The Great Oasis Valleys: Places to Explore

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The Todra Gorge

The 15-km (9-mi) drive up from Tinerhir to the beginning of the Todra Gorge will take you through lush but slender palmeries, sometimes no wider than 100 feet from cliff to cliff. An inn and a café await near the spring, but you're better off not stopping, as the site itself isn't remarkable, and the concentration of hustlers and over-helpful children is dense.

The 66-foot-wide entrance to the Todra Gorge, with its roaring clear stream and its 1,000-foot-high rock walls stretching 325 feet back on either side, is the most stunning feature of the whole canyon, though the upper reaches aren't far behind. The farther off the beaten path you get, the more rewarding the scenery; a walk or drive up through the gorge on paved roads to Tamtattouchte is particularly recommended.

From the thin palmery along the bottom, the walls of the Todra Gorge remain close and high for some 18 km (11 mi), dappled only with occasional families of nomads and their black khaimas (tents) tending sheep, goats, or camels (dromedaries) up on the rocks. Colorfully attired young Berber shepherdesses may appear from nowhere; sometimes you can hear them singing Berber melodies from high in the crags, their sounds echoed and amplified by the rock walls of the canyon. Eagles nest in the Todra, along with choughs (red-beaked rooks), rock doves, and blue rock thrushes.

La Source des Poissons Sacrés (Springs of the Sacred Fish), about halfway to the beginning of the gorge, is so named for the miracle performed by a sage, said to have struck a rock once to produce a gushing spring, and twice to produce fish. Today the sacred source is frequented by young Berber women who are experiencing difficulties in conceiving children. It is rumored that bathing in the water has about 80% success rate. Failing that, you can stop here to camp and have a refreshing drink.

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