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First Date in Morocco


Zagora, the Draa Valley and return to Ouarzazate

To avoid covering our tracks on our return to Ouarzazate we took the road to Zagora, the main town at the end of the Draa Valley. Famous, for its signpost to Timbouktu, we were less enamoured with the place after our night at Erg Chebbi.  Another administrative centre, the town discovered the economic benefits of tourism in the 1990’s. Hotels, 4 wheeled drives and aggressive bargaining abound. Our stay was not improved by our choice of hotel. The “Fibule du Draa” was marketed with three disingenuous stars. Clearly we don’t mind basic, having spent the previous night in a facility free nomadic encampment. However, our expectations had been mismanaged. We had an en-suite room complete with a filthy, fetid non-flushing lavatory, a kicked in bathroom door, non-working taps and a rusty spring displayed sharply through our stained mattress. The facilities were complemented by staff who graduated with distinction at the Basil Fawlty School of service. Quite simply, the Fibule was the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

After the muezzin’s dawn chorus, we bargained for salvation, a little pottery and made our way eastbound to Ouarzazate through the Draa Valley. The road is spectacular. The Draa was once, one of the longest rivers in North West Africa until being significantly shortened by cultivation. Ribbons of vivid, technicoloured palmeries line its edge and weave their way through the desert. We passed through villages with flat roofed houses and red earthed Kasbahs, prior to leaving the valley behind and traversing the Jbel Anaouar Mountains. The view as we descended to Ouarzazate on the plain, ahead of the sun setting behind the town concluded our last drive. The Yaris was to be collected the following morning and returned home to Marrakech for a much needed wash and service.

The cure got through

My “Moroccophobia” had been cured, and (Fibule aside) Nibby had chilled. Apart from Erg Chebbi, we’d survived on couscous, tagine and roadside dates, had some wonderful experiences and enjoyed hospitality in the most hassle free region of the country.  Take your best socks (you’ll be removing your shoes a lot), and make a date south of the Atlas.

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