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Out of the Desert and Pointed Southwest

December 12, 2021

Abdou, Zachariah and I headed for Dades, the boys’ hometown. On the way we stopped at the khettaras, an 18th century system for delivering water from the mountains to the oases, a distance in this case of 14 km. Holes were dug by means of a foot-powered crank system that carried buckets of dirt to the surface until water was reached, then the water would flow through the tunnel thus created. This khettera is dry, since pipelines have been built, allowing us to walk through the (now lighted) tunnel. Interesting engineering.

The drive back to civilization took us through myriad dusty one-street towns, most half-deserted — but every café boldly announced it has WIFI. From time to time there appeared a date farm; dates are the biggest crop here. Kids go to school on Saturday, and they were going home for lunch as we passed by. Hard to know what their future holds, so far off the beaten path. As you’d expect, most young people leave these remote towns when they get old enough to make their own way. At a shop in one tiny town, Abdou persuaded me to dress up in some Berber clothing so he and Z could take my picture.

In Tinghir we stopped for the views over  a big gorge to a town sprawled on the opposite bank. The old village, in the near distance, had been ravaged by flood years ago, so the townsfolk simply moved further up the other bank.

Further along we entered the Toudgha (pronounced too-dra) Gorge, enclosed by 400-meter sheer rock faces on either side of the road, with a stream rushing through where nomad women were washing clothes while their donkeys grazed on scrubby grass. An abandoned hotel/auberge was tucked at the base of the rocky wall, and had been quite a fancy place until some giant boulders cut loose and landed on one wing of the hotel, which closed thereafter. As I said to Abdou, the hotel was in the perfect location, till it wasn’t.

As the day wound down, we twisted our way into Dades and out again along a snaking narrow road offering panoramic vistas of the town and countryside, stopping at a formation of volcanic rock the locals call “monkey toes.”

My hotel, the Villa Dades, is smack in the middle of nowhere, but is very chic. It was built during the first Covid lockdown; they’re still working on the swimming pool and outdoor bar, which I suspect will be stunning when they’re finished. For now, they have a pretty little terrace overlooking the mountainside where the sun slips down.

3 Comments
  1. The Berber clothing is interesting, especially the hat! Is that type of clothing as warm as I imagine it to be? What a lovely place to enjoy refreshments!

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  2. John permalink

    The food looks wonderful. I think I would be putting on extra baggage … the anchovy tagine sounded tempting.

    I love the colors in the crafts and architecture and wish we had more of that evident in our towns. Perhaps we do, but I just don’t pay attention.

    I admire your work getting the history of the places through which you are traveling, along with all the local names of people, places, and things. Knowing you, I’m sure everything is spelled correctly. It must be odd, however, being on tour without your fellow travelers.

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  3. The food was fantastic, and very healthy, all local ingredients. I actually lost a few pounds!

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