Ouarzazate is located not far from the Atlas Mountains straddling the Draâ and Dade’s rivers. Its architecture consists of clay and stone to create a stunning collection of red pink buildings. This is a mostly Berber population once occupied by ancient tribes who built these constructions including the kasbahs and ksours. At one time there would have been camels travelling through to the trading centres of Marrakesh and Fez and ahead is the dignified desolation of the Sahara desert. It is about 3,800ft south of the High Atlas Mountains facing the desert on a large elevation surrounded by a grove of palm trees. Unsurprisingly it gets some very high temperatures here, as high as 104 degrees, with icy winds from the mountains in winter.
The French used Ouarzazate as an administration centre and regional station to control the tribes during the French occupation in the 1930s. These simple clay constructions have survived to this day, some of which go back to the 11th century. They are testament to the skill and ingenuity of local craftsmen to utilise the materials around them into buildings that have stood the test of time. Keeping in mind that there would have been none of the modern technology to assist them that we have today, it is a legacy left behind by the artistry of a bygone era. So unique and fragile are these constructions that the government are considering restoration programmes to maintain them from environmental damage while continuing to ensure the quality of life of its occupants.
There are plenty of small villages surrounding Ouarzazate that are worth exploring and the town itself is relatively quiet which is why it was named Ouarzazate by the Berbers meaning “without noise.” It does have some luxury hotels and expensive restaurants and shopping here is not cheap. However there are some cheaper options with budget hotels on offer. Ouarzazate however, has its own unique attraction for people other than shopping, in its rugged terrain and rich Berber life. There are also the Ouarzazate Arts & Crafts Centres where you can see local artists at work. Ouarzazate is famous for its carpets which consist of a particular design unique to this area. These are famous throughout Morocco and they are characterized by geometric red and orange shapes on a distinctive black background. There also some Taznakht carpets which are from the High Atlas mountains and have been made for centuries and their designs consist of dark green, white and red wool,spun into beautiful patterns.
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