranate and orange trees. We had a couple of real coffees and soft drinks afterwards and were not charged any extra for them. That's what I call real hospitality.

Day 5: Skoura to Kelaat M'Gouna (50 km)

Overnight at Hotel Rosadamaskina, (7 km before arriving in town.) The hotel is over the river bridge, immediately on the left hand side of the road. We paid 100 dirhams a night for a twin room, (in our view, room 9 was best.) It looked like we were the only guests staying there, as we didn't see anyone else coming or going, while we were there. The large garden was full of all kinds of coloured roses in full bloom and was really lovely.

The view from the large rear terrace of the garden is superb. Ladies washing clothes in the river and a ruined kasbah across the way. There were lots of tables and chairs on the terrace, so this would be a great location to settle in and do some watercolour painting. Speaking of which...

I was hoping to see the artist Charles Kérivel once again. We met Charles down by the harbour in Essaouira in 2001 and loved his watercolour work.

Our guide book says that Charles sometimes stays at
the Hotel Rosadamaskina. Check out Charles' wonderful watercolour work - he is like a modern day Eugene Delacroix, a great artist.

(Free App "Eugène Delacroix: Voyage au Maroc 1832.")

Kelaat M'Gouna is known primarily for its commercial production of roses, which are mainly exported to France to make perfume, and the town holds its "Festival of the Roses" every year, in May. Thus, the best time to visit is in April, when all of the roses are in full bloom, before the harvesting begins. Video from the 51st, 2013 Festival des Roses.
The town is full of shops selling rose scented toiletry and cosmetic products. I bought several items and later discovered that the few dirhams extra I had paid for some of the items was really worth the difference in quality. Down the years, I have been making gifts of these items to folks back home and they are really appreciated. Worth remembering if you are on the lookout for gift ideas!

Articles: "Kelaat M'Gouna and the Valley of Roses"

"Morocco Rose Festival: the land of red and pink"

"Moroccan Rose Festival 2013"

Kelaat-M'Gouna (Wiki)

Afternoon drive along the mountain road from centre of town - the most amazing drive in Morocco!!!

In the centre of town, there is a single, left turn to "Roses Valley." The main, and most interesting, part of the road is around 30 km long and we reckon it's the best drive in Morocco. We kept driving until it appeared that there was nothing interesting left to see, then turned around and drove back again. The best drive in Morocco, by far.

Day 6:
Kelaat M'Gouna to Boumalne Dades (21.8 km)

We checked in at the Hotel Bougafer, right in the centre of town near the main square. Room 4, 100 dirhams for a triple room. There are a few rooms on this second floor that have been specially renovated for western travellers. They don't offer them to the locals. They have refurbished all of these rooms to look like rooms in black Africa - sand walls and bamboo ceilings - truly an Africa feel. We were very happy staying here!

Just like National Geographic...

...but Better! :-)

              Visit to the Dades Gorge

Day 7:
Boumalne Dades to Tinghir (53 km)

Checked in at the Hotel l'Avenir for 2 nights, room 4 - triple room, new bathrooms next door, 130 dirhams for the room. Right in the centre of the souk, yet our room was at the rear of the hotel and was a quiet room, with two large windows and plenty of light. The man showed us all the front facing rooms at first, but they were noisy rooms, overlooking the souk.

Spent a very pleasant afternoon exploring around the souks and restaurants.

Day 8

Visit to the Todra Gorge

"The Dades Gorge in the valley of the roses and the Todra Gorge provide some of the most spectacular scenery of the south"

Day 9:
Tinghir to Rissani via the Museum of the Oasis - 166 km total drive.

Afternoon, we visited the Museum of the Oasis, en  fr 52 km east of Tinghir along the N10 road at El Khorbat (Tel. 00-212-535880355) The Museum is signed from the main road as Musée de l'Oasis (need to keep a look out) and it's a short drive over a dry river bed to arrive at the oasis. This is a stunning museum and is a must-visit for anyone who is travelling in this region. The owner, a Spanish guy, is a true philanthropist. Every object in the Museum is tagged in four languages: Arabic, English, French and Spanish. "Opened in 2002, the Oasis Museum occupies a group of three restored houses inside the Ksar El Khorbat Oujdid, with a total surface of 600 square meters, distributed over three levels." Plan of the Museum here.

We then drove on to Rissani. There is nothing to see in Erfoud. We drove around the town twice, saw nothing of interest and went on to Rissani.

Outside our front window
A prayer area

We stayed for two nights in Rissani at the Hotel Panorama on the square (we paid 100 dirhams for a front quadruple room (one double and two single beds, with a view of the town) There is a nice café downstairs and several restaurants along the main street nearby, but we found that we had to eat early-ish as this town closes down very quickly after dark.

The souk in Rissani is a very interesting place and has many authentic objects for sale. I bought a lovely green beryl heavy, cut necklace and we later began chatting with a guy who hand-makes leather sandals and sells them for around 40 dirhams a pair - complete with car tyre rubber soles.

Rissani (Wiki)

Day 10: Rissani to Merzouga - We had a day trip to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara, then returned to Rissani for another overnight stay

Merzouga (Wiki)

Day 11: Rissani to Zagora - 294 Km. We visited some rock carving sites along the way, near Tazzarine.

Stayed for one night in Zagora at Hotel La Rose des Sables, room 115, at 80 dirhams for the room. This hotel is a huge place and has a large restaurant downstairs. The management and staff were very nice, friendly and hospitable people.

Day 12: We visited two villages south of Zagora - Amazrou and Tamegroute. "Tamegroute (Tamgrout) is a village in the south of Morocco, in the valley of the Draa River. It has a history as an important center of learning and religion through its famous Sufi zawiya, 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. Tamegoute's green pottery is also very well known." Wiki

We visited the Sufi lodge building in Tamegroute as well as what used to the Jewish Synagogue in Amzrou. Centre picture (below) shows the old water well there.

We drove back to Zagora, had lunch and packed up the car. The owner of the hotel (first pic above, man on the right) had let us keep our room till 1pm, so that we could get out to an early start to visit the two villages without losing time packing up our stuff.

Afternoon: We drove back to Agadir - 472 km. If we would have had a couple of days extra, we would have gone down to M'hamid to enjoy the palmeries and the dunes down there. OK, next time!

We really enjoyed our trip to the Sahara, it is a trip that I had been wanting to make for over twenty years and finally got around to doing it. Each day was a wonderful experience in so many different ways. It remains that the friendliness of the people of Morocco and their stunningly beautiful country will always be remembered by those who take the time to make a trip like this - away from the beaten tourist track, living close to the people and the earth of this truly beautiful country.

Thank you for reading. I hope that you have enjoyed this page. Please feel free to send an email if you have any questions or suggestions.

JL Farmer
October 2010

Extra info to M'hamid (added June 15, 2015)

Tamegroute to M'hamid - 77.4km

Wiki M'Hamid El Ghizlane

TINFOU is along the way towards Mhamid and also has dunes. Maybe worth a stop for an hour or so, en route.
Hotel Sahara on the village square in Mhamid is a budget hotel recommended by the Rough Guide to Morocco.
Also Restaurant Saharia Services (near the main gate) is a recommended restaurant.

Here are some more of our pages:

Buy and Sell in Talborjt

Interesting Articles on Morocco
Where is Talborjt?

Security in Morocco

The Hammam in Talborjt
Visiting the Souk in Agadir

DIY Trip to Taroudant

DIY Trip to Marrakesh

General Info on Agadir and Morocco

Hotels in Talborjt

Talborjt 1001 Nights Restaurant

Tourism in Agadir

Remembering the 1960 Agadir Earthquake

Transport to and from Agadir

The Jardim Olhao and Valley of the Birds

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