The Leidener

A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

The Gateway to the Sahara Desert.

Morocco has been a country which has always been in my list of must visit places, and in Morocco I find Ouarzazate to be one of the most unique places. The matter of fact is I grew up watching plenty of Hollywood movies and most of the classic desert scenes such as the one in Lawrence of Arabia have quite simply taken my breath away.  Almost all these scenes have been taken in the town of Ouarzazate!

Starting from Marrakech and after a drive of about 3 hours through the High Atlas mountains we reached the town of Ouarzazate! Ouarzazate is a town which is far away from all the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. This place is renowned and known as the gate to the Sahara and the Hollywood of Africa! The name Ouarzazate is derived from the Amazigh words for ‘without’ (ouar) and ‘noise’ (zazt).

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The place in Ouarzazate where I spent most of my time and which I found most fascinating was Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, this is a traditional mud brick city that was declared as a World heritage site by UNESCO.  The ksar is a mainly collective grouping of dwellings inside defensive walls. The defensive walls which are reinforced by angle towers and pierced with a baffle gate. Basically the community areas of the ksar include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, an caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the Sanctuary of the Saint Sidi Ali or Amer. Now it has been made famous by the numerous films which have been shot here. This includes the likes of Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia and the more recent and popular television series of Game of Thrones.  After taking quite a few stairs we reach the top of the Ksar and from here we are welcomed with a spectacular view of the Valley of High Atlas Mountains. There would be nothing quite as fantastic here rather than enjoying this view and enjoying a cup of Moroccan mint tea at the same time.

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Another place which I was able to visit and which was straight out of a fairy tale book was the Oasis Fint. This is a piece of paradise of vegetation in the midst of the dry hills surrounding Ouarzazate. The lush greenery of Oasis Fint also offers a superb visual contrast from the heat of the black rocky escarpments.

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All in all Ouarzazate is a city that is straight out of Arabian dreams and not one to miss if you find yourselves in this part of the World!

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I also have to mention from Ouarzazate the Sahara desert is easily accessible. This just takes about 3 hours of travel by car from the city and further one and a half hours of travel using a camel. The Sahara desert is truly a magnificent sight. I had some fantastic local food prepared by the  nomads of the desert. But probably the best part of spending a night in the Sahara desert more than the camel ride or the Bedouin food was the night sky of Sahara which is so rarefied that you can actually see the Milky-way!

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This entry was posted on October 24, 2014 by in Culture, Deepu, Travel and tagged , , , .
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