Get off the Beaten Track
Travellers and families looking for serenity, away from the bustling, hot streets of Ouarzazate, should seek the shade underneath the palm leafed canopy of Fint Oasis. While there was no need for us to escape the walls of our stunning hotel, we wanted to explore more of the area around Ouarzazate and the town itself. Fint Oasis had been recommended to us by several people, both tourists and locals, as a place to discover a local community in an idyllic and off the beaten track location that tours have not yet included in their already tight itineraries. Having your own car certainly helps reach this remote part of Morocco, located about 13km south of Ouarzazate.
The Outskirts of Ouarzazate
The journey to Fint Oasis from Cote Sud took us along the outskirts of Ouarzazate before we turned off into an enormous plot crisscrossed with empty roads and boxes that we assumed were electricity panels for new houses that had yet to be built. It was a surreal sight in comparison to the rural villages we had passed many times on our journey through the country. Shortly after leaving the building site behind we found ourselves on a bumpy road that eventually turned into a potholed dirt track. Barely any cars passed and our drive was only interrupted by a herd of sheep crossing the road, a Moroccan kind of rush hour and at that point we also picked up a friendly looking local trying to hitch a ride to Fint Oasis, our destination.
Aziz our Tour Guide
His name was Aziz and it did not take long for us to realise that it was his way of finding tourists like us, wanting to explore the palm oasis. He told us he had grown up in one of the three villages in the valley and would love to show us his home ground. Anyone who follows our blog will know that we generally like exploring without any guidance but in this case we made an exception as he was not too pushy and seemed pretty relaxed – and it was a pleasant experience after all. Without him we would probably have never found the spot where he took us on our drive to the oasis, a viewpoint that looked down onto the scenic gorge below.
Looking out from this point we could see the stream that runs through Fint Oasis and provides it with the water needed to grow the lush, green vegetation on the otherwise desolate ground glistening below us in the winter sun. The stream had created a horseshoe shaped bend, much like in the Grand Canyon, over millions of years and provided the villages with a source for food and drinking water. It was a truly spectacular and unusual sight. Further in the distance we noticed a large complex of buildings that appeared like a fata morgana – castles in the stone desert. They turned out to be new additions of film sets for the growing Ouallywood emporium.
Strolling Along the Riverbed
Once we had arrived in the valley below, we parked in a car park near the local school. We could see the kids leaving for lunch where they would spend the hottest hours of the days in the cool of their homes, before returning for more lessons in late afternoon. Aziz, our guide led us through the undergrowth and past vegetable gardens to the riverbed. We crossed irrigation channels filled with clear, cool mountain water before reaching a path that ran parallel to the stream. Aziz swiftly created a camel necklace from the strands of a palm leaf, which Jerome wore for the entire day and even took back home to London with him.
Interesting History of Fint Oasis
Aziz told us interesting facts about the history of the settlement and the native people living in Fint Oasis. It surprised us when he explained that it was only a few years ago, with the help of the Spanish, that they had been connected to electricity and also received running water in some of the houses by pumping the water out of the river and up into purpose built containers, which we could make out on the hillside.
Panoramic Views of the Villages
A small hill offered us some panoramic views of the mud huts in the villages. It was immediately noticeable that some of the dwellings were deserted and crumbling, while others looked newly renovated. Passing a bathhouse, Aziz explained that the local people would come here for to take a communal bath, similar to a hammam. The water was heated by burning the accumulated trash and we could only imagine the stench from the smoke of smouldering plastic and rubbish.
La Terrasse des Delices
We knew that Aziz would lead us to a restaurant or shop and sure enough we ended up on the terrace of La Terrasse des Delices, where we only ordered drinks for us, as we were not hungry for lunch yet. The small family run hotel would surely be a great spot to spend a night or two and the food looked like good local fare. There even was a small pool and the design of the rooms and facilities could easily rival some of the hotels found in Ouarzazate.
After we had finished our Moroccan mint tea we strolled back towards our car. Crossing the stream bed we watched the local women wash their clothes in the river water and the drying outfits brought a bright pop of colour to the otherwise subdued surroundings. Back at our car we thanked Aziz with a generous tip and said goodbye to him.
With a few hours to spare we decided to drive into Ouarzazte and visit the Taourirt Kasbah, probably the only other sight worth visiting in town besides one of the film studios. We found a parking spot close to the Kasbah and strolled towards the entrance.
Straight upon arrival at the gate guides harassed us, wanting to show us around the ancient Kasbah but we declined all offers and entered the walls of the well-preserved trading post, after buying tickets. Unlike the Glaoui Kasbah we had explored in Telouet, Taourirt escaped ruin and parts of the original features can be seen inside the mud brick fort. The warren of stairs and halls are a delight to be discovered for children, although the restored rooms were a disappointment for us, having seen grander architecture elsewhere. It also did not help that some of the chambers were used as galleries for cheap artworks that gave the Kasbah the feel of being a tourist trap as much as an historic building.
Late Lunch at Douyira
After discovering the Taouirt Kasbah we were ready to fill our stomachs. Supposedly one of the best restaurants in Ouarzazate we had late lunch at Douyira, famous for its tajines. We opted for the unusual dish of dromedary meat with figs and a classic lamb tajine with dates. Both were delicious and we can highly recommend the tender dromedary meat to anyone of a more adventurous nature, even Jerome seemed keen to try a few bites.
Visiting Fint Oasis was a truly idyllic destination and we can happily recommend a detour to this palm oasis near Ouarzazate. The Taouirt Kasbah on the other hand was a rather disappointing and in our eyes overrated experience and we would advise to visit other kasbahs, the area between Marrakesh and the Sahara will spoil you with options. Our favourite was the glorious Glaoui in Telouet, but also worth mentioning are Kasbah Tamengoualt covered in street art and the famous Kasbah des Caids, a maze of still inhabited buildings that featured in the Hollywood movie “Babel”. Both these are located in the scenic Draa Valley, near the town of Agdz. Sad to leave Cote Sud behind, we would leave for the Sahara desert the following day, the true highlight of our recent trip through Morocco.
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