Overview of Quarzazate
The south of Morocco is the land of the Sahara. Here, where life is only possible in oases and Kasbahs, these words, synonymous with water, have a magical ring. At Quarzazate, scarcely 200km from Marrakesh but in a different world, you stand on the threshold of the mighty Sahara. Standing on the edge of a vast desert plateau, with snow-covered peaks visible in the distance, this ancient garrison town retains an almost tangible connection with a distant past.
The nearby Kasbah Taourirt is one of the most impressive of its kind in Morocco. Its tightly packed houses and stately towers, made of a mixture of chalk and sand, melt almost imperceptibly into the surrounding red and ochre-coloured landscape. Like cubes of clay, the dwellings hide away from the unrelenting sun-a narrow doorway being the only connection with the outside world. Light and air come in through the central courtyard. Yet the harsh desert can also be generous; at the oases of Skoura an annual harvest of 4000 tons of roses is grown on the fringes of immeasurable expanses of sand.
Kasbah of Taourirt
Situated on the eastern edge of Quarzazate, this labyrinthine Kasbah reflects the famous, ochre-coloured style of southern Morocco. In doing everything humanly possible to offer a haven from the scorching sun, its creators have produced a living monument of great charm and character.
In contrast to the hustle and bustle of other parts of Morocco, the plazas of Quarzazate, with their cafés, bazaars and craft shops, are remarkably spacious and relaxed. A good place to sit and watch the world go by.
If you're into the stunning architecture and mystic beauty of southern Morocco's Kasbah villages, they don't come any better than this. About 28 kilometres northwest of Quarzazate, this village is recognised as a gem by fashion photographers, film directors and visitors alike.
Lake of the El Mansour Eddahbi Dam
Rare in such arid surroundings, this man-made lake contrasts with the stern rocks and bright blue skies. Although visible from the town, the most dramatic views of the lake are to be had from about ten kilometres further east.
On the western edge
Just west of Quarzazate are unusual attractions in the form of a small zoological garden and the walled enclosure of Atlas Studios, which used the striking surroundings in many of its films.
In contrast to the tightly packed houses of the Kasbah villages, life in such oasis settlements as Finnt, about ten kilometres south of Quarzazate, is characterised more by open space and contact with nature.