5th step: from Tinejdad to Erfoud and Rissani
There are a lot of Ksour between Tinejdad and Erfoud. Among them,
Touroug has been restored by the Ministry of Housing and Achouria by a local association with
help from the Oasis of the South Program. This last restoration is very well made, although the set lost much aesthetic value with
the construction of an enormous concrete mosque in the place of the ancient one, that was built with soil and very nice.
North from Erfoud, in the Tizimi oasis, a track to the left
side goes to the Ksar Jrana (31º 27,048' N - 4º 14,000' W), that has also been restored. To the other Ksour of this
oasis we arrive by different tracks from the Errachidia road and from the Tinejdad road.
Still further north stands the largest architectural ensemble of the whole
region: Maadid (31º 27,987' N 4º 12,922' W). It consists of four districts separated by walls and its architecture
offers a high interest, why is visited frequently by tourists.
In 1968, Maadid was the subject of a plan to improve living conditions
financed by the UN and it is still inhabited, but its beautiful gate has been
substituted by a concrete one.
Maadid gate, 2009
Maadid gate, 2009
The Ziz, between Erfoud and Errachidia
North from Maadid, the palm-grove gives way to an arid country, with small
dunes even. Once past this arid landscape, we take the first left turn. Then we find the Ksar Bathatha (31º 36,923' N
- 4º 13,113' W), quite beautiful, with two successive gates. The next is the Zaouia Jdida (31º 36,982' N -
4º 13,574' W), still inhabited and well conserved, with paved streets.
Following the same road we find El Maarka
(31º 38,274' N - 4º 12,892' W), an ancient palace of the Alaouite dinasty built under the kindom of Moulay
Ismail. It has a very nice monumental gate of urban style, with a profusion of mosaics and sculpted plaster, although the interior is
El Maarka gate
Before reaching the main road, we pass near Zrigat, a group
of Ksour that has been very important aforetime but that has been destroyed by inundations, and near Ksar El Gara
(31º 42,466' N - 4º 11,774' W), with double wall and a very regular square plan.
When we reaches the main road, we find a lot of Ksour, still inhabited and very
active: Oulad Cheker (31º 46,413' N - 4º 13,256' W), Ait El Khelef (31º 46,524' N - 4º 13,323' W)...
After we see Zaouia Amelkis (31º 48,624' N - 4º 16,117' W) from the edge of the cliff.
Ksar Oulad Cheker
Later we arrive to Meski (31º 51,307’ N - 4º 17,358’ W).
It deserves a special mention because of its location atop a rocky crag which makes it very picturesque seen from afar, but inside it
is all in ruins. Moreover, its environment of palm trees is very lush and nearby there is a natural spring transformed into a pool.
Errachidia is a modern town without interest, but it's placed in the middle
of the Mdagra oasis, that includes no less than 37 Ksour, accessible by different roads and paths (see the map). Unfortunately, many
of these Ksour had been destroyed by inundations.
Into the town of Errachidia we find the Ksar Targa, that has
been restored and it's fully inhabited. It has two neighborhoods: one inside, protected by a double wall, in which lived the Shorfa,
and the other surrounding it, originally occupied by dark skin farmers with who worked the land of the Shorfa.
The high Ziz valley
Going out from Errachidia to the North by the track that starts in the Ksar
Targa, we arrive to Ksar Souk, a set of four Ksour, after passing next of many other fortified villages. Ksar Souk
had formerly a great commercial activity and it gave name to the entire district. Much of its inhabitants were Jews.
The old road that goes by the east bank of the Ziz river allows visiting
many other Ksour of Mdaghra, reaching after the main road.
This one gives us to the Ziz gorges through a nice country,
starting with the Hassan Eddakhil swamp and continuing with the green palm-grove of El Khenk, closed into rock canyons. In this oasis
there are three groups of Ksour important in the history and quite beautiful, but very small: Ait Atmane
(32º 04,782' N - 4º 23,163' W), Ifri (32º 07,515’ N - 4º
21,954’ W) and Tamarkecht (32º 08,252’ N - 4º 21,780’ W).
After the Ziz gorges, the valley enlarges and, although there are many Ksour,
their interest is dwindling, because they are small and in ruins.
South from Erfoud starts the Tafilalet, one of the bigger and more famous
Ksour in this region.
It is famous for having been throughout the history an important step in
the caravan route linking Fez to sub-Saharan Africa and a very important trade center. We can still see the ruins of Sijilmassa
(31º 17,111’ N 4º 16,550’ W), that has been a big city from the eighth century to the fourteenth century.
The palm-grove is quite decrepit because of the drought, but from the
architectural point of view its wealth is enormous.
There are more than fifty Ksour still inhabited and half a dozen of
old palaces built by the Alaouites, a dinasty that is born precisely in the Tafilalet in the seventeenth century. Among these palaces
we must mention El Fida, Oulad Abdelhalim and Abbar.
El Fida (31º 18,483' N - 4º 15,048' W) has been restored by
the Moroccan Government. It contained a museum that no more exists, but the building can be visited paying to the guard. We arrive
there from Rissani by the Mezguida road.
El Fida: central courtyard
El Fida: the Hammam
Abbar mosque gate
Abbar (31º 16,666' N - 4º 15,094') is nothing more than a jumble
of ruins, but it includes some curiously intact gates with wonderful decoration in urban style. We arrive there walking by a path, south
of the de Moulay Ali Cherif mausoleum.
Oulad Abdelhalim (31º 16,209' N - 4º 14,510' W) is object of
restoration but it can be also visited. For many years it has been the residence of the Sultan's Khalifa in the oasis. It includes a
neighborhood where the slaves lived and another for the Sherifs, in addition to the palace itself. Its last reconstruction is dated
from 1846, but its first foundation has been in the fourteenth century.
A little further east, in the other side of the road going to Oulad
Abdelhalim, we find the ruins of the Ksar Tighmert (31º 16,821' N 4º 14,736' W), that belonged also to the Sultan
and that has been destroyed in 1919 in the course of a bloody battle between the French army and resistant Ait Atta. Another
palace, named Ad Dar Al Beida (31º 17,640' N 4º 13,399' W), was built in the eighteenth century by Sidi Mohamed
Ben Abdellah, being today in similarly precarious conditions.
Ruins of Tighmert
Oulad Abdelhalim gate, 2009
The Ksour where the population lives are scattered throughout the palm grove.
We can arrive to many of them by the Tourist Circuit that starts near the Moulay Ali Cherif mausoleum and to other by the Mezguida
We'll mention among them the Ksar Mezguida itself
(31º 19,454' N - 4º 15,451' W) for its architectonic value; Tabouassamt (31º 14,386' N - 4º 16,455' W) for its
historic importance; Ouighlane (31º 15,576' N - 4º 17,193' W) for its size and for being still fully inhabited;
Serghine (31º 15,441' N - 4º 13,255' W) for the mysterious atmosphere in its dark streets and Tingheras (31º 13,359' N 4º 18,193' W)
for being built on a hill with a panoramic view over the oasis.
In the Tafilalt there are also some Ksour where pottery is made, as
Guelagla (31º 19,929' N - 4º 18,339' W), Charfat Bahaj (31º 14,304' N 4º 17,495' W) and
Moulay Abdelah Dkak (31º 17,259' N 4º 17,149' W).
Finally, inside Rissani stand the Ksar Abou Am
(31º 16,916' N 4º 16,147' W), restored and fully inhabited. Its gate presents an urban style, like in other Ksour of the Tafilalet,
due to the influence of Fez through the trade relations. This Ksar is one of the most visited by tourists in this area.
Abou Am gate
Nearly one hundred meters north from Abou Am, we see the Kasbah from the
thirteenth or fourteenth century that gave its name to the town. Here the word Kasbah is employed as a fort built by the Sultan in
rural area, not like the Kasbahs we have seen along our route. One portion of this Kasbah Rissani (31º 17,074’ - N 4º 16,121’ W) is
destined today to a small museum where are exhibited the objects found in the Sijilmassa digging (free access in office hours).
From Rissani you can follow the paved road to Merzouga to
see the desert and the Erg Chebbi dunes. But there is not traditional architecture because its
inhabitants were nomads who lived in tents.