Kasba Ait Ouzza, in Boumalne Dadès.
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Hotel Tomboctou

5th step: from Tinejdad to Erfoud and Rissani

There are a lot of Ksour between Tinejdad and Erfoud. Among them, Touroug has been restored by the Ministry of Housing and Achouria by a local association with help from the Oasis of the South Program. This last restoration is very well made, although the set lost much aesthetic value with the construction of an enormous concrete mosque in the place of the ancient one, that was built with soil and very nice.

North from Erfoud, in the Tizimi oasis, a track to the left side goes to the Ksar Jrana (31º 27.048’ N - 4º 14.000’ W), that has also been restored. To the other Ksour of this oasis we arrive by different tracks from the Errachidia road and from the Tinejdad road.

Still further north stands the largest architectural ensemble of the whole region: Maadid (31º 27.987’ N 4º 12.922’ W). It consists of four districts separated by walls and its architecture offers a high interest, why is visited frequently by tourists.

In 1968, Maadid was the subject of a plan to improve living conditions financed by the UN and it is still inhabited, but its beautiful gate has been substituted by a concrete one.

Ksar Jrana
Ksar Jrana
Ksar Maadid.
Maadid gate, 2009
Ksar Maadid
Maadid gate, 2009

The Ziz, between Erfoud and Errachidia

Mapa de la ruta de Errachidia a Erfoud

North from Maadid, the palm-grove gives way to an arid country, with small dunes even. Once past this arid landscape, we take the first left turn. Then we find the Ksar Bathatha (31º 36.923’ N - 4º 13.113’ W), quite beautiful, with two successive gates. The next is the Zaouia Jdida (31º 36.982’ N - 4º 13.574’ W), still inhabited and well conserved, with paved streets.

Following the same road we find El Maarka (31º 38.274’ N - 4º 12.892’ W), an ancient palace of the Alaouite dinasty built under the kindom of Moulay Ismail. It has a very nice monumental gate of urban style, with a profusion of mosaics and sculpted plaster, although the interior is in ruins.

Ksar El Maarka
El Maarka gate

Before reaching the main road, we pass near Zrigat, a group of Ksour that has been very important aforetime but that has been destroyed by inundations, and near Ksar El Gara (31º 42.466’ N - 4º 11.774’ W), with double wall and a very regular square plan.

When we reaches the main road, we find a lot of Ksour, still inhabited and very active: Oulad Cheker (31º 46.413’ N - 4º 13.256’ W), Ait El Khelef (31º 46.524’ N - 4º 13.323’ W)... After we see Zaouia Amelkis (31º 48.624’ N - 4º 16.117’ W) from the edge of the cliff.

Ksar Oulad Cheker.
Ksar Oulad Cheker

Later we arrive to Meski (31º 51.307’ N - 4º 17.358’ W). It deserves a special mention because of its location atop a rocky crag which makes it very picturesque seen from afar, but inside it is all in ruins. Moreover, its environment of palm trees is very lush and nearby there is a natural spring transformed into a pool.

Errachidia is a modern town without interest, but it’s placed in the middle of the Mdagra oasis, that includes no less than 37 Ksour, accessible by different roads and paths (see the map). Unfortunately, many of these Ksour had been destroyed by inundations.

Into the town of Errachidia we find the Ksar Targa, that has been restored and it’s fully inhabited. It has two neighborhoods: one inside, protected by a double wall, in which lived the Shorfa, and the other surrounding it, originally occupied by dark skin farmers with who worked the land of the Shorfa.

The high Ziz valley

Going out from Errachidia to the North by the track that starts in the Ksar Targa, we arrive to Ksar Souk, a set of four Ksour, after passing next of many other fortified villages. Ksar Souk had formerly a great commercial activity and it gave name to the entire district. Much of its inhabitants were Jews.

Mapa of high Ziz valley.

The old road that goes by the east bank of the Ziz river allows visiting many other Ksour of Mdaghra, reaching after the main road.

This one gives us to the Ziz gorges through a nice country, starting with the Hassan Eddakhil swamp and continuing with the green palm-grove of El Khenk, closed into rock canyons. In this oasis there are three groups of Ksour important in the history and quite beautiful, but very small: Ait Atmane (32º 04.782’ N - 4º 23.163’ W), Aït Immas (32º 07.515’ N - 4º 21.954’ W) and Tamarkecht (32º 08.252’ N - 4º 21.780’ W).

After the Ziz gorges, the valley enlarges and, although there are many Ksour, their interest is dwindling, because they are small and in ruins.

Ait Immas.
Aït Immas

The Tafilalet

Tafilalet map.

South from Erfoud starts the Tafilalet, one of the bigger and more famous Ksour in this region.

It is famous for having been throughout the history an important step in the caravan route linking Fez to sub-Saharan Africa and a very important trade center. We can still see the ruins of Sijilmassa (31º 17.111’ N 4º 16.550’ W), that has been a big city from the eighth century to the fourteenth century.

The palm-grove is quite decrepit because of the drought, but from the architectural point of view its wealth is enormous.

There are more than fifty Ksour still inhabited and half a dozen of old palaces built by the Alaouites, a dinasty that is born precisely in the Tafilalet in the seventeenth century. Among these palaces we must mention El Fida, Oulad Abdelhalim and Abbar.

El Fida (31º 18.483’ N - 4º 15.048’ W) has been restored by the Moroccan Government. It contained a museum that no more exists, but the building can be visited paying to the guard. We arrive there from Rissani by the Mezguida road.

El Fida palace.
El Fida: central courtyard
El Fida palace.
El Fida: the Hammam
Abbar mosque.
Abbar mosque gate

Abbar (31º 16.666’ N - 4º 15.094’) is nothing more than a jumble of ruins, but it includes some curiously intact gates with wonderful decoration in urban style. We arrive there walking by a path, south of the de Moulay Ali Cherif mausoleum.

Oulad Abdelhalim (31º 16.209’ N - 4º 14.510’ W) is object of restoration but it can be also visited. For many years it has been the residence of the Sultan’s Khalifa in the oasis. It includes a neighborhood where the slaves lived and another for the Sherifs, in addition to the palace itself. Its last reconstruction is dated from 1846, but its first foundation has been in the fourteenth century.

A little further east, in the other side of the road going to Oulad Abdelhalim, we find the ruins of the Ksar Tighmert (31º 16.821’ N 4º 14.736’ W), that belonged also to the Sultan and that has been destroyed in 1919 in the course of a bloody battle between the French army and resistant Ait Atta. Another palace, named Ad Dar Al Beida (31º 17.640’ N 4º 13.399’ W), was built in the eighteenth century by Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, being today in similarly precarious conditions.

Ksar Tighmert.
Ruins of Tighmert
Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim.
Oulad Abdelhalim gate, 2009

The Ksour where the population lives are scattered throughout the palm grove. We can arrive to many of them by the Tourist Circuit that starts near the Moulay Ali Cherif mausoleum and to other by the Mezguida road.

We’ll mention among them the Ksar Mezguida itself (31º 19.454’ N - 4º 15.451’ W) for its architectonic value; Tabouassamt (31º 14.386’ N - 4º 16.455’ W) for its historic importance; Ouighlane (31º 15.576’ N - 4º 17.193’ W) for its size and for being still fully inhabited; Serghine (31º 15.441’ N - 4º 13.255’ W) for the mysterious atmosphere in its dark streets and Tingheras (31º 13.359’ N 4º 18.193’ W) for being built on a hill with a panoramic view over the oasis.

Ksar Tingheras.
Ksar Tingheras

In the Tafilalt there are also some Ksour where pottery is made, as Guelagla (31º 19.929’ N - 4º 18.339’ W), Charfat Bahaj (31º 14.304’ N 4º 17.495’ W) and Moulay Abdelah Dkak (31º 17.259’ N 4º 17.149’ W).

Finally, inside Rissani stand the Ksar Abou Am (31º 16.916’ N 4º 16.147’ W), restored and fully inhabited. Its gate presents an urban style, like in other Ksour of the Tafilalet, due to the influence of Fez through the trade relations. This Ksar is one of the most visited by tourists in this area.

Ksar Abou Am
Abou Am gate

Nearly one hundred meters north from Abou Am, we see the Kasbah from the thirteenth or fourteenth century that gave its name to the town. Here the word Kasbah is employed as a fort built by the Sultan in rural area, not like the Kasbahs we have seen along our route. One portion of this Kasbah Rissani (31º 17.074’ - N 4º 16.121’ W) is destined today to a small museum where are exhibited the objects found in the Sijilmassa digging (free access in office hours).

Berber children.

From Rissani you can follow the paved road to Merzouga to see the desert and the Erg Chebbi dunes. But there is not traditional architecture because its inhabitants were nomads who lived in tents.

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© Roger Mimó

Step 4 Steps list Step 6.

Biografía de Roger Mimó What is a Kasbah? To stay in a Kasbah. Comprarse una kasba. Libros de Roger Mimó.
Obras de la familia de Roger Mimó Montañas de Marruecos. Inventaire des kasbahs Tinghir and the Todra valley El viaje de Alí Bey.