Tourist Resort Developments in Southern Morocco

Morocco is a country of great diversity and exquisite beauty with a rich cultural heritage, making it a popular tourist destination. Recognizing the significant contribution that tourism makes to the country, the Ministry of Tourism in Morocco has initiated a strategy called “Vision 2010” with the goal of attracting ten million tourists per year by 2010. Part of this initiative is resort development in desert and oasis regions of Errachidia, Zagora and Ouarzazate in the south of Morocco.

Plans for tourist developments in these three areas will take care not to encroach on their untouched natural beauty, which will be promoted as a primary reason for tourists visiting there. The developments will include three hotel complexes, smaller inns, camping grounds and facilities to promote the local craft industry.

The city of Ouarzazate is situated close to the majestic Atlas Mountains and the fertile Draa River valley. At one time during the city’s history it served as a crossing point for African traders on their way to Morocco’s northern cities and Europe. During the time when the French occupied the area, Ouarzazate became a garrison town and administrative centre as well as a customs post for the area. Currently Ouarzazate is the home of Atlas Studios, one of the world’s largest movie studios. A number of memorable movies were filmed in the Atlas Studios, including ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Man Who Would Be King’. More recent movies include ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘Babel’. It has also been the location of an episode of the popular television reality series ‘The Amazing Race’.

The city of Ourzazate is also the departure point for excursions through the Draa River Valley into the Sahara and the oasis town of Zagora, which is another of the three areas earmarked for development by the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism. This picturesque town is surrounded by palm plantations and has the Zagora Mountain as a back-drop. Zagora was the departure point for camel trains on their way to Timbuktu in Mali and a sign outside the town states “Tombouctou 52 jours”, meaning that it takes an estimated 52 days to reach Timbuktu by camel or on foot. The remains of an Almoravid fortress can be seen on top of the Zagora Mountain.

The third area to be developed is the predominantly Amazigh-speaking town of Errachidia (or Er-Rachidia) located in the Ziz valley. The city is well known for its hospitality and pleasant atmosphere. Most evenings the townsfolk gather in the streets to socialize and visitors are welcome to join in the social get-together. In addition to the natural beauty of the surroundings, this is one of the best towns in which to become acquainted with the locals and gain insight into their way of life.

Development of tourist facilities in Ouarzazate, Errachidia and Zagora is sure to benefit the local people as well as the travelers who choose to visit beautiful Morocco.