Leaving Marrakech behind, our tour encounters beautiful scenery and small villages built in tiers succeeding among oak trees, walnut groves and oleander bushes. The road snakes up before arriving at the spectacular Tizi n Tichka pass. We are now at 2260 meters high. Once over the pass a totally different landscape is unveiled: the lunar landscape of the Anti Atlas and the plain beyond it. By now you should make sure your cameras are handy.
Centuries ago, Marrakech was the capital of a kingdom stretching way south into nowadays Ghana, Soudan and Mali The sultan of Marrakech and his court had become incredibly wealthy. Gold, precious wood and slaves from Ghana and books from Timbuktu were all making their way into the city using the route over the Sahara. Centuries after, Pasha El Glaoui, an ambitious and ruthless man would rise from the same area and would become the ruler of Morocco's south.
Just after the pass, our day trip from Marrakech turns left and we find ourselves on the ancient route caravans used to bring the much sought- after goods at the court of the Sultan. We soon reach Telouet and its former pasha's palace dominating the village, a fortified citadel that is both a microcosm of an empire and its demise. Pacha Glaoui had managed to overshadow the sultan by controlling most of nowadays Morocco and decided to erect a palace in the middle of nowhere, where his family had originated from. He had employed the most skilled artisans to build and decorate his main residence and, in its golden age, armies, stables and Christian slaves were confined within its walls while a flourishing Jewish community was managing the nearby salt mines.
Leaving Telouet behind, the trip crosses spaghetti western backgrounds to then meet the canyon. The gardens by the river bed melt into a gigantic green serpent imprisoned between the barren light brown walls of the canyon, only to escape out into the horizon. The road follows the green serpent and on the other side, carved into the wall of the canyon, grottos are still being used for keeping the stock or grains over the winter by the semi nomadic populations of the area. Here and there, decaying kasbahs stand witnesses of an age soon resolute. What better way to immerse yourself more than having lunch at Kasbah Ellouze ? The ingredients come from their own gardens, the meals are unpretentious yet inspired. The French twist is there, the guest house owner being a former chef.
Late afternoon. Then is the time to visit Ait Benhaddou, the postcard- like UNESCO adobe citadel. A fat, red sun, only underlines the beige tones of the mud and straws mixture and through the covered passages and stone walls, the past filters itself into the present. In spite of the local ‘guides’, the best is to just lose yourselves in its alleyways. There is always a new way to reach its peak, from where the snowcapped Atlas Mountains framed by the denim blue sky will steal your breath away. If the climb up hadn’t already. Half hour later, our trip crosses Ouarzazate, made famous by its film studios where scenes of 'Game of Thrones' and 'Gladiator' were shot. At this point, a camel trek can be accommodated around the walls of the Kasbah, by the river bed.
Back on the road, if time allows for it, our day trip will take us to the impressive film studios of Ouarzazate ( the Hollywood of Morocco - as the locals like to call it) where scenes of 'Gladiator', 'Troy ' or 'Game of Thrones' were shot. With a bit of luck, you might catch a glimpse of Ridley Scott, on the set of a new epic blockbuster. Further away, the Oasis of Fint is a great example of life within an oasis, albeit hours drive away from the Sahara dunes.
Please note that not all of these can be included in this day trip from Marrakech, as at least 3 hours drive are needed only to get to Ait Benhaddou from Marrakech, without counting the stops. Therefore compromises must be made. If your idea of a day tour from Marrakech is stopping regularly and trekking in the Atlas, you are better off booking our Atlas and the Lake day trip instead.
We will then start our way back crossing the High Atlas, this time on the tarmac road that used to be the route first laid out by the French Foreign Legion over the Atlas Mountains. The excursion serpents its way past abrupt valleys and mountain peaks to reach Marrakech later in the evening.
You are free to choose your time of departure. However, in order to make the best out of your day out, we recommend leaving no later than 8 AM. Forecasted return time in Marrakech is 7- 8 PM.
PRICE.............................................................................................. 75 EUROS PER PERSON ( BASED ON 2 PERSONS SHARING THE VEHICLE). DISCOUNTS APPLY FOR 3 OR MORE PERSONS.
The rate includes: private ( sole use) of the modern air conditioned Toyota 4x4 and the English fluent driver- guide, entrance fees to all sites and monuments, refreshing drinks inside the vehicle, pick up and drop off from/ to the hotel/ Riad and transport insurance.