Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Explore the desert from Ouarzazate

The southern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate (pronounced Wazza-zat) is the perfect jumping-off place to explore the desert region by camel, mule, quad-bike or on foot. The View from Fez team visited recently.
The city comprises the ancient kasbah as well as a French-built garrison town built in the 1920s. There are plenty of restaurants, and supermarkets for stocking up for a desert trip. It's also a good base for visiting the Dades Gorge, Todra Gorge, the Valley of the Roses and surrounding kasbah villages.

While you might think that Ouarzazate would be all sand and dust, there's a suprising amount of water. Just outside the town is a massive dam on the Draa River and a wide expanse of wetlands that forms a Ramsar protected area, ie a wetland of international importance.

Ramsar-protected wetlands in Ouarzazate

Birdwatching here is highly recommended: spotted recently were Grey Heron, Ruddy Shelduck, Kentish Plover, Marbled Teal and even Osprey. White Storks nest on the ruined kasbahs and on every minaret.

storks nesting on the ruined kasbah next to Dar Daif

In Ouarzazate, the Team discovered another oasis, Dar Daif, which is a great place to stay. Just 3km from the city centre (there's a shuttle bus to take you into town), Dar Daif is an old kasbah house. Owners Jean-Pierre Datcharry and his wife Zineb have recreated the feel of a desert caravanserai with richly coloured carpets, plants and artefacts. The guesthouse has been awarded La Cle Verte - one of a handful in Morocco - due to its ecologically sustainable practices.

the patio at Dar Daif

Jean-Pierre and Zineb organise desert trips - and are especially happy to cater for children or physically challenged people. The trips can be anything from a couple of days to a few weeks long and are run by pure professionals. In fact, Zineb was the first ever woman desert guide, accredited over 20 years ago.

the bedrooms are very comfortable

See Dar Daif's website for more information, or book through Fez Riads.


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