Atlas- Merzouga – Drâa Valley


ITINERARY
DAY 1: OUARZAZATE 
►Reception at the airport and transfer to the hotel. After breakfast and relaxing at your hotel, visit Kasbah Taorit.
Kasbah Taorirt was built by the Glaoui. Its location was strategic for trading routes and in the 1930’s when the Glaoui ruled the South it was then one of Morocco’s largest Kasbahs. Explore its nooks and crannies and discover some local female painters who sell their art inside as well as the many quality silver shops just steps outside the Kasbah.
►After visiting Kasbah Tourirt, return to your hotel in Ouarzazate for a relaxing afternoon by the pool or ask your guide about an extending your tour to the souk. At the souk you will have the opportunity to take in the smells of local spices such asCumin, Saffron and cinnamon as well as Berber amber and musk while visitingsmall caftan and Moroccan Baboosh (shoe) shops.
►Enjoy couscous or a tajine for lunch at a local restaurant inOuarzazate.
DAY 2: OUARZAZATE – ATLAS FILM STUDIO –  AIT BENHADDOU – OASIS OF FINT  
►Fill up on a savory breakfast of baguette, fresh fruit, jams and a café cassis (Moroccan cappuccino) at a local pâtisserie and then begin your one-day excursion toAtlas Film StudiosAït Benhaddou & the
Oasis of Fint.
►Start your morning by touring the Atlas Film Studios. David Lean filmed Lawrence of Arabia at The Atlas Film Studios in the early 1960’s. Since then many famous directors have followed in his footsteps to exploit the magnificent scenery.International blockbusters shot here in recent years include: the French version ofCleopatraBertolucci’s Sheltering SkyScorsese’sKundunGillies MacKannon’sHideous Kinky, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Black Hawke Down, Oliver Stone’s Alexander The Great, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, and Penelope Cruz’s Sahara.
►After visiting the Atlas Film Studio, we will take the road by pise to the picturesque village of Aït Benhaddoulocated 32 km from Ouarzazate. Aït Benhaddouis situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ouarzazate River. Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and Orson Welles used it as a location for Sodome and Gomorrah; and for Jesus of Nazareth the whole lower part of the village was rebuilt. In recent years more controlled restoration has been carried out underUNESCO auspices. Aït Benhaddou is one of many locations in this region used for shooting Hollywood films.
►Your guide will lead you on a private tour through this Berber village of towered and crenulated kasbahs that once guarded the lucrative caravan route through theAtlas Mountains. Explore the kasbahs by foot with the option to ride a donkey across a river.
►Make sure to bring along your camera to photograph this spectacular site and thestunning views that surround this kasbah’s crenellated towers and dark red pise walls. By the river, you will find observe a collection of kasbahs whose walls are decorated with blind arches and geometric designs. Make sure to take a walk behind the kasbah and visit the series of ksars, individual plain earth houses still inhabited byBerber families.
►Your guide will share the fascinating history of Aït Benhaddou which once served as the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-dayMorocco. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; ten families however still live within the ksar. Aït Benhaddouwas once a significant stop for traders carrying gold, salt and slaves along the famous Southern Caravan route moving through the Sahara. Only six miles away, is the village of Tamdaght, dominated by the canyon walls of a Glaoui Kasbah. The Kasbah is famous and you will find its towers inhabited by storks. Walk outside the Kasbah’s lush terraced gardens and witness the same desert scenery that used in GladiatorandAlexander the Great.
►For lunch, relax on a terrace with clear views of Aït Benhaddou and enjoy a traditional Moroccan meal of mfouar (steamed wheat), Takila (a Berber tajine), couscous and fruit. After lunch, browse the village shops then climb back in the comfortable air-conditioned/heated 4×4 and head to the village of Tamadaght.
►After lunch, we will depart Aït Benhaddou and take the pise (windy road) towards the Oasis of Fint passing the “Plateau de pierres“. On this road you will find a shiningOasis of palms.Visit this Oasis of Fint that hovers under the Atlas Mountains. Journey on a one-hour walk inside the Oasis where you will have a cup of tea with the headmaster’s family Azziz Ouaziz and tour the surrounding area where datepalm oases and dramatic desert scenery are king.
►Before turning in for the day we will take the past the the Oasis of Fint we will take the road to Kasbah Tifoultoute which stands majestically on the banks of Oued Tifoultoute. From a distance this old Kasbah is impressive with its castle-like architecture. In the 1960’s the Kasbah was converted into a hotel for the cast ofLawrence of Arabia. Tour the Kasbah and have lunch at its restaurant which is known for delicious mint and herb teas. See panoramic views from the rooftop.
  
DAY 3:  OUARZAZATE– SKOURA – EL KELLAT DES M’GOUNA – TINERHIR
►After breakfast at your hotel, we will depart Ouarzazate, taking the “Road of One Thousand Kasbahs” and passing by the large lake of Ouarzazate to drive to Skoura.
►Skoura is a fertile oasis lined with immense palm groves that provide great views of the Atlas Mountains alongside deserted landscapes. It is renowned for the cultivation of roses. The palm groves were laid out in the 12th century by theAlmohad sultan Yacoub el-Mansour and named after its original inhabitants, the Berbers of the Haskourene tribe. The most beautiful Kasbahs in southern Morocco can be found here. Many of them are still partially inhabited.
►The small, sleepy town of Skoura has a big market Souk every Monday and a small group of administrative buildings. Most impressive in Skoura are the many Kasbahs that ripple through its dry rocky oasis. Skoura is referred to as the “Valley of OneThousand Kasbahs.”
►You will visit the 17th Century old Ben Morro Kasbah, which has been converted into a guesthouse and see the most imposing of the Kasbahs in this area, Amerhidil Kasbah. This fortified residence once belonged to the most powerful family responsible for protecting the village and its lands called the Glaoui. Today it is owned by the Sheikh of Amerhidil.
►We will also visit the Kasbahs of Aït Abou, built in the 1800’s and the oldest Kasbah in the palm grove, is six stories and walls 25 m high. Its outside buildings have been turned into a garden filled with pomegranate,apple, pear, fig, quince andolive trees that provide the necessary shading for growing crops.
►Pass by Skoura, drive north heading towards the Amagoun Mountains andBerber villages standing among splendid landscapes and the Valley of Roses. Your driver will stop for you to view the Capp et Florale distillation factories laid out in ElKelaa Des Mgouna, a small Kasbah town that manufactures the entire nation’s products of eau de rose. The rose water and other products such as hand and body soaps, oil, crème perfume and dried flowers are for sale and also popular among Moroccans. The factories produce 3000-4000 petals a year. With ten tons of petals required to produce a few liters of precious oil, the harvest is understandably a labor of love and the culminating Festivities of the annual Rose Festival are all the livelier for it.
►Once in the Valley of Roses, you will immediately notice that the fresh mountain air in this part of southern Morocco has a hint of fresh roses which makes it a particular nice place to go for walks, short hikes and a long drive through the Hdida Valley to the plateau of Imi-n-Louh. Your driver will stop along the way so you can meet the friendly locals, many who are nomads and spend their winters in the nearby caves. There are many photo opportunities in this Dadès Valley town of ancient kasbahs.
For lunch, we will relax on a petite terrace at Kasbah Itran, a local aubergethat overlooks two large abandoned crenulated Jewish Kasbahs and a river.
►After past the Boulmane Dades and then spend the night in a local hotel amidst in Tinerhir.
 
DAY 4:   TINERHIR – MERZOUGA  
►Rise early, and drive to Merzouga passing the unusual flora and fauna of theSahara.
►Arrive and find your Berber biouvac tent awaiting where you will spend the night near the Erg Chebbi Dunes. You will find the Erg Chebbi Dunes at 22 km long, (North-South) 5 km and 150 meters high. Considered by many to be the largest dunes in the Sahara, the dunes constantly shift due to the considerable desert winds. The locals believe that these dunes were sent as a punishment for turning away a weary traveler from the desert. They say that after they sent away this traveler, the gods made the dunes pile up right outside their town; to teach them a lesson and to never send away weary men and women ever again. 
 
DAY 5:  MERZOUGA – RISSANI – N’KOB
►Your camels await you for a trip across the Erg Chebbi Dunes. You will be taken on a 2 hour cruise on the back of a dromedary into the dunes to camp at an oasis. Your Tuareg guide will share some of the Sahara Deserts’ secrets. As you glide across humpback on these silent, mystical dunes there will be countless opportunities to photograph the endless rolling sand dunes that appear before you in heaps for thousands of miles. You will witness the sunrise across the east over the dunes. Upon return from your trek, enjoy a quiet breakfast and then continue youradventure within the Sahara desert. 
 
►Just before lunch, you will depart Merzouga and ride across the palm groves to visit the ksours along the kasah studded road to Rissani. The 19th century Abbar Ksar, once a residence to Alounite princes and the Oulad Abdelhamin Ksar, built for the brother of Sultan Moulay Hassan, is popular to visit. Also interesting to see is the Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif where the father of the founder of the Alouite Dynasty is buried.
►After the famous structures, you will see Rissani, an ancient capital for theAlaouite Sultans and the most important market town for Sub-Sahara camel caravans was built on the ruins of Sijilmassa. Stop in Rissani for a lunch and visit its souks where stalls are piled high with pyramids of dates, vegetablesspices, rugs, carpets, pottery, jewelry and metalwork. The Rissani souk is one of the most famous in the area and surrounded by donkeys, mules, sheep and goats enclosed in corrals. After a tour of Rissani, we are off to Alnif. Alnif is known for its rocks, fossils and minerals found in shops along the roadside Trilobites are the areas main export.
►Pass by Alnif and head towards to N’kob for an overnight stay at Ksar Jenna, a beautiful Maison de Charme in a riad style, built with the materials of the Moroccan tradition such as taddelakt and zellig. Ksar Jenna has wide open spaces, 7 rooms with every comfort, with large bathrooms and large common spaces, plunged in anoasis of quiet, in the heart of a luxuriant garden, with lots of palm trees, bougainvilleas, rose bushes, jasmines.
 
 
DAY 6: N’KOB – AGDZ – OUARZAZATE
►After a large Moroccan breakfast at Ksar Jenna, discover the village of Aït Ouzzine in the city of N’kob. Past the kasbahs, you will see rugged territories of sheer rockfaces, plateaux and blackish rocky assortments in N’kob.
►Just 5 kilometers after N’kob is Aït Ouzzine (the nice village). Aït Ouzzine is aBerber village inhabited by over 300 families who live in beautifully paintedcrenulated kasbahs, with their own henna fields, water wells, livestock andgardens. This peaceful village is tucked away along an impressive desert route connecting the Draa Valley (Tansikht) and Rissani.
►Lunch will be served to you in Aït Ouzzine by a traditional Berber family. The menu will include a traditional meal of fresh baked bread with spices and a chickenand vegetable tajine and fresh local fruits for desert. After lunch, you can go for a walk in green fields of Aït Ouzzine and visit the village elders to sip mint tea.
► Explore the village and then depart in late afternoon to Ouarzazate. Once you arrive in Ouarzazate, settle in at your hotel and have dinner at a local traditional restaurant.
DAY 7: OUARZAZATE    
Early morning flight departure from Ouarzazate. This ends your Morocco Travel experience.

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