The great date-palm oases of the Oued Ziz and the Tafilalt come as near as anywhere in Morocco to fulfilling Western fantasies about the Sahara. They do so by occupying the last desert stretches of the Ziz Valley: a route shot through with lush and amazingly cinematic scenes, from the river’s fertile beginnings at the Source Bleue, the springwater pool that is the oasis meeting point of Meski, to a climax amid the rolling sand dunes of Merzouga. Along the way, once again, are an impressive succession of ksour, and an extraordinarily rich palmery – historically the most important territory this side of the Atlas.
Strictly speaking, the Tafilalt (or Tafilalet) comprises the oases south of Erfoud, its principal town and gateway. Nowadays, however, the provincial capital is the French-built garrison town and administrative centre of Er Rachidia, a convenient pit stop heading north, through the great canyon of the Ziz Gorges, to Midelt and Fez, or east, on a much less-travelled route, to Figuig – an important crossing point into Algeria when the frontier was open.