Taroudant, Morocco – Attractive Southern Charm
Depicted as the true Souss Valley should, Taroudant in Morocco lies on the journey between Agadir and Taliouine. Being one of the most fertile regions in the south, with a river that runs all year long, leaders and sultans have used it throughout history as a base from which they would attempt to take over the stronghold of Marrakesh. With the modernization from historical construction to the more recent craze of cinder-block houses, the ancient beauty that Taroudant once held remains a spark in the traveler’s imagination.
When the French were controlling the area (and keeping a close eye on this small, yet strategic town), they built some impressive buildings that line the streets, especially near Bab Kasbah. Located on the eastern section of the wall, Bab Kasbah has been marked as an important historical site by a plethora of historical organizations and societies who want to protect it from any sort of ‘modernization’ that has occurred elsewhere.
One of the best reasons to travel to Taroudant, Morocco is that it has one of the south’s most charming souks. Being in the Souss Region of Morocco, most people speak Tashelheit, or the Berber language of the south. So, even if you can get by with a little Arabic, a few words in Berber will get you better deals on all sorts of fruits and vegetables grown in the rich valley. But, the best attraction of the area is the spices that adorn the weekly market’s streets. The tantalizing smell of paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander fill the air. Women selling Morocco’s best henna, used for the creation of temporary tattoos during the wedding season and during other festivities, will offer to sell you the raw ingredients or give you a henna tattoo right on the spot.
Taroudant has a population of around 70,000, a huge increase from early estimates that put the city’s census at 5,000 in the mid-1960s. However, the small-town feel of the area is uncanny and is a nice break from the tourist hustle and bustle of Marrakesh. The townspeople are friendly, welcoming, yet hardworking, as they won’t stop the pace of their everyday lives to notice the influx of travelers who find the region quite distinct.
Unlike most cities, such as Fez, Meknes, and Marrakesh, Taroudant does not have a real ville nouvelle. The French were forced to build their government offices outside of the city’s center because the bustling market was full of caddy-cornered businesses selling their spices or wares. Taroudant can be explored completely within a day or two, but a visit is worthwhile, especially in September or October when the date season is underway. Additionally, the weather isn’t as hot, and Moroccan travelers have returned to work and school.
Taroudant is a great spot to begin your travels in the Souss Valley of Morocco before heading down to Agadir. And, hostels, small hotels, and restaurants are cheaper than in any other area. To capture the town in its full glory, just before sundown, head to the olive grove fields, explore the ramparts and mix with the locals who enjoy chatting before the dawn prayer call after a day’s hard work.