The Largest Palm Oasis in the World
Agdz unlike many other larger towns in Morocco has still kept its traditional Moroccan atmosphere, the red brick houses, with insides hidden from curious eyes by ornamented metal doors, the side roads still churning up dusty clouds whenever the odd car rolls along its bumpy surface. Although Agdz benefits from being nestled in the largest palm oasis in the world, it is still largely overseen by most tourists and only few travellers stay to explore its peaceful surroundings. We had already explored this scenic setting on our first day at Lodge Hara Oasis with a hike to two very different kasbahs, one used as a giant canvas for local artists, the other still home to many local families, despite its famous feature in the Hollywood movie “Babel”. For our last day in Agdz we wanted to explore the town centre after a walk along the Draa River Valley.
Walking Along the Draa Riverbed
Sadly the weather was not the glorious sunshine we had throughout the previous ten days exploring Morocco, a grey sliver of clouds covered the entire sky. Nevertheless we headed out onto the dry riverbed of the Draa Valley, leaving the small hotel behind. This time instead of turning down river, we walked north towards the bridge that passes across the riverbed a little upstream from the hotel. Although the riverbed is filled with rocks and boulders, a winding strip of fine sand and pebbles made our stroll a fairly pleasant one and every now and then we stumbled onto footprints, where locals must have passed through before us. The low wind accompanied us, rustling the leaves of trees and the stalks of the reeds gently swayed in the breeze. Jerome still had not tired of trying to find a stone that might contain a geode, but to no avail. I on the other hand, chanced upon a very small stone with the fossil of a twisted shell of a snail on its side. What a lucky find!
Wanders Through Fields Towards Agdz
Every now and then we saw someone walk or ride past on the local road that runs parallel to the river. The towering mountains to the opposing side of Agdz town lacked the colourful sheen from the preceding days but they still kept a mesmerising hook on us. We kept an eye on google maps, as we did not want to walk too far and miss our route into town. After about two kilometers we took a narrow path between the farmers fields towards Agdz. Eventually the fields were replaced by the high walls of local dwellings and further towards the road that leads to Tagheroute, a couple of ancient mud brick kasbahs had been turned into posh boutique hotels with swimming pools among lush gardens.
Exploring Local Shops
Soon we joined the tarmac road into Agdz and the bustle of local life. Men on donkey carts rode past, a throng of school children ran by, happy with laughter on their way home for lunch. Shops started to line the street, a sign that we were getting closer to town centre. The shops offered all kinds of wares that a local might need in their daily lives, everything from beds to buckets on offer. A carpenter displayed wooden doors and bed frames, a chicken shop the dead carcasses of the birds. By now we were almost used to the curious looks of the Moroccans and generally the stares turned into friendly smiles.
Visiting a Moroccan Souk
Shortly after we arrived at the main square, surrounded by shops, restaurants and a small souk to one side. Before trying to fill our stomachs with some food, I wanted to explore the local market, I always enjoy local life at a Moroccan souk. Entering underneath the imposing gate, we quickly noticed that the souk was very much a local affair, only one of the stalls sold textiles, carpets and baskets, goods that a tourist might be interested in purchasing.
Discoveries at the Souk
Its size was also surprisingly small and it was immediately obvious that it was a rather different experience to the souk in larger towns like Marrakesh. None of the stuffy, dark alleyways with peddlers trying to compete with each other for the tourists attention. It only took us a few minutes to walk across the entire souk, even though some of the goods certainly attracted our attention, like the live chicken perched into a tiny cage and the large carcasses, legs and heads of lamb on offer.
Lunch at Restaurant Draa
The choice of restaurants in Agdz was very limited and Chris fancied one of the crispy rotisserie chicken at Restaurant Draa, a welcome change to our food routine of tajines after tajines. We took a seat on one of their tables in the sun and soon Jerome had discovered a cat hiding near by under a chair. The food was tasty albeit the portions large in size. The cats polished off the excess!
Return to Lodge Hara Oasis
After lunch we took the direct route back to Lodge Hara Oasis along the winding path through the edge of town. The road then entered the oasis and winding underneath the canopy of palm leaves leading to the mud brick village just outside the hotel’s grounds.
The rest of the afternoon we spent lazing on the rooftop of the hotel, playing cards and stroking cats, Jerome’s favourite relaxation activity. We were sad about our impeding departure the next day, having thoroughly enjoyed this serene spot in the Draa Valley. That evening in conversation before dinner we were painfully made aware by our host that snow had covered the Atlas Mountain across the Tizi N’Tikka pass, the shortest and quickest route back to Marrakesh and the airport. The pass is generally closed during snowfall for all vehicles due to its head spinning bends.
Snowy Atlas Mountains
I took the news fairly easy, hoping that by the snow would stop falling overnight and in the morning the roads would be cleared and open again for traffic. Chris on the other hand was already on edge, checking out alternative routes and options. We debated what we should do, as the forecast was not much better for the next day in the mountains and we could not risk missing our flight. Are you curious who turned out to be right? Read all about our last adventure of this trip in Morocco in our next post.
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