Exploring Ancient Fortresses
Morocco’s countryside is dotted with kasbah’s or ksars, ancient fortress trading posts that were built during the eras of caravans traversing between the Sahara desert and Marrakesh. The most famous mud brick citadel is without a doubt Ait Benhaddou, thanks to it featuring in countless Hollywood movies. One of the lesser explored larger kasbahs, the caid of Agdz, also featured in as successful Hollywood production, “Babel” with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. However, as it has a more remote location en route to the Sahara desert near Agdz, it has saved this Kasbah from being over crowded like its larger and more famous ksar near Ouarzazate.
Investigating Mud Brick Castles
We were spending the last days of our Moroccan trip exploring in and around the town of Agdz. We had already discovered the large fortress of Tamnougalt on our hike that morning, which has been used as a playground for local artists during recent years. The nearby Caids Kasbah had been also recommended as a place for us to explore by our host and although we had already visited a few since our arrival in Morocco we were curious to investigate another mud brick castle as each has its charms.
Encounter With Some Local Kids
On our stroll downhill from the Kasbah of Tamnougalt we could see the village and the lush green palm trees that make the area the largest palm oasis in the world. Heading for a restaurant we strolled along the local tarmac road before turning onto a dirt track at the cemetery walls into the village. Some local kids were running along with us and one of the boys rather shocked us by his request for “dirhams”. We had encountered many kids on our travels in Morocco and Marrakesh before but few of them outside the main tourist area in the big city had ever asked for money before. Looking back at it now, I think we were too shocked to even consider giving him a small amount of money.
Lunch at Restaurant Chez Yaakoub
The restaurant we had chosen for lunch was right beside the entrance of the Kasbah and it even sold entrance tickets to the mud brick fort. After hiking all morning we decided lunch was a priority and took seats on the roof terrace at Cafe Chez Yaakoub, overlooking the Draa Valley and the surrounding mountainside. The food was the standard fare, tajines with bread, and after eating similar dishes for the last ten days we were starting to get bored of the local cuisine. However we enjoyed our lunch in the warm winter sun and took our time sipping drinks before purchasing tickets for the Caid Kasbah.
Entering the Caid Kasbah
A guide wanted to show us around but we were set on exploring the inside on our own. However he guided us through the main entrance gate into a large courtyard and told us some facts about the Kasbah. The Caid’s Kasbah is one of the last of its kind that locals actually call home. We could see the colourful washing on the lines strung across some windows and the distinct smell of smoke was in the air. The guide showed us to one room where a small wooden fire was lit, a pot hung from above and the smoke rose through the narrow chimney in its ceiling.
Aimless Wanders Through the Maze
The Kasbah is a large cluster of mud brick houses, built along a warren of dark corridors that the guide left us to explore and get lost in once we had left the more inhabited area. Although the air outside had been a pleasant temperature, the sun barely reached the inside of the dark alleyways and therefore they had a chilly air, probably welcome during the unbearably hot summer months. We aimlessly wandered through the maze of this peaceful hideout. The sun rays created mesmerizing light effects on the walls and at times we were almost completely engulfed by darkness. To our surprise we passed no one else on our tour and eventually we found light at the end of a long tunnel and turned to find a back exit from the Kasbah.
Walking Back to Lodge Hara Oasis
It took us some time to adjust to the brightness of the sunlight and then we strolled along the tarmac road towards the Draa River. Instead of taking the same route back to Lodge Hara Oasis we chose to return on the opposite side of the riverbed.
Route Through the Riverbed
Although we thought we had found the right path that runs along the river to the hotel we eventually ended up among some farmed fields and so after retracing some steps we decided to take the easy route straight through the dry riverbed hoping we would not hit any larger patches of water. Turning back we could see the majestic Tamnougalt Kasbah perched above on a hill and the reeds gently waved their brushes in the calm winds.
Whiling Away the Time
The riverbed turned out to be dry and stony fringed with the reeds and the date palms behind. We were able to follow a sort of track along the dry bed, clearly walked by a number of feet before us. The way was hard underfoot but we soon found ourselves close to Lodge Hara Oasis, somehow the way back seemed shorter than the way out. As we approached the hotel we found the usual carpets set on the riverbank so we took some moments to rest overlooking the small lake watching for kingfishers and other birds, whiling away the moments until dinner time.
Our Next Day
As we relaxed from our day exploring the Caid and Tamnougalt Kasbah, we discussed options for our next days walk, deciding on a route up river and then round into Agdz itself and back to the hotel.
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