A beautiful day-trip from Tafraoute is to drive southeast towards Souk el Hadd Issi, a route that takes in some of the most beautiful country of the Anti-Atlas, including some fabulous gorges and palmeries. Most of it is now surfaced, though about 10km are still piste, and if you have a sturdy enough vehicle to handle that, you can make a loop of it, travelling down via Aït Mansour and returning via Tizerkine, or vice versa.
Leaving Tafraoute, follow the road out past Agard Oudad, turning left around 3km south of the village. This road climbs over the hills, with superb panoramas back across Tafraoute and the Ameln Valley, to reach TLETA TAZRITE (15km from Tafraoute), which has a souk on Friday – not Tuesday as its name implies, Tleta (“three”) being Arabic for Tuesday, which is considered the third day of the week.
From Tleta Tazrite, the road heads south to Aït Mansour, where many people like to park up and stroll through the massive palmery, which is beautifully cool in the heat of the day. The palmery stretches a good 6km along the floor of a valley, while the road itself rises above it, giving amazingly beautiful vistas, before descending, past largely abandoned villages, back to the level of the palm trees.
Souk el Hadd Issi
At the southern end of the Aït Mansour palmery, the road passes a fine agadir (fortified granary). Just south of this, at SOUK EL HADD ISSI, the palmery ends. To the south, a piste (for which really you need 4WD) heads off to Aït Herbil, passing a number of ancient rock carvings, though they are not easy to find and a guide would be advisable. The first and least difficult group of carvings to find are some 700m east of the road, about 6.4km south of the junction, and feature long-horned cattle and elephants, which lived in this part of Africa when the carvings were made.
The village of Souk el Hadd Issi itself (Souk el Had Arfallah Ihrir on the Michelin map) is east of the junction with the Aït Herbil piste, and as its name suggests (“Hadd” or “one” meaning Sunday), it has a Sunday souk. The road through and beyond the village is now surfaced most of the way to TIOUADA, where there’s accommodation.
Tiouada to Tarhat
From just south of Tiouada to TIZERKINE, all semblance of paved road comes to an end, and a passable piste takes you through a lovely oasis snaking along a canyon. The first village you pass if heading north along the canyon is TEMGUILCHT, dominated by the very large and impressive Zaouia Sidi Ahmed ou Mohammed (no entrance to non-Muslims), where there is a moussem in honour of the saint every August.
At Tizerkine, the oasis peters out, but you regain the tarmac to take you through the northern section of the gorge. If you are heading south rather than north, you’ll need to bear right where the road forks, 5km beyond Tizerkine.
At the northern end of the canyon is the modern village of TARHAT (Taghaout), but just to its east, high above the north side of the road, are the twelfth-century remains of ancient Tarhat, a fortified village and agadir perched on the lip of a sheer rock wall. A footpath leads up to it from the modern village.