Situated near the Draa Valley, Zagora is a small town skirted by the mountain Zagora, after which the town was named. Popular for its inextricable link with the Sahara Desert, the place attracts tourists from different parts of the world. Visitors are gravitated towards its dusty streets and terracotta buildings which are blanketed by the blue sky. Zagora’s stature as a desert outpost is indelible.
Zagora was once the stronghold of Almoravid folks and their legacy still reflects in the flanking hills. Today, the town is a meeting place and trading spot with souks and festivals being organized twice a week, typically on Wednesday and Sunday.
Its Moroccan side is unleashed in the variety of regional food and drinks available in the nook and corner of the town. Ranging from couscous to the exotic Berber pizza, Madfouna, the city serves it all.
Highlights in Zagora, The City of the Desert Wanderers
While, most visitors won’t spend more than a night in the town, it’s a great place to experience traditional Moroccan lifestyle and culture. From serene tourist spots to eclectic souks, Zagora offers a wide variety of places to explore.
Palm Grove – The Green Oasis
If you are fan of serene, green spaces, then you cannot afford to miss visiting the gorgeous Palm Grove of Zagora. It is the largest palm grove in the world that offers an exceptional experience! This natural retreat is stretched out for miles between the city and the Draa river. With several paths running amid the gardens, the place becomes a heavenly destination for wanderers. Those tired by walking can taste the 30 varieties of dates that are available in the Palm Grove. Healthy and delicious, they tend to serve as great snacks for the hungry.
Draa Valley – The Longest River in Morocco
Born by the confluence of Dades and Imini, the Draa River is the longest in all of Morocco. The history of this river dates back in 550 BC and as an evidence, several artifacts and rock engravings (petroglyphs) can still be found at its bank, the most popular being the alleged relic, The Venus of Tan-Tan.
The best time to visit the river is during summer, when it is in full flow. If you visit the place in the season, you will find children swimming and playing in the river, while the adults usually gather at its shores.
The Famous “The Road to Timbuktu” Painting
This historical sign is still up in west-end of the town of Zagora. It says that Timbuktu is mere 52-days journey by camel.
The sign was first put up by the traders who travelled to Timbuktu on camels to trade goods for gold. Some of them transported dates, silver, gold, slaves, handcrafted works, and salt. Zagora was a famous stop in this desert route, popularly called Salt Train. Moroccan Sultans have been known to make wealth from these caravans.
While, the painting put up now is a copy of the original, it depicts the exact same number of camels and nomads that were painted in the original painting.
Fossil Safari – Digging for Dinosaurs
Zagora offers the ultimate experience of digging out a dinosaur fossil from the rubbles. Rich in minerals and fossils, Morocco has embraced the relics as its cultural heritage. A dinosaur park in Zagora has T-Rex and Triceratops statues were created by local artist Amer Oubani, who was influenced by this cultural heritage and wanted to immortalize it.
You can also go on fossil desert safari tours that let you dig the fossils. Some of these adventurous tours can last up to 5 days – a treat for the intrepid adventurer.
Watermelons – The Unexpected Fruit
While, deserts are deprived of juicy watermelons, Zagora is known for its cultivation of the fruit. Grown on the once-uncultivated land, the fruits are harvested typically in the month of April and by the end of May, buyers from across the country reach the town for trade.
If you are visiting Zagora in spring, then watermelons must be a vital part of your daily diet.
M’Hamid – Historically Important Site
M’Hamid is a small village in the town of Zagora and also the last point of the route N°9. It was the shelter ground for the caravans heading towards Timbuktu and other places. The city accommodated as many as 5000 camels at a time. The village is also known as Bounou and was once a thriving settlement inhabited by a mixed populace of local Aït Atta Berbers, Local drawa, and local Hassani tribes.
While not much is found about the village on tour and travel guides and websites, the locals offer a lot of intimate information about the place with some sense of pride and melancholy.
Since, the village is followed by the Sahara, you can go for a camel ride, 4×4, or night camping into the desert.
Museum of Arts and Traditions
8 Km north of Zagora, flanked by the endemic view of palmeraie, is the triple-story Museum of Art and Traditions. This mudbrick building is the home of fascinating items including a vintage ham radio, a gramophone, and intriguing sets of tea glasses that are known to shatter on contact with poison. These antiquated items are sure to transport you to the era of 1930s. Apart from the tea salon, the museum consists of a birthing room and wedding dresses from five local tribes.
Like other museums of the world, all the items are tagged with their names, origins, and purpose. Both French and English languages are used to describe them for the best understanding of international tourists.
Riad Lamane Zagora – A Refreshing Retreat
This luxurious retreat is located in in the heart of the Draa oasis. Designed in typical Moroccan style, the riad includes an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by palm trees, dining room under a tent in garden, restaurants, bar, and excursions. Its accommodation choices include tranquil African and Berber tents that are set up in the garden around fountains. Splendid views and comfort are offered at the Riad.
Moussem of Sufi Moulay Abdelkader Jilali
Moussem is an annual gathering of over 30 tribes from southern Morocco and other parts of Northwest Africa in Tan-Tan. The fair is typically organized in the month of December and celebrates the local traditions and culture and promotes the centuries-old lifestyle that has been altered by urbanization.
The fair includes horse race, camel race, poetry, dance, and crafts. Several tents at the fair exhibit the aspects of Berber tribal life, which typically includes popular games, marriage ceremonies, and weaving. Other tents are set up with traditional craft pieces on sale.