The Seven Villages of Figuig
Figuig is an oasis town that consists of seven walled villages located in northeastern Morocco. Surrounded on three sides by the Algerian border, Figuig was once the last stop in Morocco for pilgrims who were setting out on the long journey to Mecca. Nowadays it is not possible to enter Algeria without a visa and Figuig no longer serves as a stop-over point for travelers. It is, however, a place of interest for tourists who would like to see what life is like for Moroccans living on the edge of an ocean of sand – the Sahara Desert.
The seven villages, which are only a few hundred meters apart from each other, are typical of an isolated oasis in the Sahara. Invasion by nomadic tribes was a constant threat in the past. Hence, by dividing the town into walled sections, usually only one or two sections would be conquered at any time, thereby reducing their overall losses. With limited natural resources in the area, however, there was conflict between the different settlements during time of hardship and, although fighting is a thing of the past, a sort of social division still exists.
The villages have covered walkways between the houses, which are built by laying palm tree trunks across the tops of the walls and then covering this with a thick layer of mud and clay. These walkways offer a great deal of protection against the elements, being cool in summer and warm in winter. The walls and houses are constructed from clay and rubble and need to be reinforced each spring after the rains. Quite a number of new modern brick and concrete houses have been built in Figuig which has resulted in parts of the old villages being abandoned.
Figuig has more than 200,000 date palms that are all watered from artesian wells and stand out in stark contrast to the barren ochre and brown of the landscape. The roads to Figuig are in good condition and the bus service reportedly reliable. With an appealing blend of old and new, Figuig is an interesting town to visit when traveling in Morocco.