The departure of the caravan is from the palm grove of Skoura, a vast expanse of palm trees 50 km from Ouarzazate and renowned for hosting many kasbahs in the ground. It is for Jean-Pierre the opportunity to make Alice discover the traditional irrigation system specific to oases, an underground aqueduct dug from the sides of the Atlas mountains several kilometers away. This ancestral network, still known in Arabic under the name of Foggara or Qanats in Persian, drains underground the water necessary for the irrigation of the oasis and is controlled by wells drilled at regular intervals. These looks form on the ground small mounds of earth in the middle of which opens the well which allows to follow the good flow of the precious drink without which crops could not take place in the gardens of this lush palm grove.
The first stop of the caravan is on the banks of Lake Ouarzazate which brings together the waters of several rivers downstream including the Oued Dadès and Oued Imini; both have their source in the high snow-capped peaks of the Atlas mountains, such as that of Tizi-N’Tichka east of the Jebel Toubkal or that of M’Goun at altitudes between 3,000 to 4,000 m.
From this magnificent lake which offers visitors a panorama of tranquility, the Drâa wadi finds all its strength to set out again in the valley which bears its name, to do its irrigation service for the many villages which adjoin it, to flow until to the dunes of the Sahara to be more discreet throughout its crossing, almost invisible under the sandy soil, until its future encounter with the major waters of the ocean.
Alice’s caravan arrives at the village of Tamgroute located 15 km from Zagora, douar to the Berber and Arab population, and renowned since the 18th century for its pottery workshops, among the oldest in Morocco. The craftsmen who pass on their know-how from generation to generation make here a typically rural pottery whose specificity is to be covered with a green enamel. This green enamel comes from the alloy of manganese, copper oxide and barley flour. This dough covering the pottery just before cooking is the secret of this color. This pottery also exists in earthy tones when the copper oxide is removed from the alloy.
The passage to Tamgroute is also for the crew en route to the ocean the opportunity to stock up on vegetables and fruit, and thus live the colorful atmosphere of the weekly souk.
Tamgroute brings together several ksour, fortified villages, with the best known of them the Zaouïa Naciria which houses an old library provided with works of Arab-Muslim culture such as scientific books, works of mathematics, astronomy or pharmacopoeia, literary or more generally religious books, including Korans illuminated with indigo, saffron and henna and written on gazelle skin supports. Some manuscripts date back to the 11th century, notably from the famous golden age of Andalusia. A book of Pythagoras translated into Arabic 500 years ago remains another of these jewels gathered in this place his knowledge put in place in the 17th century by Mohammed Abu Nasr today venerated as a saint in Islam. It is said that he would have collected all these books during his numerous pilgrimages to Mecca.
the great Desert
The desert makes its appearance with its first dunes, where the plains begin to cover themselves with sand. At the edge of the douar called Ouled Driss, which means “the son of Driss”, a small fortified village dating from the 17th century at the gates of M’Hamid El Ghizlane, the expedition sinks towards the Sahara. A new rhythm is required. The day is as clocked on the wire of the stages by the simple gestures and become essential in these places: the awakening at sunrise, the camp which is folded up on the back of the essential camels, the walk at their sides until the next halt before the end of the day, the unloading of the burden from the back of the camels to let them rest, the camp which unfolds again and finally the time for tea, that of the rest of the bodies and that of the peace of souls.
Lost in the desert, the tomb of the marabout Sidi Naji has become a true place of pilgrimage for the nomads. Legend has it that this holy man had as much devotion as the desert had grains of sand. His tomb has the distinction of being large, which has generated over time mythical stories about the existence of a distant time when giants populated these countries. Transit pilgrims have the habit of leaving offerings on the edge of the tomb in the hope of receiving in return the blessing of Sidi Naji.
An erg is the name in Arabic to signify a desert of dunes. Like a sea of sand dotted with its waves of dunes, that of Chgaga is almost 50 km from the town of M’Hamid El Ghizlane and spans a length of about 40 km and 15 km in width, which which makes it the largest and wildest place in Morocco. There begins the formidable encounter with the kingdom of the deepest sobriety. Where there is nothing but the sky of a scorching blue and the sand color of a radical gold. Where everything is clear, in a fullness of light. Where everything is seen because here, and thanks to this great emptiness, the eye has all the space to see only the details, the rare plant which emerges from the sand, the insect as lost but which nevertheless lives its life , the singularity of the crest of a dune. A new joy is expressed, the joy of finally being able to concentrate on the minute details of the living.
The desert suddenly gives way to a sea of black stones polished by the millennia from which here and there rise volcanic streaks which then offer the walker a magnificent panorama of the surrounding desert. There are still wild donkeys, sometimes gazelles, a rare life that resists the harshness of nature.