Morocco’s South-Central Gems
Every town, village, or Imperial City in Morocco has its own claim to fame – its own past, fables, folklore, and people that made their unique contributions to what the country is today. In the southern regions of Morocco, east of Ouarzazate and west of Erfoud are jewels in the literal rough of the mountains and cliffs. If you are driving in Morocco and have time to spare, consider giving this region of Morocco ample time to explore.
Coming from Marrakech and running on the central southern road is the town of Skoura. The kasbahs of the area are worth a thousand photos, the most famous being Kasbah ben Moro, which can be accessed by simply stopping, paying a small fee in Moroccan Dirhams and attempting to avoid the small farm animals that inhabit the premises. From here, you’ll have a wonderful view of the entire palm-lined area, including the Kasbah de Amerdihl, which unfortunately due to the rich family that owns it, cannot be visited by regular tourists – a shame for the region. If you want to stay the evening in the area or spend the night, a couple of cheap hotels are available, but don’t look for anything too fancy. If you are into luxury, then it is better to head back to Ouarzazate for the night’s stay.
The next town that is farther up the valley is El-Kelaa M’Gouna, which we have mentioned before is the place most known for its rose water. The industry here is rose water that is strictly purified, bottled, labeled, and sold to line the twenty small shops that make up the main route through the town. A small bottle of rose water from the area will only set you back a few dollars and you’ll have to carry it in your suitcase when leaving the country as mailing liquids by post has limitations. The rose-water factories are worth visiting and make a nice stop after lunch in one of the town’s roadside restaurants. Additionally, the area is also famous for knives, or better yet, its daggers that are made and sold to merchants in other cities, such as Fez and Meknes. The area has limited hotel options, but just a few miles outside of town you’ll find rooms and restaurants that overlook the entire valley and are worth the extra price.
Traveling onward through the more visited areas of south-central Morocco, you’ll come across the towns of Tinherhir, which in its surroundings is lined with palms, kasbahs, and ksours. Whether you are coming from Marrakesh or want to start in the south, getting to Imlilchil can be a little challenging, but it is a worthwhile experience just on the northern edge of the High Atlas Mountains. The area is especially interesting if you can time your trip to match with the Bride’s Festival in September. The festival now attracts throngs of tourists who watch the women choose the men with whom they’ll marry. It’s the only event in Morocco where the tradition takes place and is the only spot in the Muslim world where such an event is so lively. Parents might have some say in the event because they will usually be wheeling and dealing with dowries and contracts that still have some legal precedence.
If you cannot make it for the Bride’s Festival in Morocco, then you can still use Imlilchil as a great starting point for hikes and trekking throughout the area. The choice of hotels is limited, but more are popping up each year.