sahara desert tours from marrakech

MAIN MOROCCO SAHARA DESERT CITIES

 

In Morocco, the desert is not only a large area of sand, there are many that do not fit this definition. Let’s take a look to the main desert cities in Morocco.

Ouarzazate, the door of the Moroccan desert

 

Thirty years after his first trip to Morocco, Michel Cirodde took advantage of his wife’s birthday to offer her a twelve-day stay in this country they loved so much. After Tangier, Fez and Marrakech, they rush into the Moroccan desert to the famous oasis of Ouarzazate. In the middle of this desert plateau, the snowy peaks of the High Atlas stand out: a contrasting landscape that the country’s film industry has coveted for years. “After being disappointed by Marrakech, we were seduced by Ouarzazate, its colors, its architectural heritage. At the crossroads of the Dades and Draa valleys and the wadi of the same name, Ouarzazate is of immense tourist interest, reinforced by the proximity of the High Atlas and the Saharan desert.

 

The film studios of Ouarzazate, Morocco Taking advantage of an exceptional luminosity and magnificent natural scenery, Ouarzazate has become the Moroccan Hollywood. The movie studios, here the Atlas Studios, generate important revenues in the region which allow the maintenance of the architectural heritage. Great productions have been filmed here: Lawrence of Arabia, Babel but also The Mummy or Gladiator: The kasbah of Taourirt
La ville de Ouarzazate, au Maroc
Les studios de cinéma de Ouarzazate, au Maroc

 

The ksar Aït-Ben-Haddou in the province of Ouarzazate, Morocco
The ksar Aït-Ben-Haddou is one of the most beautiful in Morocco. Located 10 kilometers from Ouarzazate, this fortified village is clinging to the side of an arid hill that descends to the banks of a wadi. Although restored, it has been abandoned by most of its inhabitants who preferred the comfort of a rebuilt village on the opposite bank, from where the photos are taken. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ksar Aït-Ben-Haddou has been used as a setting for many films: A biblical image

 

 
La kasbah de Taourirt, dans la région de Ouarzazate au Maroc

 

M’HAMID EL GHIZLANE

 

The oasis of Mhamid Elghizlane is a rural commune in the south – east of Morocco, belonging to the province of Zagora in the extreme south-east of the region of Souss Massa Draâ.
The original adobe buildings of M’Hamid are mostly dilapidated and only a few mostly poor families live in those. In recent decades new houses have been built in M’Hamid in the typical construction of the Marrocan South on concrete floors with walls of hollow concrete blocks which are painted bright red. Desert winds always carry masses of sand in the city.
The wadi Draa crosses the palm grove over a length of 120 km, from Foum Tidri to the national park of Iriqui.

The climate prevailing in Mhamid El-Ghizlane is of Saharan type, characterized by aridity.

The temperature can reach, in summer, the 45°c, while during the winter, it varies between 10°c and 18°c.

The vegetation cover of the region of Mhamid El Ghizlane is made up of plants that can withstand heat, cold and lack of water (date palms, tamarisk aphylla.

 

Agriculture is almost impossible without irrigation. Topographically, the region is divided into several units:

A vast basin which represents 60% of the total surface of the palm grove.
The mountain range of “Bani” to the north – west of Mhamid Elghizlane.
Desert plains in the south and east of the region which constitute a part of Hamada du Draâ.
Mhamid El Ghizlane is world famous for its Chegaga sand dunes, which lend themselves to extraordinary desert and camel rides with breathtaking landscapes.

 

 

ZAGORA

 

Zagora is on of the most famous Sahara desert cities in Morocco. It is located at the end of the Draa Valley, in the Draa-Tafilalet Region in southern Morocco. With a total area of 2,180,307 ha, it is bordered to the north by the province of Ouarzazate, to the east by the province of Errachidia, to the southwest by the province of Tata and to the southeast by the Algerian-Moroccan borders.

 

The new town of Zagora dates from the French protectorate of which it was one of the administrative centers. However, the oasis had been inhabited for much longer, since it was the base for the departure of the Almoravid conquests towards Sijilmassa, then the Souss, to finally found their capital in Marrakech.

 

. A few kilometers from Zagora, the most impressive dunes of the whole south, called the dunes of Chegaga, rise. You can also cross the wadi and go for a quiet walk in the palm grove. At the exit of the city, a few kilometers away, a panoramic point on the palm grove awaits you.

 

Zagora has one of the most beautiful palm groves in the country, and is the pride of this region of Drâa. Its explorers on camels or by car recognize the generosity of this desert which offers them peace, purity and simplicity. Diversity of flora, fauna, nature, mountains with original reddish shapes and colors, oases, wadis, forests (Tamaris and Acacia), and very beautiful dunes with golden colors Tinfou, M’Hamid El Ghizlane, Chegaga, Erg Lihoudi and N’Khila. This oasis that is the Draa Valley, watered by the wadi and dotted with date palms, has one of the most beautiful and spectacular desert landscapes of the Sahara.

 

How to get there
From Marrakech: 350 km by taking the national road N 9, road passing by the summits of the High Atlas. From Ouarzazate: 160 km by the N 9 also. Zagora also has a small airport, but for the moment it is only open to national flights.

 

The period
Avoid summer!
Zagora has a hot desert climate typical of the Moroccan desert with long, hot summers and short, pleasantly warm winters. Therefore, prefer autumn and spring!

 

 

 

 

 

Merzouga is famous for its dunes, the highest in Morocco. The village adjoins the largest erg in Morocco, the erg Chebbi.

Merzouga has become a major tourist attraction for this region of Morocco, allowing the development of a hotel industry, both locally and in the neighboring towns of Errachidia and Erfoud.

Merzouga is also known by students from France and Europe, for more than a decade, for being the drop-off point of the famous student Raid, the Raid 4L Trophy, which sets up its bivouac there each year with its 1200 cars.

The activities offered to tourists are camel trekking, bivouac in the desert, quad biking, and, in summer, arénothérapie (or sand bath) also called psammatothérapie.

The balance of the site of Merzouga is threatened by the anarchic construction of hotels, the tourist overcrowding and the development of “mechanical sports” (quad).

This hotel tourism has an ecological impact: overexploitation of water resources and non-compliance with the rules of wastewater treatment

 

 

RISSANI

 

 

The city which was once a major caravanning center on the road to Timbuktu and the capital of Tafilalet is now mainly a possible starting point for the dunes of Merzouga further south. A circuit on the outskirts of the city also allows you to discover its palm grove and several ksour.
Landmarks
– Type of place: small town.
– Tourist interest: (if you are in the surroundings).
– Location: In the heart of Tafilalet on the road to Merzouga.
– Distances: Erfoud (20 km north), Errachidia (95 km north), Merzouga (40 km south)
– Local time: 19:39 (August 2).
– Population: 20,500 inhabitants (2012).
– Surface area:
– Altitude: 760 m.
– Website:

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History of Rissani
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In addition:
– Guides > History of Morocco.
– Guides > Society of Morocco.

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Things to see and do in Rissani
Despite some points of interest, the city is far from being tourist or even worth a long stop.
– Mausoleum Moulay Ali Cherif: south of the city, access is prohibited to non-Muslims.
– Souks: lively on market days.
– Ksour of the surroundings: a small circuit of about twenty kilometers around the city allows to see several ksar more or less in state.

 

Morocco includes a part of Sahara Desert

Urbanization of the Sahara: a challenge to traditional settlement
Among the major trends that are at the origin of these phenomena, there is of course the extension of urbanization, deforestation, the expansion of areas devoted to agriculture and livestock, or the construction of dams.

The Sahara is characterized by unprecedented urbanization processes. These processes are sometimes part of a territorial development logic driven by the State, or express an informal urbanization, known as “from below”, which reflects the dynamism as well as the recomposition of Saharan territories and their societies. Cities have thus become the reference living environment for the majority of the Saharan population and constitute the real structuring poles of life in the desert.

 

 

Map of Saharan cities / urbanization

Recent Saharan urbanization, correlated with major demographic growth, has called into question these geographical balances. On the one hand, it is re-characterizing the relationship between man and his environment, and on the other hand, the social interactions that were the basis of Saharan settlement, such as the relationship between town and country and nation-states and territories. All of these transformations have generated extremely different situations in the different Saharan regions. These concerns relate to the growth and densification of populations in fragile environments, the development and extension of urban structures that are sometimes incoherent. In addition to these, there are factors of change in economic activities, but also geopolitical contexts, such as the confrontation of divergent strategies of actors, delicate management of local resources, the destructuring of value systems and traditional spatial practices, or the emergence of new forms of mobility and migration.

 

Urbanizing in extreme territories
As an example, we can cite the structuring urbanization along the Atlantic Sahara, in southern Morocco, such as Laâyoune, Boujdour, Es Smara or Dakhla. These coastal cities have grown considerably over the past thirty years, and are home to 80% of the population of the region (Oued Eddahab-Lagouira); urbanization has reached a rate of 61% in the province of Guelmin-Es Smara and 92% in the province of Tan Tan. The population of these cities is now sedentary.

Since 2002, when the Agence des Provinces du Sud was created, these towns have been equipped with quality community facilities: media libraries, sports centers, and fishing villages. The supply of drinking water and electricity has become widespread. The road network was considerably extended in order to open up the cities of southern Morocco. The creation of ports, but also of tourist areas, should allow to further develop the potential of the southern cities.

 

(source: photo of Laayoune / Agence Maroc Tour, 2017)

All of these cities are developing in a very arid and difficult natural environment. Laayoune, the capital of the Saharan Provinces, is thus built in a site that we would describe as extreme, with all the critical infrastructure: streets, sanitation, perfectly managed water, energy, housing and even jobs. The natural environment of this city is always related to its genesis; when people have chosen a place to live, that place has always had a number of advantages over other more hostile places. However, when the creation of an agglomeration is linked to a mining or oil deposit or to a rural exodus, the conditions of habitat become imposed on an often heterogeneous and unacclimatized population.

 

Nevertheless, the works[ii], which deal not only with geology and climatology, but also with the problems faced by those in charge of development, conclude by highlighting the points of fragility of the coastline, partly linked to climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

Urbanization of the Sahara: a challenge to traditional settlement
Among the major trends that are at the origin of these phenomena, there is of course the extension of urbanization, deforestation, the expansion of areas devoted to agriculture and livestock, or the construction of dams.

The Sahara is characterized by unprecedented urbanization processes. These processes are sometimes part of a territorial development logic driven by the State, or express an informal urbanization, known as “from below”, which reflects the dynamism as well as the recomposition of Saharan territories and their societies. Cities have thus become the reference living environment for the majority of the Saharan population and constitute the real structuring poles of life in the desert.

 

 

Map of Saharan cities / urbanization

Recent Saharan urbanization, correlated with major demographic growth, has called into question these geographical balances. On the one hand, it is re-characterizing the relationship between man and his environment, and on the other hand, the social interactions that were the basis of Saharan settlement, such as the relationship between town and country and nation-states and territories. All of these transformations have generated extremely different situations in the different Saharan regions. These concerns relate to the growth and densification of populations in fragile environments, the development and extension of urban structures that are sometimes incoherent. In addition to these, there are factors of change in economic activities, but also geopolitical contexts, such as the confrontation of divergent strategies of actors, delicate management of local resources, the destructuring of value systems and traditional spatial practices, or the emergence of new forms of mobility and migration.

 

Urbanizing in extreme territories
As an example, we can cite the structuring urbanization along the Atlantic Sahara, in southern Morocco, such as Laâyoune, Boujdour, Es Smara or Dakhla. These coastal cities have grown considerably over the past thirty years, and are home to 80% of the population of the region (Oued Eddahab-Lagouira); urbanization has reached a rate of 61% in the province of Guelmin-Es Smara and 92% in the province of Tan Tan. The population of these cities is now sedentary.

Since 2002, when the Agence des Provinces du Sud was created, these towns have been equipped with quality community facilities: media libraries, sports centers, and fishing villages. The supply of drinking water and electricity has become widespread. The road network was considerably extended in order to open up the cities of southern Morocco. The creation of ports, but also of tourist areas, should allow to further develop the potential of the southern cities.

 

(source: photo of Laayoune / Agence Maroc Tour, 2017)

All of these cities are developing in a very arid and difficult natural environment. Laayoune, the capital of the Saharan Provinces, is thus built in a site that we would describe as extreme, with all the critical infrastructure: streets, sanitation, perfectly managed water, energy, housing and even jobs. The natural environment of this city is always related to its genesis; when people have chosen a place to live, that place has always had a number of advantages over other more hostile places. However, when the creation of an agglomeration is linked to a mining or oil deposit or to a rural exodus, the conditions of habitat become imposed on an often heterogeneous and unacclimatized population.

 

Nevertheless, the works[ii], which deal not only with geology and climatology, but also with the problems faced by those in charge of development, conclude by highlighting the points of fragility of the coastline, partly linked to climate change.

 

 

 

Merzouga is famous for its dunes, the highest in Morocco. The village adjoins the largest erg in Morocco, the erg Chebbi.

Merzouga has become a major tourist attraction for this region of Morocco, allowing the development of a hotel industry, both locally and in the neighboring towns of Errachidia and Erfoud.

Merzouga is also known by students from France and Europe, for more than a decade, for being the drop-off point of the famous student Raid, the Raid 4L Trophy, which sets up its bivouac there each year with its 1200 cars.

The activities offered to tourists are camel trekking, bivouac in the desert, quad biking, and, in summer, arénothérapie (or sand bath) also called psammatothérapie.

The balance of the site of Merzouga is threatened by the anarchic construction of hotels, the tourist overcrowding and the development of “mechanical sports” (quad).

This hotel tourism has an ecological impact: overexploitation of water resources and non-compliance with the rules of wastewater treatment

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

sahara desert tours from marrakech

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Morocco Desert Tours – Sahara Tourism

 ☏+34 638 903 318

 ✉  contact@moroccosaharatourism.com

Jemaa el-Fna. Rue El Ksour, Marrakech 40000

 

Sahara desert cities morocco
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