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Published: June 11th 2015
Morocco 2015 1214 Tinghir Morocco 052415
Sign recognizing help from American People in preserving khettara system
As we stepped off our camels at the Merzouga camp, we had been greeted with an idyllic scene - pretty ornate lamps laid out in front of the camp like lights along a landing strip, rugs covering every square inch of ground between the tents, white tents standing side by side with beckoning flaps. Awakening the next morning we found an entirely different scene. I was the first to try to leave our tent, and could not initially get out even after unzipping the flap. As it turned out, our particular tent had been ideally situated to catch the blowing sand during the storm, and our hosts had stopped a lot of sand from coming in by tying a large rug up in front of our tent, weighted down by sandbags and heavy cushions at the bottom. Once I got through that obstruction, I stepped outside and found all in disarray. The rugs had been blown here and there, with bare desert hardpan exposed. The lanterns were knocked over. Sand was piled up against tent after tent. But as was true throughout our trip through Morocco, our guides and hosts did whatever was necessary to enhance our stay, and so I
saw also that the meal tent was already set up with china and cutlery for breakfast. We decided to skip showering, although showers were available. There was still a significant breeze blowing, and we were all convinced that any wet surfaces would simply attract more sand.
We ate breakfast, the re-boarded the 4x4's for the drive out along the Ziz riverbed to pick up our touring bus again at Rissani. As we headed generally westward, we stopped to see a site where you could see the ancient khettara irrigation system. This system consisted of long horizontal tunnels with multiple wells going down into them at frequent intervals. The tunnels collected water from occasional rainfall, micro flows from the surrounding clays and sands, and condensation of atmospheric water in the tunnels cooler than the surface. All assisted in maintaining the tumbles, and all shared in the water. This working area is preserved through a grant from the the USA, and there are signs recognizing this in several places.
Further along, we reached Tinghir and the Todra Gorge. Tinghir is a Berber town along Wadi Todgha after it exits the Todra Gorge. It is a dense palm oasis with the
green palms standing out starkly against the tan rock background of the valley. WE first visited the Gorge itself, with its small stream coursing between 600 m high walls on either side. It is a popular place for locals to visit to picnic and socialize, and also a popular place for rock-climbing. Tinghir is a typical oasis town, and made a good place for lunch. It is a town of some 85,000 stretching along the wadi, with its economy based in agriculture and tourism. We also had a stop along our route in a ksar to buy locally produced handmade Berber rugs. (We bought a nice one - hey kids, say goodbye to your inheritance).
We drove on westward through Ouarzazate, a town that serves as a base for excursions into the desert to its south. It is also Morocco's film-making capital, with movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and The Mummy partially shot there, as well as some of the popular Game of Thrones TV series. There are two large studios with back lots that can be seen form the highway. Finally our journey took us into a riad in a small casbah just beyond the UNESCO
World Heritage Site Ait ben Haddou. The riad was wonderful, although rooms were smaller than in some of the others. We ate, drank wine, and retired to sleep before the start of our next day at Ait ben Haddou.
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