From the Drâa valley to the Chegaga desert
The valley of Drâa is a 200 km long palm grove with yesteryear villages and kasbahs spreading from Agdz to Mhamid, passing by Zagora.
Browse the Drâa valley
This visit begins at the ksar of Tamnougalt, nestled 6 km from Agdz, in a green oasis. It is an intense feeling to stroll through these untouched alleys and worn porches, offering us this traditional adobe architecture as well as its old mellah fallen into disuse, the ultimate sign of the Jewish population that has left so much of its heritage in these lands of past.
The Oued Drâa then leads us to Tansikht, a small town from where you can choose to branch off to the east and cross the southern Jbel Sagho to Rissani and the Tafilalet.
Also, from Tanskhit to Zagora, you can leave the freshness of the palm grove for a more rocky and desert, but magnificent, route. taking the pass Azlag, next to the Jbel Zeroual. Extraordinary mineral landscapes already foreshadowing the lunar Sagho.
Alternatively, you can enjoy the welcoming banks of the Oued Drâa and the Ksar Tissergate a few kilometers north of Zagora. It hosts the Museum of Arts and Traditions of Drâa. Housed in a beautiful kasbah, this museum presents a very beautiful and complete collection of objects, utensils and various tools, clothes, jewels, telling what was the simple life of Berber farmers in this valley.
Then, Zagora, the capital of this long valley down the Jbel of the same name. It’s the last major stopover in the Saharan South. The mythical panel: Timbuktu 52 days out of Zagora testifies. Nevertheless, from Zagora there are numerous camel excursions or bivouacs to the Jbel Bani or towards M’Hamid, towards the dunes of Tinfou or the erg Lehoudi. Successful adventures giving a Saharan foretaste, with Berber music and sky ample constellated stars.
Separated from Zagora by the river, the Douar of Amzrou remains a witness to the cosmopolitanism of the valley with its old Jewish mellah, a maze of narrow alleys spanned by covered passages and surrounded by imposing ramparts recalling the past time.
Nonchalantly, the flow of the Oued Drâa takes us to Tamegroute. This douar houses the famous Zaouia Naciri. This Qur’anic school, founded in the 7th century by Sidi Mohammed Bennaceur, keeps within its adobe walls a very old library containing many centuries-old books, medical history and illuminated old corans.
Finally it’s the arrival at Mhamid, on the threshold of the desert, the Erg Chegaga and the Algerian border. The flow of the Draa passing through the oasis of Nesrate is running out of steam. The different ergs traveled are like a call to the deep south and already foreshadow the great myth of the Saharan adventure.
The Oued Drâa is considered to be the longest Moroccan river. Taking its source in the High Atlas, it drains painfully on the end of its journey to its estuary at Cape Drâa, next to Tan-Tan.
The endemic lack of rainfall in southern Morocco means that, from the dried-up lake of the Iriki, the Oued Drâa has difficulty to spawn its riverbed in these desert and arid zones. Some writings from the Roman period mention that its banks were once populated with crocodiles.
After leaving the lake formed by the El Mansour Addahbi dam, the Drâa runs a little south of the village of Agdz. From there, its waters manage to irrigate the long and narrow valley, bordered by the Jbel Bani and the Sagho, which it forms as far as Mhamid, Saharan desert gates, where its flow becomes ghostly.
From Rebat, down the Jbel Kissane, to Tamegroute, its course manages to cover with its benefits this beautiful valley of Drâa, its small cultivated oases where crops vegetables and cereals abound among many varieties of birds.
Its descent to Mhamid is a succession of palm groves as equally magnificent as the others. Doted of kasbahs and old ksour, they tell through their typical architecture, the history of the Moroccan South and the diverse populations having stayed there.
From Ouarzazate to Agdz, the road crosses a mainly mineral arid landscape and crosses the “Tizi-n-Tiniffift” pass at more than 1600 m altitude. From Agdz, it’s the beginning of the sumptuous landscape of the immense oasis.
Nicknamed the thousand kasbahs valley, the wonderful palm grove of the Drâa offers for amateurs a great variety of old kasbahs and ksour made of adobe. These majestic buildings, defying time, are part of the treasures of the Moroccan architectural heritage.
The road now follows the valley, reserving some views of the Oued Drâa bordered by pink laurels, palm groves, and the many ksour which follow one another from Agdz to Mhamid; Their appearance blend admirably in this beautiful landscape.
Ksour and Kasbahs to visit
The old ksar of Tamnougalt, 6 km from Agdz, nestled in a verdant oasis with its untouched alleys and its beautifully worked porches, delights us with this wonderful traditional adobe architecture from southern Morocco.
The Museum of Arts and Traditions of Drâa, in the village of Tissegarte, 10km north of Zagora, is housed in a beautiful and ancient kasbah. A beautiful and complete exhibition of objects and utensils, tools, clothes, jewelry, explains what was the simple life of the Berber farmers living in the valley. On the same theme the museum ‘Big House’ in Ouled Driss, not far from Mhamid, in a several hundred years old kasbah.
Connecting Tansikth to Zagora by taking the tracks, with a 4×4, of the jbel Bou Seroual is a magnificent excursion. Splendid landscapes to discover between palm grove’s greenery, the Azlag parade and the rocky and desert rigor, with in the backdrop the splendid panorama of the Bou Seroual.
The small town of Tamegroute, south of Zagora, is the place where you can find the famous Zaouïa Naciri. Founded in the 12th century by Sidi Mohamed Benaceur, it’s a sacred place of pilgrimages in homage to the holy man buried in a marabout behind which is an important library containing thousands old volumes of history, medicine, and religious essays.
But Tamegroute is recognized throughout Morocco by the manufacture of a particular green pottery.
From Zagora to Mhamid
From Zagora to Mhamid, the desert begins to be felt, the arid plains follow the road often covering it with fine sand. In Mhamid, the asphalt road ends, leaving behind the trails that criss-cross the barren desert expanse: the erg Chegaga, and magnificent remote places.
A road passes to the north by the oasis of the Zaouia Sidi Abd in Nebi where you can admire an old marabout. The other one goes further south along the depression itself in a fantastic panorama.
The Zaouia Sidi Abd in Nebi’s oases and the sacred oasis Abd ed Rahmane are havens of freshness and a must go places on these magnificent trails linking Mhamid to Foum Zguid.
Drive through the Drâa valley
From Ouarzazate, the N9, good paved road, plunges to the south in the valley of Drâa. It takes 3 to 4 hours to reach Zagora by car. With a 4×4, you can take the track parallel to the road on the other side of the palm grove between Tamnougalte and Zagora, the scenery and the views are spectacular.
Service stations and garages
From Agdz there are service stations about every 50 km as well as the entrances and exits of agglomerations. No problem finding a garage in the valley, they are sufficient enough all along the road.
Banks and services in the Drâa valley
All banks with ATM distributors are represented in Agdz and Zagora. Elsewhere it’s rare to find one, especially in Mhamid where none of them is present.
Hotels and guest houses
It is advisable to make a stop in the valley of the Drâa, whether in Agdz, Zagora, Tamegroute or Mhamid. The accommodations, often charming, ensure a change of scenery and are ideal bases of departures for excursions in the surroundings or to go to discover the desert.
Sand baths, a cure for rheumatism
In the ergs around Mhamid, sand baths are highly prized for fighting rheumatism, but also for skin, muscle aches, blood circulation, pain and other joint diseases. Baths generally practiced in June / July, the body buried in the warm sand with the head in the shade.
Souk’s days in the Drâa valley
Agdz: Thursday – Tin Zoulin: Monday – Zagora: Sunday and Wednesday – Tamegroute: Saturday – Tagounit: Thursday and Sunday – Mhamid: Monday – Tamegroute: Saturday
Excursions within the Drâa valley, take us in search of fossils and meteorites. Or to take the winding paths of the immense palm grove, to visit the historical ksour. Or also to go further south to bivouac in the dunes of the erg Chegaga.
Hiking or biking with mountain bikes can be a way to enjoy a certain and welcome freshness, to discover the riches of this beautiful valley.
Another simple way to apprehend the palm grove, the nearby places, or the surrounding jbels, is a walk with a donkey. Further south, to the ergs Chegega, Lehoudi … Let yourself be carried away with a camel trek and a bivouac in a nature with wonderful landscapes.
You’ll have the possibilities to visit the Tamnougalt ksar, or the Tinfou dunes for a mint tea. Or maybe you’ll choose the potteries and the Qu’ranic library of Tamegroute, and will admire the presaharian mosque of Amezrou or simply reach the Desert Chegaga from Mhamid.
On Track for Merzouga
From Tansikht, 30 km before Zagora, a road joins the Tafilalet and the dunes of Merzouga. It borders the Anti-Atlas, crossing the villages of Nkob, with its 45 kasbahs, and Tazzarine, the Moroccan capital of henna.
Dunes and Desert
The erg Chegaga is located at 60 km from Mhamid. This large erg is several tens of kilometers long and 15 wide. To get there, it is necessary to rent a 4×4 with a guide who knows the region well. The most intrepid will use camels.
Spend the night in a bivouac tto admire the magnificent sunsets on these exceptional dunes where you can also practice the sand baths.
The erg Lehoudi means the erg of the Jews. Just about ten km from Mhamid, it looks like a natural dunes cordon. Its forms continually change with the strong Saharan winds. Like the erg Chegaga, bivouacs can be organized after a camel ride.
The Irikiregion, near the Djbel Bani, on the trail leading to Foum Zguig, is a magical place. It’s in this dry lake that the Oued Drâa sees its course often interrupted due to the lack of precipitation.
The Iiriki is an almost virgin place where succeed beautiful landscapes, interspersed with erg and green oases. It’s surrounded by two tracks connecting Foum Zguig, these tracks separating at the sacred source Abd ed Rahmane.
On track for oases and mountain trails
The nearby jbel Sagho promises beautiful walks. The road connecting Tansikht, to the Tafilalet allows the discovery, in magnificent landscapes and lunar plateaus, of small palm groves and villages like Nkob or Tazzarine.
From Tagounite, north of Mhamid, off-trail tracks lead to small forgotten oases, such as Nesrate and others in the jbel Tadrart.
The trails leaving from Zagora towards the jbel Bani are suitable for the discovery of small traditional Berber villages, convivial places to meet the inhabitants of this wonderful massif.