Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dades Valley - Morocco

The strength of the colours will never escape your memory, red, green and white. The Dades Gorge has a fairy-tale feeling — just after you leave the rather dull Boumalne du Dades, the mountain closes up on both sides of you, before it opens again and you are in a world where the grass is greener, the soil redder and houses nicer.

Serpentine roads leads you slowly through community after community, villages set apart by dramatic twirls in the mountains, or by the fresh river meandering through the middle. Perhaps there still are blood feuds between the villages, legendary romances across hostile clans, rivalries that fills a life time? Your imagination is fed by the marvelous nature that unfolds while you carefully make sure that you do not drive off the road. But, from what everyone tells you, it is all calm now.

The drive through the Dades Valley will not lead you to any landmarks, but there is a mind-bending drama in catching how life conditions change quickly as you and your vehicle slowly rise in altitude, and as the valley gets more and more narrow.

It is clear that the most dramatic part of the Dades Valley is along the normal road before you reach Aït Oudinar. Some places the mountains turn and twist into formations not seen many other places, but even better is it that the intense red colour does not fade.

It is important to stop and walk close to the settlements along the Dades Valley. While the shifting of the landscape could intrigue for a whole day of slow driving up and back, colours become even stronger once you stand in a garden or in front of one of the houses.

As one of several fortified ksours along the road, the one of Aït Youl is among the largest.

Protected by the mountains, and protecting the fertile fields along the river, it was naturally turned into a fortified dwelling.

At Aït Oudinar, about one hour from Boumalne du Dades the nature changes dramatically. The mountain and the stones lose their red colour, and the valley narrows to a gorge. Most travellers turn around here, as the continuation will lead you through landscapes which are less unique than the Dades Valley and the road becomes hard to pass for normal cars.

There are a handful of small hotels and cafés here, so it makes a natural stop. And you can buy handicrafts, but most of these are not unique to Dades Valley.

With barren grey brown mountains and lush and fertile valleys, the continuation beyond Aït Oudinar is dramatic enough. The rough and winding roads will add much exitement to the total experience. At several points, you will be allowed a spectacular view over the valleys.

The main destination of this part of the trek is Msemrir, a rather non-descript place, but beyond this the road deteriorates and is not recommended for travelling without local guides.

It is possible to continue to great destinations like Imilchil and the Todra Gorge.

credited to flickr users: el gregein, staou, cathymiller, antonioperezrio.es, authenticmoroccoltd, nyctalope, marinegirl, arne kuilman, digs, michel27

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