Tafraout: Oases and Mountains
This ancient oasis, where Saharan nomads still trade with the local Berber population, lies on the southern fringe of the Moroccan Anti-Atlas mountains, nestled amongst a maze of intriguing granite tors and verdant gorges. It is a place of stark contrasts, and for the adventurous tourist it offers an unforgettable and privileged taste of Berber life.
The tourist trade is in its infancy in Tafraout, providing a real 'off the beaten track' experience. Indeed there are few other places in which four-star luxury sits so comfortably alongside traditional culture, making this a great place to sample traditional Moroccan culture in relaxing comfort.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the daily market, where the ever-enthusiastic traders apply typical energy and vigour to their work, Tafraout is a peaceful and tranquil town. A feeling of timelessness filters through daily routine here, kept in check by the regular calls to prayer echoing quietly around the remote valleys, reflected by the towering walls of rock that dominate the skyline. Tafraout, and its native Berber population, have naturally developed a strong sense of unity with the mountains that surround this lush oasis - mountains that have for centuries provided Tafraout and the Ameln Valley with a steady water supply in an otherwise arid semi-desert. As well as ancient fortifications the rugged landscape of the Anti-Atlas, with its rich variety of flora and fauna, has also provided fertile hunting grounds for the Berbers, helping to ensure Tafraout's early and continued growth as a significant settlement in the region.
Even to today's tourist, the basic catalysts of the town's prosperity are still clearly evident. Elaborate earthworks and aqueducts channel water from the high mountain streams; the endless network of hunters' tracks still echo to the sound of shotguns, and man-made terraces cover every inch of the landscape, capturing the mountain rains for ancient fig and almond plantations. Man has lived and worked on these picturesque slopes since the very earliest days, and by exploring just slightly off the newly-surfaced roads, even the least historically minded visitor cannot fail to feel a sense of pre-history about this place.
There is, however, more to Tafraout than historic availability of water and food. The people here are mountain people. They are welcoming, friendly, and still trusting of outsiders. And it's perhaps not surprising when you consider that their lives are touched daily by an incredible natural beauty - the Anti-Atlas. Stretching from the fertile plains of Agadir and Tarroudant, the Quartzite and granite peaks of these ancient hills reach out to the fringes of the Sahara, topping 2400m above sea level. With little but ocean to the West, and endless desert to the South, the brownish-pink hues of the Anti-Atlas produce some of the most unique and awe-inspiring lighting effects that you're likely to experience in Morocco. Big, glowing African sunrises, and lingering evenings of magical Alpenglow on the pink summits do not disappoint, and both local and tourist cannot help feel a certain closeness to nature, and an appreciation of life's simple pleasures.