morocco donkeyIf the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate is the “Door of the Desert,” then the Fint Oasis, located 10 kilometers south, might well be the desert’s garden.

It is nearly impossible to imagine, departing from Ouarzazate and traversing the dry, desolate terrain of the Anti-Atlas Mountains, that any place so green, lush and full of life can be on the horizon. But suddenly you spot it: a massive, verdant palm grove, teeming with plant, animal and village life.

Composed of four traditional villages which blend Sub-Saharan, Moroccan and Berber culture, the Fint Oasis is a laid-back place where donkeys and other beasts of burden still roam the streets and women still wash clothes in the river. Though largely unknown outside of Morocco, the Fint Oasis has served as the setting for a number of Hollywood films, including Babel, Prince of Persia and Kingdom of Heaven.

As a visitor, you will likely enjoy the opportunity to dine or sip mint tea with a local family. Also be sure to attend one of the nightly musical performances which showcase the unique combination of Berber, Arab and African rhythms. A number of other activities, from donkey excursions to swimming to four-wheeling, are readily available.

If you decide to visit the Fint Oasis, be aware that the road from Ouarzazate is unpaved and quite rocky. Four-wheelers are essential, and fortunately they can be easily hired in Ouarzazate.

While most travelers visit the Fint Oasis on a day-trip from Ouarzazate, it would also be worthwhile to spend a night or two in one of the simple hotels at the Fint Oasis. Better yet, ask around to see if you can arrange, for a modest fee, a brief home-stay with a local family. Morocco’s reputation for hospitality is legendary, and, you’ll find, well-deserved.

On the way back to Ouarzazate, don’t miss the nearby Kasbah of Tifoultout. This impressive 300-year-old castle looks like something out of Lawrence of Arabia—and in fact, the Kasbah served as a hotel in the 1960s for that movie’s cast and crew. Lunch, mint tea, and extraordinary panoramic views are available from the rooftop.

Written by Aaron Hotfelder.

Photo by Chrissy Olson.