The direct route between Marrakesh and Ouarzazate, the Tizi n’Tichka (N9) is a spectacular piece of engineering, its pulse-racing series of switchbacks providing evermore jaw-dropping views until it eventually crests the central High Atlas at its eponymous pass. It was built to replace the old caravan route to the Drâa and the south, which was controlled during the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth by the legendary Glaoui family, the greatest and most ambitious of all the Berber tribal leaders – their kasbah-headquarters, a vast complex of buildings abandoned only in 1956, still stands at Telouet, less than an hour from the main road.
Arrow-straight as it runs out from Marrakesh across the Haouz Plain, the Tizi n’Tichka soon contours forest slopes high above the Oued Ghdat valley, twisting past small villages and fields as it heads to Taddert, the last significant village on the north side of the pass – though most traffic now stops a kilometre on at busy Upper Taddert. The road thereafter climbs in an amazing array of hairpin bends to reach pastureland (tichka means “high pasture”) before a final pull up to the Tichka pass itself (2260m), marked by cafés and the obligatory souvenir stall or two; not far down on the south side of the pass is the turning to Telouet and the Ounila Valley. The main road south winds down through Igherm, 10km further on and home to a well-restored agadir (to find someone to unlock it, ask at the roadside hotel, Chez Mimi), gradually flattening out until it reaches the turn-off to Aït Benhaddou, just 19km before Ouarzazate.