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The Great Oasis Valleys Travel Guide

Places To Explore In The Great Oasis Valleys

Morocco without the Sahara is like Switzerland without the Alps, and a trip to the desert is fundamental to an understanding of the country. After you've seen the Atlas Mountains, followed by gorges, oases, palmeries, and kasbahs, a trip down to the desert may seem a long way to go to reach nothing, and some Moroccans and travelers will warn you against it. Don't listen to them. The void you

encounter in the Sahara will remind you why prophets and sages sought the desert to purge and purify themselves.

Once, the caravan routes from the Sudan, Timbuktu, and Niger to Marrakesh and Fez passed through Morocco's Great Oasis Valleys and were fundamental to the region's history. From the Draâ Valley came the Saadian royal dynasty that ruled from the mid-12th to mid-17th century, and from the Ziz Valley and the Tafilalt oasis rose the Alaouite dynasty, which relieved the Saadians in 1669 and which still rules (in the person of King Mohammed VI) in 21st-century Morocco.

A trip through the oasis valleys doesn't just get you sand for your trouble. The asphalt might end and the desert begin at Merzouga and M'Hamid, but in between are the oases flanked by the High Atlas Mountains and the Todra and Dadès gorges—sister grand canyons separating the High Atlas from the Djebel Sarhro Massif.

Doing the entire circuit in the Great Oasis Valleys is a serious undertaking, and you might easily miss the best parts for all the whirlwind traveling. Walking in the Dadès or Todra gorge could easily take three days, and you should stay in at least one for a few days. Whichever gateway you choose, you should allot two days and a night at the very minimum for a trip to the desert. Unless you have oodles of time you'll have to choose between the dunes of Erg Chebbi at Merzouga and Erg Chegaga beyond M'Hamid, which are separated by 450 km (279 mi) of long, hard driving.

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