Located in north central Morocco, Taza province is home to Jebel Tazzeka National Park, the medieval city of Taza and the largest underground cave network in North Africa, the Friouato Caves.
Taza city, the provincial capital, is a two-hour journey from Fez by road or by train. Although not one of Morocco’s most well-known tourist destinations, Taza is an interesting spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway. A quick trip is also feasible from Meknes or Nador, as both cities are about two and a half hours’ drive from Taza. Scheduled public transport isn’t available from the city to the national park or the caves, but you can hire a grand taxi or minivan to explore the region.
The majority of tourists who end up in Taza come to check out the Friouato Caves, locally known by their French name: Gouffre de Friouato. First explored in 1930 by French adventurer Norbet Casteret, the cave system is more than 150 feet deep and extends at least 3.8 km (2.4 miles) under the earth’s surface.
Open to the public daily from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., the caverns can be accessed by amateurs as well as experienced spelunkers. If you’ve only got limited time, you can pay the small entry fee to descend a ladder into the main cavern and see centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites.
For travelers willing to wiggle on hands and knees through muddy crawl spaces, wade through knee-deep water and dodge bat droppings, a multi-hour guided tour is available. Once inside, you’ll cross underground lakes and explore various caverns.
Don’t expect well-lit tunnels or guide ropes; much of the time your only light will be from your headlamp and the rock floor will be slippery. The spelunking tour is only suitable for able-bodied adults and older children. Be sure to bring an extra set of clothes or you’ll have trouble finding a taxi that will take you back to town! It’s best to start a trip from Taza to the caves in the morning, as you’ll need to arrange for a taxi or van to transport you there and either wait or come back and pick you up after the tour.
Once back in Taza, you can spend the afternoon checking out the city’s fortifications and medieval buildings. Set between the Rif and Middle Atlas mountain ranges, Taza served as a fort that overlooked the important Tizi n’ Touahar pass. You can see the old medina with its city walls and 16th-century bastion built under the Saadians. Other architectural sights in the old city include the Great Mosque, started during the Almohads’ rule in the 12th century, and the Andalus Mosque.
Written by Heather Carreiro.
Photo by -AX-.