Exploring the Largest Palm Oasis
It had been easy to fall quickly in love with the lush palmeraie around Agdz and the calm waters of the Draa River Valley. The serene Lodge Hara Oasis provided us with the perfect base for exploring the largest palm oasis in the world, and our kind hosts had suggested an easy hike to the nearby kasbahs in Tamnougalt as a first day expedition. After breakfast we packed some water and other essentials for our walk into a backpack and off we wandered, through the back door of the hotel, into the wild of the Draa Valley riverbed.
Crossing the Draa River
The riverbed contains water during the Winter months and after heavy rain downpours, otherwise it forms calm lakes in the deeper areas of the stream bed. This Oeud lay dried in front of us and was easily traversed by foot being criss-crossed here and there by stony paths used by the locals. Watching out for geodes we wandered out, Jerome was still set on finding one! We slowly crossed to the other side of the Draa River, where we had passed a little village with its crumbling Kasbah the evening before. Once we had reached the river’s bank we had no trouble to find the dusty track that would lead us towards the ancient Kasbahs in Tamnougalt running through the cultivated flood plains parallel to the main riverbed.
Wanders Through the Moroccan Countryside
Under the verdant canopy of the palms, the path wound through farmer’s fields, each surrounded by low mud brick walls. Besides the odd song of a bird in the trees we sometimes could hear the distant hum of a passing motorbike but otherwise it was a peaceful stroll through the Moroccan countryside. Some of the fields were empty and the earth looked dry, others were planted with vegetables and in a few fields we could watch the farmers at work. Some women harvested fruit and packed them into large sacks, before placing them on a donkey drawn wooden cart before they would be transported to the next village. Most of the people that we passed did not even take notice of us wandering by, a few greeted us with a friendly “bonjour” and a curious look on their faces. I guess not so many tourist venture out along these tracks.
The Village of Tafergalt
After a while we reached Tafergalt, where we swapped the shade of the palm oasis for the sunny roads through the village, which were surprisingly busy. The local kids had just left school for their lunch break and passed by with their cheerful chatters. Two local women dressed in colourful outfits approached us, balancing bulging sacks on their heads. Peeking out behind the younger woman we noticed the inquisitive face of a baby strapped to her back.
The Towering Kasbah of Tamnougalt
Ahead of us we could see the Kasbah of Tamnougalt towering above us on the barren hillside. I had spotted the fort on our drive to the Sahara desert a few days before and thought it would be interesting to visit the building, especially for Jerome, as it appeared much larger in size compared to the ones we had visited before and the high walls had the distinguishing look of a traditional, western style fortress.
Sweeping Views Across the Draa Valley
Climbing up the rubble-strewn hill, we were finally able to take in the sweeping views across the vast palm filled Draa valley. The green expanse of trees bordered the riverbanks for miles and stood in stark contrast to the otherwise deserted brown landscape. In comparison, it made the oasis at Fint, near Ouarzazate, look like a backyard garden, although we have fond memories of our wonders there, too. The mountains on either side of the canyon glistened in the bright sunlight and reminded us of the scenery in cowboy movies, I had originally hoped that we would be able to ascend one of the mountaintops but according to our host, this was sadly impossible to achieve due to the crumbling rocks.
A Giant Open-Air Art Museum
Astonishingly, the walls of the Kasbah at Tamnougalt, were covered in colourful murals. Local artists must have discovered the ramparts as the perfect canvas for their large-scale artworks. It was amazing to stroll along the walls and explore the different paintings, like a giant open-air art museum. Jerome had quickly found his favourite mural, a black cat curled up into a cuddly ball It was certainly not the most imaginative artwork found along the walls of the Kasbah but I could see why he might be drawn to it.
Inside the Kasbah
Stepping inside the walls of the Kasbah at Tamnougalt, we could have perhaps got lost in the maze of alleys and rooms. A local man approached us, wanting to guide us through the abandoned fortress but we declined politely, trying to discover the citadel on our own. The inner walls were also covered in paintings and the floors showed reminders of people camping or partying in inside the fort, they also contained some rubble from the building itself. The beautifully arched windows and doors were a distinct reminder of the Kasbahs former glory, although one must possess very good imagination to envision a similar grandeur to the Kasbah we had visited in the Atlas Mountains in Telouet. We have the feeling that this imposing reminder of Morocco’s past eras will be left to rubble and disintegrate, but at least for now it provides the local artists with an outlet for their creativity.
The Caids Kasbah
After our wanders to the Kasbah at Tamnougalt and discovery of the artworks we were headed for the village and the Caids Kasbah, which came to fame thanks to its feature in the Hollywood movie “Babel”. Curious? Find out more in our following post.
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