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The Atlas Mountains and Pre-Saharan Plains (Morocco part II)

Stunning mountains and arid plains are perfect for movies... and books!

View Morocco 2008 on AC Frieden's travel map.

AIT BEN HADDOU, Morocco (Nov. 26, 2008) -- The journey began by leaving Marrakech at dawn and heading along route P31 towards the High Atlas and the pre-Saharan city of Ouarzazate some 200km east. Route P31 was completed in 1936 by the French Foreign Legion and passes by the full range of Atlas environments, from the Haouz plains, through the verdant foothills of the Oued Zat, to the barren peaks of the Atlas and the arid regions around Ouarzazate. The Tizi-n-Tichka mountain pass half way along the journey offers spectacular views of snow-covered peaks, but the mountain road is dangerous, with sharp turns, few safety barriers and steep drops, all of which is even more precarious during the drive back at night.

Above: Dangerous curves and steep drops.

Above: Heading to the mountain pass.

Above/below: Driving up the Tizi-n-Tichka mountain pass at an altitude of 7200 feet.


Above: A small mosque near the village of Aguim.

The village of Ait Ben Haddou is a ksar (a community of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls) along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Draa on a hill along the Ouarzazate River and has been used for filming scenes in various movies, including the Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Most of the town's inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river, though a few still endure a more traditional life in the ksar. Ait Ben Haddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Above/below: Standing by and crossing the rather dry bed of the Ouarzazat River.


Above: Climbing the narrow alleys and footpaths of Ait Ben Haddou.

Above: Resting at the top of the hill overlooking the village, plains and two valleys.

Above: Camels for hire.

Above: Heading toward the pre-Saharan city of Ouarzazat.

Ouarzazate is located about 200 km east of Marrakech and borders the Al Mansour lake. Its name comes from a Berber phrase meaning "without noise", and the city has long been a crossing point for African traders seeking to reach northern Morocco and Europe. Ouarzazate is also home to the famous Kasbah of Taourirt. The nearby Atlas Corporation Studios and have been used as sites for filming many films, including Pope Joan (to be released 2009), Prisoner of the Sun (2008), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Astérix & Obélix (2002), Gladiator (2000), The Mummy (1999), Kundun (1997), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Living Daylights (1987), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), among others. Could there one day be a movie made here based on one of my novels?? Okay, okay, maybe I'm dreaming...

Above: The Kasbah of Touirirt in the old quarter of Ouarzazat.

For the first part of my Morocco journey, click here.

Posted by AC Frieden 16:13 Archived in Morocco

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