With its majestic, tawny-brown and honey-gold circuit of walls, TAROUDANT is one of the most elegant towns in Morocco. Its position at the heart of the fertile Souss valley has always given it a commercial and political importance, and the Saadians briefly made it their capital in the sixteenth century before moving on to Marrakesh. Taroudant is a friendly, laidback sort of place, with a population of around 70,000 and the good-natured bustle of a Berber market town. It’s a good base for trekking into the Western High Atlas or the Jebel Sirwa as well as for two superb road routes – north over the Tizi n’Test to Marrakesh, and south to Tata, Foum el Hassan and beyond.
Despite its extensive ramparts and large tracts of open space, the town is quite compact. Within the walled “inner city” there are just two main squares – Place Assarag (officially renamed Place Alaouyine) and Place Talmoklate (officially Place en Nasr)– and these mark the centre of town, with the main souk area between them to the north. The pedestrianized area of Place Assarag is the centre of activity, and comes alive in late afternoon as the sun’s heat eases off and people come out to promenade. Lately it has seen the return of performers such as storytellers, snake charmers and musicians – as in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el Fna, but on a smaller scale, of course.