Zagora On a Budget
A small town in southern Morocco, Zagora is a popular base camp for excursions on foot, by camel, or four wheel drive vehicles into the surrounding desert. One of the most famous and historic treks is the ancient caravan route to Timbuktu, marked by a famous sign at the end of town - indicating a journey of "52 days" by camel.
Those who visit Zagora are most likely using it as a stopping point before heading out on excursions to the surrounding desert attractions. One such place is the Jebel Zagora on the southeastern outskirts of the city, which many people climb for magnificent views of the city and surrounding area of the valley below. It is best to embark in the morning for cooler temperatures, and maybe even catch the sunrise.
Another popular venture is to the Tinfou dunes, just a few kilometers southeast of Zagora. The place can be accessed by all kinds of vehicles and is a great way to experience the desert landscape within the safety of nearby civilization.
The region's religious center, Tamegroute, is also not far. It is home to the desert area's first library with a number of ancient manuscripts, and is also a place renowned for the expertise of its artisan potters.
A visit to Amazraou, a village just south of Zagora, is also worth a visit. It is located at the foot of an ancient Jewish Kasbah, or fortress. Dating from the 12th century, it is situated amidst a palm grove with plenty of alleyways, adobe houses, and market squares to explore.
Zagora is a small town located in the Draa River valley of Souss-Massa Draa in the south-east of Morocco. While the town itself is dry and flat, it is flanked by mountains with a vast grove of palms and the Draa River to the east. There are a number of small cafés and restaurants on the main drag of town as well as a number of juice and dairy shops. Most hotels are located on the south end of town or in the neighboring smaller town of Amazraou. Many street corners are vibrantly painted with scenes of palm trees and traditional Kasbahs, bringing color and life to residential areas. There is also a traditional souk, or Moroccan marketplace, located just outside of the city, held on Sundays and Wednesdays. Vendors sell fruits, vegetables, meat, and live animals as well as traditional clothing, local handiwork, toiletries, kitchenware, and furniture. There is also an adjoining flea market with a full range of items usually brought over from Europe.
As mentioned earlier, Zagora is a base camp for ventures in the surrounding landscape. Any one of the excursions mentioned above can occupy one's time in the area. Hiking or backpacking, four wheel drive trips, and camel caravans are the most popular means of travel when it comes to these adventures.
Food and Dining
Food in Zagora is that which is typical of Moroccan cuisine, influenced by a mix of Arabic, Andalusian, Berber, and Mediterranean cultures. One of the best known Moroccan dishes is couscous, usually topped with a stew of meat (beef or chicken) and vegetables. Dishes like this one are typically served in a tangine, or earthenware pot, in which it is cooked. Lamb is also very popular in Moroccan cooking, as is seafood. Other well-known dishes include a sweet and savory pie called Pastilla (made with meat, spices, almonds, and cinnamon), a kind of stew called Tanjia, and a traditional soup called Harira (made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions, rice, and meat). Most meals are accompanied by bread - ranging from white flour bread and baguettes to flat breads and unleavened pan-fried breads. For dessert it is typical to have seasonal fruit, while a popular beverage is green tea with mint. Street food is also very common. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants along the main drag of Zagora, as well as some nice places to eat in the hotels just south of town in Amazraou.
The nearest international airports are Marrakech Menara Airport and Ouarzazate Airport. From Marrakech, travelers can take a direct bus to Zagora for a journey of about 8 hours. From Ouarzazate there are buses and also collective taxis, taking about 3 hours. While the distance is greater from Zagora, the airport at Marrakech offers a wider range of services to and from cities including London, Dublin, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, and Madrid. For those flying from the United States and Canada, the closest airport is Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca, which has connector flights to Marrakech.