The bizarre Kasbah Telouet is one of the most extraordinary sights of the Atlas – fast crumbling into the dark red earth, but still offering, in parts, a peculiar glimpse of the style and melodrama of Moroccan political government and power still within living memory. There’s little of aesthetic value – many of the rooms have fallen into complete ruin – but nevertheless, even after over a half-century of decay, there’s still vast drama in this weird and remote site, and in the decorated salon walls, often roofless and open to the wind.

The main halls and reception rooms

The kasbah is an unbelievable labyrinth of locked doors and connecting passages – it is said that no single person ever fully knew their way around the entire complex – though these days you can only access the main halls and reception rooms.The latter, remarkably intact, given the crumbling exterior, at least give a sense of the quantity and style of the decoration, still in progress when the pasha died and the old regime came to a sudden halt. “The outward and visible signs of ultimate physical ambition”, as Gavin Maxwell put it in Lords of the Atlas, they have delicate iron window grilles and fine carved ceilings, though the overall result is once again the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century combination of sensitive imitation of the past and out-and-out vulgarity.

The roof

There is a tremendous scale of affectation, too, perfectly demonstrated by the use of green Salé tiles for the roof – usually reserved for mosques and royal palaces. From up here, you can look down upon some of the courts and chambers, the bright zellij and stucco enclosing great gaping holes in the stone and plaster. The really enduring impression, though, is the wonder of how and why it ever came to be built at all.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Morocco features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Chefchaouen: Morocco’s best-kept secret

Chefchaouen: Morocco’s best-kept secret

Morocco’s tourist track isn’t well-beaten, it’s been thumped flat. Ask anyone who has been and the chances are they’ll have visited some combination of …

05 Dec 2016 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
A day-by-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Marrakesh

A day-by-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Marrakesh

The last few years have seen Marrakesh well and truly established as Morocco’s capital of chic, attracting the rich and famous from Europe and beyond. Yet t…

11 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month