Agadir, the Souss and Anti-Atlas Travel Guide
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Southern Morocco’s major tourist destination is Agadir, a winter beach resort for Europeans, rebuilt after its destruction by an earthquake in 1960. Inland and to the south of Agadir are the Souss and the Anti-Atlas, easy-going regions whose Tashelhaït (Chleuh) Berber populations share the distinction of having together cornered the country’s grocery trade. Taroudant, capital of the wide and fertile Souss valley, has massive walls, animated souks and good hotels. Further south, into the Anti-Atlas mountains, Tafraoute and its valley are even more compelling – the stone-built villages and villas set amid a stunning landscape of pink granite and vast rock formations. On the coast north of Agadir is a series of less developed beaches, including Taghazout, Morocco’s number-one surfing resort. A short way inland is Paradise Valley, a beautiful and exotic palm gorge, from which a mountain road trails up to the seasonal waterfalls of Immouzer des Ida Outanane. To the south of Agadir, the beaches are scarcely developed, ranging from solitary campsites at Sidi Rbat – one of Morocco’s best locations for birdwatching – and Sidi Moussa d’Aglou, down to the old port of Sidi Ifni – only relinquished by Spain in 1969 and full of splendid Art Deco colonial architecture.
ABBAINOU (Abeïno) is a tiny oasis, 15km northeast of Goulimine, and an easy excursion if you have transport (head up the Sidi Ifni road for a kilometre and it’s signposted to the right). If you don’t have a vehicle, you could negotiate a grand taxi (from the main rank by the souk). There are hot springs, which have been tapped, and on cool mornings the irrigation channels through the palmery can be seen steaming. There’s a basic campsite, and a café and bakery in the village centre, but the main interest is the station thérmale at the immaculate Hôtel Abaynou (BB 300dh), where two indoor pools have been created, one for women at 28°C, the other for men, at a scalding 38°C.
A short but enjoyable walk from Tafraoute is to head south to AGARD OUDAD (3km from Tafraoute), a dramatic-looking village built under a particularly bizarre outcrop of granite. Like many of the rocks in this region, this has been given a name. Most of the others are named after animals – people will point out their shapes to you – but this one is known (in good French-colonial tradition) as Le Chapeau de Napoléon (Napoleon’s Hat).
The Painted Rocks (Pierres Bleues or Pierres Peints), 1.5km to the southwest of Agard Oudad, were executed in 1984 by Belgian artist Jean Verame and a team of Moroccan firemen, who hosed some eighteen tons of paint over a large area of rocks; Verame had previously executed a similar project in Sinai. The rocks had lost some of their colour over the years so a local man decided to refresh them in 2010, to mixed reactions from local people, many of whom disliked the project, especially after pieces of the paint started washing off into the local streams.
To reach the rock on foot, walk through the village and follow the flat piste round to the right, behind the Chapeau de Napoléon; you’ll see the rocks on your left after a couple of kilometres. You should be able to engage a young guide in the village to help you find them. By car, a smooth piste breaks off the Tiznit road 5km further on and wends its way up towards the rocks, leaving a ten-minute walk at the end, but unless you prefer this longer route, don’t follow the road sign if you are on foot.
The largest and most spectacular oasis in the Goulimine area is AÏT BEKKOU (or Aït Boukka), 10km southeast along the Asrir road, then 7km on piste. It can be reached by shared grand taxi from Goulimine (station on the Asrir road). Aït Bekkou is a thriving agricultural community, with an especially lush strip of cultivation along a canal, irrigated from the old riverbed and emerging from a flat expanse of sand. You might even see the odd herd of camels being grazed out here. To reach the canal, head for the thicket of palms about 2km behind the oasis (or pick up a guide on the way).
You could spend days, if not weeks, wandering round the 26 villages of the Ameln Valley, north of Tafraoute. Set against the backdrop of the Jebel el Kest’s rock face, they are all beautiful both from afar and close up – with springs, irrigation systems, brightly painted houses and mosques. On no account, either, should you miss out on a walk to see the painted rocks in their, albeit faded, glory.
The Ameln villages are built on the lower slopes of the Jebel el Kest, between the “spring line” and the valley floor, allowing gravity to take the water through the village and on to the arable land below. Many have basic shops where you can buy drinks, if little else. Getting around them, you can use a combination of taxis and walking, or rent bicycles.
Even a casual walker could stroll along the valley from village to village: Oumesnat to Anemeur, for example, is around 12km. More serious walkers might consider making the ascent of the Jebel el Kest (2359m) or, best of all, Adrar Mkorn (2344m), an isolated peak to the southeast with spectacular twin tops (this involves some hard scrambling). A striking feature on it is the Lion’s Face at Asgaour – a rock formation which really does look like the face of a lion in the afternoon light when seen from Tafraoute. The area around it (and many other areas scattered on both the southern and northern slopes of the Jebel el Kest) offers excellent rock climbing on sound quartzite.
OUMESNAT, like most Ameln settlements, emerges out of a startling green and purple rockscape, crouched against the steep rock walls of the valley. From a distance, its houses, perched on the rocks, seem to have a solidity to them – sensible blocks of stone, often three storeys high, with parallel sets of windows. Close up, they reveal themselves as bizarre constructions, often built on top of older houses deserted when they had become too small or decrepit; a few of them, with rooms jutting out over the cliffs, are held up by enormous stilts and have raised doorways entered by short (and retractable) ladders.
One of Oumesnat’s houses, known as La Maison Traditionelle, is owned by a blind Berber and his family, who show visitors round. They give an interesting tour, explaining the domestic equipment – grindstones, water-holders, cooking equipment – and the layout of the house with its guest room with separate entrance, animals’ quarters, and summer terrace for sleeping out. To get the most from a visit, you may need to engage an interpreter, such as one of the guides recommended in Tafraoute.
From Oumesnat, you can walk through or above a series of villages to ANAMEUR, where there is a source bleue, or natural springwater pool, a meandering hike of around three hours. Along the way is Tazoulte, one of four local villages with Jewish cemeteries, remnants of a community now completely departed, though Jewish symbols are still inscribed on the region’s silverware, which was traditionally made by Jews.
The Ameln’s highest village, TAGOUDICHE (Tagdichte on the road sign), where the trail up the Jebel el Kest (or Lekst) begins, is accessible by Land Rover along a rough piste. There is a shop and a gîte here. The Jebel el Kest is a rough and rocky scramble – there’s no actual climbing involved – over a mountain of amethyst quartzite. There is a black igneous dyke below the summit pyramid, and the summit, being a pilgrimage site, has shelters on the top, as well as hooped petticoat daffodils blooming in spring. The easiest route is not obvious and a guide is advisable.
Returning to Tafraoute from the Ameln Valley, you can walk over a pass back from the R104 road near Ighalene in around three hours. The path isn’t particularly easy to find but it’s a lovely walk, taking you past flocks of sheep and goats tended by their child-shepherds. The route begins as a piste (east of the one to Tagoudiche), then you follow a dry riverbed off to the right, up a side valley, where the zigzags of an old track can be seen. Cross to go up here – not straight on – and, once over the pass, keep circling left till you can see Tafraoute below.
The road west along the Ameln Valley crosses an almost imperceptible watershed, beyond which, at Aït Omar (see map), a piste heads north to TIRNMATMAT, a partly abandoned village. Around 200m further, on the north bank of the river, are numerous carvings in the rocks, depicting hunters and animals (some of these may be prehistoric), along with more modern graffiti (including a VW Beetle).
The ridge walk to the south of this village is taken by some trekking parties and is really special, with Bonelli’s eagles circling below, goats climbing the argan trees, and wild boar snuffling round the bushes.
AOULOUZ, 34km east of Ouled Berhil, is the starting point for the early bus to Marrakesh via Tizi n’Test, and has quite a lively little market, at its busiest on Wednesdays and Sundays. Aoulouz Gorge, north of town, is a prime birdwatching locale. Spring migrants include everything from booted eagle and black kite to white stork; Barbary falcon, Moussier’s and black redstart, blue rock thrush and rock bunting all winter here.
East of Aoulouz, a piste leads to Taïssa, at the southern end of the Assif n’Tifnout valley, with a rough piste to Amsouzart. It is possible to drive this in a sturdy vehicle and you can make a two-day tour, returning to Taliouine (or doing it in the opposite direction). Alternatively, you could walk it (four to five days). From Aoulouz there are minibuses to Assarag, where you’ll find rooms, and from where a few hours’ walk north will take you to Amsouzart.
One of the stranger sights of the Souss and surrounding coastal region is goats browsing among the branches of spiny, knotted argan trees, a species similar to the olive that is found only in this region. Though some younger goatherds seem to have a sideline in charging tourists to take photographs, the actual object of the exercise is to let the goats eat the outer, fleshy part of the argan fruit. The hard, inner nut is then cracked open and the kernel crushed to extract the expensive oil.
Argan oil is sweet and rich, and is used in many Moroccan dishes and in salads, or for dunking bread. It is also used to make amalou, a delicious dip of honey and almond paste.
An expensive delicacy, argan oil is not easily extracted: while one olive tree provides around five litres of olive oil, it takes the nuts from thirty argan trees to make just one litre of argan oil. Plastic bottles of argan oil are occasionally sold at the roadside in the Oued Souss area, but are very often adulterated with cheaper oils. It is therefore better to buy argan oil or amalou from a trustworthy source such as the cooperative at Tioute, the honey shop in Agadir, Hôtel Tifrit in Paradise Valley, or specialist shops in Marrakesh or Essaouira. Argan oil is also sometimes sold in larger supermarkets.
Fort Bou-Jerif is a truly romantic spot, set beside the Oued Assaka, 13km from the sea, with a wonderful auberge-campsite in an old French Foreign Legion camp in the middle of nowhere. From here, you can go on some superb four-wheel-drive excursions in the area, including trips to the Plage Blanche – the “White Beach” that stretches for sixty or so kilometres along the coast southwest of Goulimine. Travellers heading for Mauritania and Senegal should also be able to pick up information here as a lot of overlanders stop over at the fort on their way down.
Eleven kilometres east of Taroudant, on the south bank of the Oued Souss, the ancient, fortified village Freija stands atop a hill rising above the Oued Souss. The oued is quite wide here, and usually dry, but when it does flood, the hill keeps the pisé (mud-brick) houses safely high and dry. As well as being quite picturesque, and a good spot for birdwatching, Freija affords sweeping views of the river, the fertile plains beyond, and the High Atlas.
Surrounded by some impressively bleak scenery, GOULIMINE (also spelt Guelmim or Gulimime) is an administrative town with a distinctly frontier feel and a couple of small, fairly animated souks. The nearest thing it has to a tourist sight is the remains of Caid Dahman Takni’s palace, in the backstreets behind the Hôtel la Jeunesse, ruined now but barely a hundred years old. One or two local hustlers indulge in theatrical cons, usually involving invitations to see “genuine hommes bleus” (supposedly desert nomads, clad in blue) in tents outside town, inevitably just an excuse to relieve tourists of some money.
Goulimine’s Saturday souk, known as the camel market, is rather a sham. It has the usual Moroccan goods (grain, vegetables, meat, clothes, silver, jewellery, sheep and goats), but what it doesn’t have many of is camels, which have fallen from favour over the years in the wake of lorries and transit vehicles, and the caravan routes are more or less extinct. The few you do see have been brought in for show or to be sold for meat. The market is held a kilometre out of town on the road to Tan Tan; it starts around 6am, and a couple of hours later the first tour buses arrive. There are a couple of quite animated evening markets, one off the Route d’Agadir (now officially renamed Boulevard Mohammed VI), mainly selling food, and one off Avenue des FAR, mainly selling clothes.
The Jebel Sirwa (or Siroua) is an isolated volcanic peak, rising from a high area (3000m-plus, so take it easy) to the south of the High Atlas. It offers trekking as good as you can find anywhere – rewarded by magnificent views, a cliff village and dramatic gorges. It is best in spring; winter is extremely cold. For those with 4WD, one of the great scenic pistes of Morocco circles north of Sirwa, a two- to three-day trip from Taliouine via Askaoun and Tachnocht, rejoining the N10 north of Tazenakht.
A week-long walking circuit taking in Jebel Sirwa is outlined on our map (see The Tata circuit), the numbers being the overnight halts. Mules to carry gear, as well as tent rental, can be arranged by Ahmed Jadid at the Auberge Souktana in Taliouine or by El Aouad Ali in Taroudant, both good cooks who speak fluent English, though they don’t operate in the Sirwa in winter. Mules are a worthwhile investment, but having Ali or Ahmed along is the best guarantee of success. If you are going it alone, the relevant survey maps are the 1:100,000 Taliwine and 1:50,000 Sirwa. Ahmed Jadid can show you these, and dispenses advice whether or not you engage his guiding services.
This fine beach, with natural sea-worn rock archways, 10km north of Sidi Ifni, is overlooked by an old Spanish fort from the hills above, whose thermal currents attract hang-gliding and paragliding enthusiasts. A rather horrible vacation village is unfortunately now being built directly above the beach.
There are four auberges on the beach, each with a restaurant and generator (evenings only). These will probably survive the arrival of the vacation village, but the beach may become less attractive as a result, especially at weekends.
MIRHLEFT is a friendly, bustling village, about halfway between Tiznit and Sidi Ifni, set a kilometre back from a series of good beaches with crashing waves and strong currents, which particularly attract surfers. A 1935 French military fort overlooks the village from the hill above, which you can climb for beautiful views over the surrounding countryside. The village hosts a Monday souk, devoted mainly to secondhand items.
OULED BERHIL, 43km east of Taroudant, is largely of note for its old kasbah, 800m south of the main road (signposted from the centre of the village), which has been turned into a sumptuous hotel-restaurant, the Riad Hida.
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.
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.
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.
If the Oued Souss is flowing (it often dries out), the estuary is of interest to birdwatchers. The northern banks of the river have good views of a variety of waders and wildfowl including greater flamingo (most evident in Aug and Sept), spoonbill, ruddy shelduck, avocet, greenshank and curlew, while the surrounding scrubby banks also have large numbers of migrant warblers and Barbary partridge. The Royal Palace, built in the 1980s in an imaginative blend of traditional and modern forms, can be glimpsed from the riverbank, but is not open to visitors.
To reach the estuary by road, take the Inezgane road out of Agadir (bus #21 or #23 from Avenue Mohammed V), to the junction 7km out of town, where a sign announces the beginning of Inezgane’s city limits; turn right here, opposite a military base, but be warned if wandering around the woods here that there have been reports of robberies, sometimes at knifepoint, so leave your valuables behind, and don’t go alone.
This is also the location of three golf courses, and Souss Park (daily: Nov–Feb 9am–5pm; March–May & Sept–Oct 9am–6pm; June–Aug 9am–7pm; 220dh; free shuttle bus from town), where you can harness up and swing through the treetops like Tarzan.
Tafraoute is worth all the effort and time it takes to reach, approached by scenic roads through the Anti-Atlas from Tiznit or Agadir – both are beautiful, but the Tiznit approach has the edge, winding through a succession of gorges and a grand mountain valley. With your own transport, you can also get here from Ifrane de l’Anti-Atlas, Igherm or (with 4WD) Aït Herbil. Tafraoute is a centre for villages built among a wind-eroded, jagged panorama of granite tors – “like the badlands of South Dakota”, as Paul Bowles put it, “writ on a grand scale”. The best time to visit is early spring, when the almond trees are in full blossom, or in autumn, after the intense heat has subdued; in midsummer, it can be debilitatingly hot.
Created as an administrative centre by the French, and little expanded since, Tafraoute is one of the most relaxed destinations in Morocco, though a few faux guides may still make a nuisance of themselves, claiming to be the guides mentioned in this and other books, and spinning all sorts of yarns to coax the unwary into carpet shops where they can be subjected to the old hard-sell routine.
Along the road from Tiznit to Tafraoute, you may occasionally see children holding little furry animals for sale – live, on a piece of string – by the roadside. These are ground squirrels, which are known locally as anzid or sibsib, and are destined for the tajine dish, in which they are considered quite a delicacy, their flesh being sweet since they subsist mainly on a diet of almonds and argan nuts. Recognizable by the prominent stripes down their backs, and by their long tails, ground squirrels are common in the tropics, and have long been ascribed medicinal properties in Morocco. You will not get anzid tajine in any restaurant, however, unless perhaps you provide the squirrels yourself.
Among Tafraoute villagers, emigration to work in the grocery and hotel trade – all over Morocco and France – is a determining aspect of life. The men return home to retire, however, building European-looking villas amid the rocks, and most of the younger ones manage to come back for a month’s holiday each year – whether it be from Casablanca, Tangier, Paris or Marseille.
But for much of the year, it is the women who run things in the valley, and the only men to be found are the old, the family-supported or the affluent. It is a system that seems to work well enough: enormously industrious, and very community-minded, the Tafraoutis have managed to maintain their villages in spite of adverse economic conditions, importing all their foodstuffs except for a little barley, the famed Tafraoute almonds and the sweet oil of the argan tree.
More a village than a town, Taliouine makes a good day-trip from Taroudant, or a stop en route to Ouarzazate. Its magnificent kasbah (east of the village) was built by the Glaoui after the French evicted the original landowners to make way for it, but they regained the land after independence, and although large parts of the kasbah are derelict, one member of the family, together with his French wife, has restored part of it and opened a maison d’hôte in it. There are more kasbahs in the hills round the village, if you have time to explore them.
Taliouine is a centre for saffron, harvested in September and October. This is the only area in Morocco in which it is grown. It can be bought in one-gram packets from the Cooperative Souktana de Safran at their office on the eastern edge of town, where their small museum (daily 9am–6pm; free) is under renovation until at least mid-2013. Saffron is also sold at shops in town, such as L’Or Rouge, opposite the bus stop, where you may be offered a cup of saffron tea if you call by at the right time. Note that saffron is damaged by light, so it’s best not to buy if it has been left out in glass jars for any length of time.
Taliouine has a Monday souk, held across the valley behind the kasbah.
South of Taliouine, Jebel Iguiguil is an isolated peak reaching 2323 metres in height and offering a good day’s excursion. The road from the N10 (signposted to Agadir Melloul), once it has hauled up the first pass from Taliouine, is surfaced right through to the N12 Tata–Foum Zguid road just west of Tissint, a spectacular drive. From just below Agadir Melloul, a piste heads west to pass the village of Aït Hamed, whose old agadir is worth a visit, before curling up to the lower slopes of the highest peak between Jebel Aklim (the highest peak in the Anti-Atlas, reaching 2531m) and the Saghro. Detailed information on this area can be obtained from AMIS in Scotland.
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.
From Taroudant’s rooftop terraces, the fang-like peaks of Awlim (3482m) and Tinerghwet (3551m) look temptingly close on the rugged northern skyline. The area is easily reached from Taroudant, as is the Tichka Plateau. The Jebel Sirwa is also within practical reach of the town; you should really allow at least a week for a cursory visit, more if possible. One of the very best trekking routes in Morocco, nicknamed “The Wonder Walk”, is a two-week trip up to the plateau and on to Jebel Toubkal, Morocco’s highest peak.
If you are interested in a guided trek, contact El Aouad Ali (BP127, Taroudant 83000, Morocco; or through the Hôtel Roudani or Hôtel Taroudant). He is a highly knowledgeable, English-speaking mountain expert, and can organize treks at short notice if need be. It is best to avoid other agencies as there have been some unpleasant rip-offs by cowboy operators.
Heading south across the Anti-Atlas from Taroudant, or east from Tiznit, you can drive, or travel by bus, or a combination of grands taxis and trucks, to the desert oases of Tata, Akka and Foum el Hassan to the west, or Foum Zguid to the east. This is one of the great Moroccan routes, still very much a world apart, with its camel herds and lonely, weatherbeaten villages. As throughout southern Morocco, bilharzia is prevalent in the oases, so avoid contact with pool and river water.
Another easy walk from Tafraoute is to TAZKA, about 2km southwest, where there is a prehistoric carving of a gazelle. To get there, follow a path through the palmery, arrowed off at the bottom of our Tafraoute map. When you emerge, past the remains of an old kasbah, you will see on your left the houses of Tazka at the foot of a high granite bluff. Take the lesser path to the right of the bluff and the carvings – a modern one on the rock face and an old one on the tilted surface of a fallen rock – are on your left after around 200m.
The stone-built Glaoui kasbah at TIOUTE, 25km southeast of Taroudant, is one of the grandest in the south, and is still owned by the local caid. Profiled against the first foothills of the Anti-Atlas, it is a wonderfully romantic sight, and was used as a location in Jacques Becker’s 1954 French film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Equally impressive are its fabulous views over the luxuriant palmery, with the High Atlas peaks beyond. If you want to avoid sharing it with the tour groups (who arrive around lunchtime), get here early.
Just by the auberge, at the Taitmatine all-women’s argan oil producers’ cooperative, you can see argan oil being made, and of course buy some if you wish. El Aouad Ali can organize day walks in the hills above Tioute.
Despite its solid circuit of huge pisé walls, TIZNIT was only founded in 1882, when Sultan Moulay Hassan (Hassan I) was undertaking a harka – a subjugation or (literally) “burning” raid – in the Souss and Anti-Atlas. Tiznit is clean, neat and tidy, and a good staging point en route to Tafraoute, Sidi Ifni or Tata, but perhaps because of its relatively recent origin, it somehow lacks the atmosphere of Morocco’s other walled cities.
Tiznit itself was used as a base by El Hiba, the ruler of Smara in the Western Sahara, who declared himself sultan of Morocco here in 1912 after learning of Moulay Hafid’s surrender to the French under the Treaty of Fez. El Hiba (also known as Ma el Aïnin) was known as the Blue Sultan on account of his blue desert robes. El Hiba led a considerable force of Berbers to Marrakesh, which acknowledged his authority, before advancing on Fez in the spring of 1913. Here his forces were defeated, but El Hiba continued his resistance. Basing himself at Taroudant, and then in the Anti-Atlas mountains, he fought on until his death, near Tafraoute, in 1919. Despite his defeat, the Berbers of the Anti-Atlas mountains still remained outside of French control, and only suffered their first true occupation with the bitter French “pacification” of the early 1930s.
The beach at Sidi Moussa d’Aglou (Aglou Plage) is 17km from Tiznit, along a barren, scrub-lined road. It’s an isolated expanse of sand with body-breaking Atlantic surf. It has a dangerous undertow, and is watched over in summer by military police coastguards, who only allow swimming if conditions are safe. Surfing can be good but you have to pick the right spots. Quite a few Moroccans (including migrant workers from France) come down in summer, with a trickle of Europeans in winter. Between times, the place is very quiet.
There are a couple of marabout tombs on the beach and, about 1.5km to the north, a tiny (and rather pretty) troglodyte fishing village, with a hundred or so primitive cave huts dug into the rocks.