A Classic Caravanserai
Among the lush oasis in the Draa Valley lies Agdz, a town often overseen by travellers heading to and from the Sahara Desert. Most visitors just whizz by in their tour buses without even getting a glance at the classic caravanserai hidden beneath the canopy of thousands of date palms and the large number of traditional mud brick kasbahs doting the valley. The mountains towering over the palms add to the incredible scenery. We had already briefly gazed on it during our drive down to Mhamid for our overnight glamping expedition in the desert but now could savour it. With foresight I had already booked a small hotel on the shores of the Draa River for our last few nights of this trip to Morocco. It had seemed the right kind of place to explore, with the possibility of a few hikes in the area, rather than driving straight back to Marrakesh.
Driving to Agdz
Having left our camp in the Sahara desert behind, we were looking forward to a decent shower, to rid us of the sand that seemed to have accumulated everywhere on our bodies. The drive from Agdz to Mhamid was fairly uneventful, however the changing landscapes kept us entertained throughout and we made a brief stop for lunch at Restaurant Atmani in Ouled Otmane. The grilled chicken skewers not only fed us but the entire cat population in the restaurant to Jerome’s delight.
Lodge Hara Oasis
Thanks to Juan, the owner of Lodge Hara Oasis and his detailed description we found the hotel without too much trouble. It lies well hidden along a narrow dirt track, a short drive from the main road in Agdz. Upon arrival our luggage was taken straight from us, but instead of being given the keys to our room, we were taken for a stroll away from the hotel. The aim of the walk, which Juan plans for all new guests, is to get them immersed and accustomed to the nature and the peaceful area that surrounds the little hotel. Walking along the dusty walled path, we passed through a local farmers village with crumbling mud dwellings surrounded by fields filled with palm trees and interspersed with other crops. Our guide told us a few facts about the village and the region, and after a few minutes we reached a slender path that runs along the Draa riverbank beside a stretch of water.
Walking through some low bushes we were invited to sit on a traditional Moroccan carpet laid in a serene spot on the river’s edge. Once seated, we were served mint tea and a selection of homemade biscuits as a welcome. This was certainly a surprise and an unusual but pleasant way of checking into a hotel. We could have quite happily sat there for a while, overlooking the calm waters of the Draa, the colourful shrubs and mountains reflecting in the dark water. Jerome was happy when a cat turned up and joined him on the carpet. A short while later, our hotel guide was called for prayers and we felt obliged to follow him through the back entrance into the hotel proper.
Exploring the Draa Valley
After we had checked into our room, really a small, cosy hut, we were finally able to enjoy a hot shower and rid ourselves of our sand collection. As we had a few hours spare until dinner we decided to explore more of the area, having tasted its beauty earlier… Leaving the hotel’s grounds through the back door, we crossed the riverbed where it had dried up and walked across to the other side of the valley. Jerome kept an eye on the rocks in the stony dry river bed, he still was keen to find a stone that might contain a geode. On the other side of the river lay a small village with an abandoned kasbah, these structures really seemed to be everywhere! Some boys, slightly younger than Jerome followed us on their bikes on our stroll towards the bridge that would then take us back across the Draa River.
Meeting the Locals
Just after arriving on the other riverbank we spotted the path that would lead us back to the hotel. Shortly after that a group of local women in their brightly coloured outfits passed us following the river side path. Almost straight afterwards, a man on a donkey rode by too!
Eventually we arrived at the hotel welcome carpet on the riverbank and sat down to enjoy the evening sun pouring through the palm trees and bushes. Jerome got excited when he noticed a kingfisher sitting on a branch across the water. He failed to take a photo of his favourite bird, who flew off into the distance just as he got the camera. There were other birds hiding in the trees and on the water’s edge and we gladly watched them for some time.
The sun had lowered itself behind the canopy of trees and the air started to get chilly. We returned to Hara Oasis, where Jerome was overjoyed to discover a large number of cats and kittens living on the hotel’s ground. He immediately was drawn to these fur balls and spent a long time stroking and playing with them. The hour before dinner, we passed by the warmth of the open fire of the hotel’s living room playing games. We were the first guests to sit down for dinner, but we did not care as we were rather hungry and wanted to get an early night. The food tasted rather too bland for our liking compared to our other meals on the trip, but we felt like a restful evening without the stress of getting out to nearby Agdz.
Our Next Day in the Draa Valley
The following day we would discover two very different kasbahs in the Draa Valley, one used as a playground for artists, the other one had reached fame thanks to its appearance in the Hollywood film “Babel”.
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