Amtoudi – Oasis Steeped in History
Located in southern Morocco, and surrounded by spectacular desert mountain landscape, the Berber village of Amtoudi is home to around 300 families. The village is an oasis, with farming being the primary activity of the inhabitants – the patches of irrigated land like green velvet against the stark and rugged ochre landscape. Produce grown around Amtoudi includes figs, apricots, almonds, olives and dates, some of which are sold outside of the village, with small fields of vegetables, corn and barley providing for local needs.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Amtoudi, which sets it apart from other oasis settlements, is the ancient grain storage facility, or agadir, perched high up on a hill overlooking the village. It is considered to be both the oldest and most well preserved agadir in North Africa and is well worth the visit, especially for travelers who are interested in the history of Morocco. Although this 800-year old granary is no longer in use, in the past it was of great value as it stored the grain that could mean life or death for the inhabitants of an area where rain is very scarce. However, bandits and rival tribes also had to eat, and would often invade villages with agadirs in an effort to help themselves to the stored provisions. The position of the agadir of Amtoudi village made this a very difficult task for would-be thieves, as visitors will come to appreciate.
Local guides are keen to show visitors their beautiful village from the vantage point of the agadir. To get there, you can either hike along the narrow rocky trail, or you can make the ascent on the back of a mule or a donkey. Although the journey may look quite daunting, it is safe enough, with the locals and their patient steeds quite accustomed to the route. Once you reach your destination, the view alone is worth the trip.
The agadir itself has been restored and added to over the centuries, with the basic structure being 800 years old. It is likely that the lack of rain in the area is a contributing factor to its preservation. The guide on duty will point out interesting features of the structure, such as the lockable gate, the unusual ventilation system and methods that were used for crushing grain.
Certainly, Amtoudi is quite a way off the beaten track and may not be a first choice to visit when trying to fit in all the best attractions of this beautiful and exotic country. Nonetheless, adventurers who have visited this interesting Moroccan oasis village have found it to be a rewarding experience.