Early in the morning we leave for Ouarzazate. It promises to be a long trip. Furthermore this will be our first introduction with the Atlas mountains. We start a climb to Tizi n'Tichka over the highest highway of Morocco (2260m). The road goes from bad to worse. If you are seated next to the window on the ravine side, the treacherous hairpins on the winding road make a breathtaking ride of it. Now, it's a bit late to think of broken-down brake blocks, bald tires or the forgotten travel insurance! As we criss-cross through the mountains the panoramic views are of exceptional beauty. The higher we rise, the more mountain ridges follow each other, all with their own colours. The highest tops are still covered with a layer of snow. Behind the Atlas we enter another part of Morocco. Ouarzazate is set in the middle of an enormous rocky desert, the beginning of the Sahara. It sits at the junction of the Drâa, Dades and Ouarzazate valleys that makes it a site of strategic importance. Ouarzazate is also a boomtown with a prosperous film industry but it seems rather calm after the frenetic buzz of Marrakesh. We stop to visit the great Taourirt Kasbah . Kasbahs were former palaces of 'pashas' and were located beside the ancient caravan trade routes from the Sahara to the Mediterrainean, from Timbouctou to Spain. The 100-year old kasbah of Ouarzazate stands out as an exquisite example of how to take care of one's heritage with style. The entrance is clearly a bit on the clean and proper side, as if it was prepared for a foreign filmtake something that happens quite a lot actually. Among the better spots for making movies (f.e. The Sheltering Sky) there is the beautiful Palace of Glaoui on the highest point. All in all it could remind you of Yemen, an impression that is helped by the white painting around windows on some of the houses.
We move on eastwards to Skoura where we stop for a picnic under huge olive trees near the ruins of an old kasbah of Amerdihil near the Dades river. Next we drive on to the Dades valley where we put up in the kasbah of Ibrahim and his family. Ibrahim, a schoolteacher, has restored this kasbah of Boumalne du Dades for the purpose of staying overnight. And doing so it has become a gîte. With four people, we sleep on the floor in a big room covered with carpets. It is recommendable to bring a sleeping-mat and a sleeping-bag because those gîtes don't always provide bedding. This will keep you warm and will also take some of the sting out of the hard ground.