Located in the deep south of Morocco, the Draa Valley stretches from the city of Ouarzazate into the Sahara Desert. The Draa Valley is a stunning oasis home to Berber villages, sumptuous Kasbahs, streaming sand dunes, lush green plains, snow-capped Atlas Mountains, endless stretches of palm trees and the Draa, Morocco’s largest river.
During ancient times, the river of Draa crossed the desert and traveled hundreds of kilometers west until it joined the Atlantic. Today, most of this river has dried but its path still leads through one of the most fascinating landscapes in Morocco.
The beauty of the Draa Valley is not its only geographical richness; the valley has thousands of years of history, evidenced by the ancient cave paintings and carvings found in the area. It was in the Draa Valley where archeologists found the statuette of Venus of Tan-Tan, one of the oldest prehistoric sculptures ever discovered. Moreover, the Draa Valley was once an important transit point on the trans-Saharan caravan trading routes, as well as an important trading center for Jewish, Arab, Berber and Christian civilizations.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the valley was the object of many battles between the different nomadic tribes that inhabited it. It is no wonder that the valley has become famous for its Kasbahs. Their high walls served as a refuge from the enemy when a town was under siege. The Kasbahs were also the residence of the leader of the tribe and his family. These fortresses-cities consisted of mosques, public baths, stores and gardens. The Kasbahs were built out of mud and straw collected from the Draa river banks and were designed to withstand the harsh heat and cold. Many of the Kasbahs are still inhabited today. The most famous in the region are Amezrou, Tamnougalt, El Caid ouslim, Ait Hammou Ousaid, and Touririt.
Despite its rich history, culture and fame, the Berbers of the Draa Valley still live in ways very similar to those of their ancestors. They ride donkeys, wash their clothes in the river and depend on clay to build their houses. When you are there, you feel transported to an ancient time and will surely find it hard to believe that the cosmopolitan city of Marrakesh is only a few hours away.
Because of its location, beauty and history, the Draa Valley is becoming one of the top tourist attractions in Morocco. A number of well-equipped and comfortable hotels have sprung along the valley. For a reasonable price, you can organize a guided tour ranging from mountain hiking to camel riding to the desert and see the breathtaking Chgaga or Tinfou dunes and enjoy the serenity of the starlit sky.
Written by Ghizlane Gray.
Photo by camera_obscura [busy]