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Sahara Desert Holidays

The High Atlas mountain range marks the last frontier before crossing into the heart of old Morocco.

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Here, amid the immeasurable silences of the pre-Sahara, is an all forgotten world of fortified villages (ksour), Berber castles (Kasbahs) and irrelevant Foreign Legion outposts. Once they were the all-important staging points on the camel routes that tied Marrakech to the great trading capitals of the Sahara with their gold and slaves from Timbuktou. It is an awesome land of breathtaking mountains through which the rivers Draa and Dades have driven two thin wedges of fertility, as enticing as any mirage. The approach to the south is no less memorable; the road from Marrakech corkscrews up through the Atlas forests to an altitude of 7,400 feet at the Col de Tichka before dropping down into the stunning landscape of Ouarzazate.

The main towns - Ouarzazate, Zagora, Erfoud and Errachidia - are not in themselves sensational, but the vast areas in between these towns can only be described as magnificent. The roads that connect these towns have remarkably good surfaces and will take you through truly memorable parts of the Sahara. However, each town and village has its interesting features and should not be overlooked altogether.

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The vital importance of the Palm Tree in the Sahara

It is said that the date palm "must have its head in the fire and its feet in the water". The thousands of acres of palm trees that so gloriously line the valleys and river beds of southern Morocco provide the only source of income to most of the families in these areas. Apart from the domestic market, some 90,000 tons of dates are exported annually from the 5 million trees that can live for as long as 150 years. The tall and defiant palm tree provides the essential shade to the fruit trees and crops that flourish under the broad fronds. The roots bind the soil from erosion by the desert wind; the trunk is used in most local homes as supporting beams and the fronds are the wattle for floors and walls as well as being used for baskets and mats. The palm flower is said to be an aphrodisiac. Other uses include rope making from the fibre, sections of the trunk are hollowed out to make buckets and a potent illicit spirit can be distilled from the sap to make wine.

It is an enchanting experience to stop at the side of the road and take a short walk through the serenity of a palm grove, but remember to respect the crops and shrubs.

Ouarzazate

Ouarzazate

The goal of travellers looking for the different and more audacious kind of holiday.

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Zagora

Zagora

The Draa valley

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Tineghir

Tineghir

The Valley of the kasbahs and the Todra gorge

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Skoura

Skoura

For visiting the Dades, Todra and Draa valleys.

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M Hamid

M Hamid

A small town where the Sahara begins

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Dades Valley

Dades Valley

A bleak wild-west land of snow, river and semi-desert

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Erfoud

Erfoud

Essential for visiting the dunes at Merzouga

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Errachidia

Errachidia

North of Erfoud, in the Tafilalet region

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Merzouga

Merzouga

A stopping off point to see and walk over the dunes

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