Over The Atlas Mountains,Ait-Benaddou Kasbah and Dades Gorge

Dades Gorge Travel Blog

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Start Of The Mid Atlas Mountains

Early start and picked up at the hotel at 7am. We had arranged this trip from the UK,confirmed and paid the balance locally, through Moroccan Views agency, and it was just our guide, Farim, and the driver already on board. Drove into the medina for another 3 pick ups and that was us. There would be a dozen of us for the trip, the four of us, four Spanish boys, 2 girls from New Zealand, one guy from the US and another lad from Hong Kong.

Driving out of Marrakech noticed something that looked quite grand and interesting, and then discovered it was a golf course :-D. Wasn't long before we started into the foothills and then into the mountains. At 9am we stopped at the top of a pass at a small cafe by the road for breakfast.

Breakfast Stop
 Concern of being ripped off at these places, with kick backs for the guides was unfounded, and we had tea and coffee and some bread and jam, before setting off again. There were another couple of groups pulled in at the same cafe, and it was to be feature that we would keep bumping into them,and a couple of others, as most of the tours seemed to follow more or less the same routes. Also realised we were quite lucky in having a proper minibus, as a lot seemed to us the Ford Transit minivans.

Stopped off twice fairly soon after to get some pictures and at the second stop by the Berber village there were a few guys up at the road trying to flog stuff to the tourists. The roads started to twist and turn a lot more and then headed higher and up a road that spiralled up the side of a mountain.

View of Valley
Here at the top we got to stop and take in the great views. Just after we were on the road again, we noticed on one of the hills that there was a small gully that still had the remenants of snow in it :-O. On the way down we passed through a small town and the driver slowed as we came to a police checkpoint. We were waved through, all the coaches/minibuses etc. carry  'Transport Tourisme' painted a few times round the vehicle. This was the first of more than a dozen police checks we came upon driving about out in the country, though we were only ever stopped at one, and it was only the driver and the vehicle that the police bothered with. 

On we drove for a good while before we reached Ait-Benaddou Kasbah. The new village is just across the dried up river bed, and we got the chance to go into the shops and stock up with drinks before going into the Kasbah.

roadside stall overlooking the valley
Farim told us that some families still live in the Kasbah, others still own houses ther but live in the new village, and other places the owners have disappeared as folk dispersed around the world.

Just looking at it the Ait-Benaddou Kasbah oozes history. Told that this was one of the first to offer shelter in Morocco to the trade caravans the came in from the Sahara. There were a few shops just inside the kasbah, but nobody made any great effort to try and sell us anything, and we went up and into one of the inhabited houses, where after a look about we were treated to tea in what was a a room in it that was a cave . Like many parts of this region they lay claim to being the setting for so many movies, but the house was full of pictures of the owner with the cast and crew of Gladiator, and Farim said they had built additional bits of set outside the kasbah for filming.

Hillside settlement
The'cave' where we sat and had tea is meant to be where Russel Crowe was arrested in the film, though I haven't bothered watching it again yet to confirm if it looks like it.

We the did the steep climb up through the Kasbah and up to the top. Right at the very top is an observation tower, and Farim decided he wasn't going to bother and waited at the lower level and let the rest of us go up. Quite good getting out and wandering and the interaction between the group really started here. Got back down to find our guide with just one shoe :-D as he had been clearing his sandals of the small stones and dust and had put one on the wall and the wind had blown it over the side and down into the rocks and it was nowhere to be seen. Farim stopped at one of the shops in the Kasbah and haggled for a new pair of sandals, even getting the price reduced for leaving the odd sandal and giving the owner the opportunity of finding the one that was lost.

Berber Village

Stopped for lunch in one of the restaurants in the village before boarding the bus again for what was to be longest drive so far. Thought we might have stopped in Ouarzazate, but we carried on through it. Farim told us that ,despite it having an old kasbah, the town was really only built in 1912 as an administration centre for the French. On and on we drove and just as like it seemed we it would never end we stopped at a cafe ,entering Kelaat Mgouna, in the Valley Of The Roses. Opposite a nice looking settlement but told it was the wrong time of year. Best time for here is in May when the roses bloom, and there is a festival in the town as well then.

Back on the bus and we got to Boumaine and turned off the main road and headed up to Dades Gorge.

Village
Some really great rock formations in the hilss on the road up. Passed through the village of Ait Oudinar where Farim pointed out the hotel we would be staying in. Carried on up the winding road and past the viewpoint. apparently in the winter and spring this is as far as you can get because of the water levels. We carried on for another few km and then were at the gorge. Sheer walls of rock with the river cutting through it, and a conrete walkway/road. Given time as a group to walk through and funny when we got to the other end and found locals down at the river with buckets and cloths washing their cars.

Short drive back to hotel, by which time it was after 8pm, and it was OK. Given time to shower and then all met up for dinner in the small pavillion at the back of the hotel.

Winding road we had just come up
There was another group here and they were obviously European, but a guy and a girl were led away and reappeared later dressed in Arabic costume. We later found out, and joined in, that the group were from Belgium and the couple were just married and the rest of the group had organised a Berber wedding celebration for them 8-) . A good nights sleep and we were all meeting up again for breakfast at 8am.

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Start Of The Mid Atlas Mountains
Start Of The Mid Atlas Mountains
Breakfast Stop
Breakfast Stop
View of Valley
View of Valley
roadside stall overlooking the val…
roadside stall overlooking the va…
Hillside settlement
Hillside settlement
Berber Village
Berber Village
Village
Village
Winding road we had just come up
Winding road we had just come up
Atlas Mountain
Atlas Mountain
View of the hills
View of the hills
Close enough to the edge :-)
Close enough to the edge :-)
Town in the valley
Town in the valley
Cool rock patterns
Cool rock patterns
Ait-Benaddou Kasbah from the villa…
Ait-Benaddou Kasbah from the vill…
View Across The River Bed
View Across The River Bed
Down In The River Bed
Down In The River Bed
Entering Ait-Benaddou Kasbah
Entering Ait-Benaddou Kasbah
Kasbah House Sitting Room
Kasbah House Sitting Room
Kasbah House Reception Room/Cave
Kasbah House Reception Room/Cave
View Down on Kasbah
View Down on Kasbah
Looking Down On Ait-Benaddou from …
Looking Down On Ait-Benaddou from…
View out from the lookout post
View out from the lookout post
Ait-Benaddou Gates
Ait-Benaddou Gates
Road out to Ouarzazate
Road out to Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate
Just outside Ouarzazate
Just outside Ouarzazate
Lake Ouarzazate
Lake Ouarzazate
Valley Of The Roses
Valley Of The Roses
Town In The Valley
Town In The Valley
Old Kasbah in Valley Of The Roses
Old Kasbah in Valley Of The Roses
Road Up To Dades Gorge
Road Up To Dades Gorge
Village in Dades Valley
Village in Dades Valley
Beautiful Hillside
Beautiful Hillside
photo Op
photo Op
Sun On The Hills
Sun On The Hills
Dades Gorge
Dades Gorge
At The Car Wash
At The Car Wash
A River Runs Through It
A River Runs Through It
Back Along The Gorge
Back Along The Gorge
Steep valley( and road)
Steep valley( and road)
Dades Gorge
photo by: Morle