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Ouarzazate

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Ouarzazate (ورزازات) is a city in Morocco and the largest town in the Saharan Morocco.

Understand

Ouarzazate is relatively small (60 000 inhabitants) and for Morocco quiet town, which can be very refreshing coming from a city like Fez, Meknes or Marrakech. You will barely be hassled here and can walk freely and enjoy the streets. It is thus no wonder that its name comes from a Berber phrase meaning "without noise" or "without confusion".

At an elevation of 1,135 m, built mostly along main street - Avenue Muhammed V. Once in its history, Ouarzazate had been crossing point for African traders seeking to reach northern cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate expanded considerably as a garrison town and administrative centre.

Get in

By bus

  • 1 CTM Gare Voyage.
  • 2 Gare Routière.

There are two bus stations in town, the "Gare Routière" where grand taxis and local buses leave from, and the "CTM Gare Voyage" in the center of town. Don't buy CTM tickets at gare routier as their buses don't leave from there.

Buses that pass through Ouarzazate can be badly delayed en-route, and the buses always take a long lunch break, keep this in mind to avoid arriving at your next destination too late.

From specific destinations:

  • From Inezgane (suburb of Agadir) twice a day with CTM (09:00 & 23:30), 6.5 hr, 140 dirham (fixed price with CTM and a similar price with Supratours). There are also other companies running this route.
  • From Marrakesh there are two CTM buses a day (80 dirham), along with three local buses (also 80 dirham). You can also reserve a place in a grand taxi for around 100 dirham per person.
  • From Merzouga there is a daily Supratours bus at 07:30, 160 dirham.

By plane

Often two flights a day during the week from Casablanca, occasional flights to Agadir and other cities.

Get around

The area around Mohammad V is very walkable. The CTM station is there as well. Petits taxis for within the city (no more than 10 dirham from the airport to the hotel), grands taxis for between cities (no more than 150 dirham to Ait Benhaddou and back, though you can probably get it lower), including to Ait Benhaddou and surrounding Kasbahs.

For those traveling by car, note kerb colors: red and white means no parking, green and white means OK to park.

Stay safe

Don't be surprised if during a local taxi ride the driver requests you to "transfer taxis" or has "a friend to pick up on the way." When this happens, a friendly English (or other language) speaking person will start pitching you outings, most of them to Erg Chebbi near Merzouga or Zagora. Avoid!

See

  • 1 Kasbah Taourirt. A well preserved kasbah inside of the city with a constant exhibition of various artists inside. It is like a little labyrinth, exploring all the rooms and hallways. Sometimes you can sneak in with another group of tourists. 20 dirham.
  • 2 Musée du Cinéma. Not that exciting and many items are not marked or signed, but a good alternative if you do not want to head out of the city to the other museums/studios. 30 dirham.

Outside of town

  • 3 Aït-Benhaddou (15 dirham by grand taxi from nearby Gare Routière, a taxi for your own is 300 dirham or 220 dirham after some serious haggle). One of the best preserved Kasbahs. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Very picturesque place, lots of movies were shot there (Gladiator). 10 dirham to visit kasbahs. You don't need a guide, but locals will follow you pretending to help and at the end will ask for money. See more information in the specific article. Be careful not to get too wet from the river when crossing it, since there's been reports of schistosomiasis contracted from the water.
  • 4 Oasis de Fint (150 dirham (return) by grand taxi, they will suggest 300 first, but are happy to do something else than waiting. Or rent a bicycle in Tabount.). Make a half-day trip to this beautiful and small paradise of vegetation in the midst of the dry hills surrounding Ouazarzate. Cross the river into Tabount, then take the road direction Agadir. After ~1 km there is a signpost, from here it is ~10 km by mostly unpaved roads. At the Oasis there is an auberge with restaurant.
  • 5 Solar Park. You might wonder what is that huge tower looming over the hills next to the city, which can be seen from dozens of miles around Ouarzazate going along the highway. It is a solar park tower and it uses the reflections of numerous mirrors to generate electricity. Head out there if you have a bicycle or car and admire this wonder of technology, or just take an impressive picture if you have a good camera and an ND filter. This site compares well with the Planta Solar PS10 in Seville Spain.
  • Atlas Studios (4 km from Ouarzazate center). Films such as Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra, Kundun, Gladiator, The Living Daylights and Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven and Babel were shot there. Most of movie decorations are a bit crumbled, but Egyptian decorations are still impressive but in very poor condition, left to rot. 50 dirham.
  • CLA Studios. CLA Studios aka Dino de Laurentis Cinecitta Studios, is along the same road as Atlas Studios about a km closer to Marrakech. If you have to go to only one of the two studios, this is the one to go to. The Atlas Studios tour is mostly TV movies and The Mummy Returns remake. The sets are unconvincing in person. CLA, on the other hand, has the Jerusalem set from Kingdom of Heaven, which looks real in person, and a host of great props. 100 dirham.

Do

  • Go for a swim, Public pool between Tammasint and Gar routier bus station on Mohamed V, 20 dirham. Nice break from a road trip. The river is usually full December-January where you can find locals swimming.
  • Walk along the central square behind Muhammad V at night when everyone comes out. The kids go out to play football on the square, people go eat and socialize, and you'll get a feel for the community just walking around

Buy

Whatever you buy, it is likely you won't find it cheaper in Marrakech or Fes. Realize everything is negotiable! In Ouarzazate, there is souk, some local stores. At the town's center, there two western like shops with fixed (but pretty high) prices, but at these you can by alcohol including Judeo-Berber vodka and local wine.

There is a large local market every Saturday in El Hay Mohamadi where locals including the nomads sell their crafts and animals -- a great place to buy carpets.

There is another market across the river in Tabounte on Sunday with the same goods on offer.

Eat

Plenty of cheap restaurants along Mohammad V street and around the central square near the market. Normal price for tagine should be about 30 dirham and there are complete meals with drinks for about 30-40 dirham available (May 2019).

There is a supermarket across the road from Place de Mouahidine (main square), including 5 l water bottled for 11.50 dirham.

Drink

There is a 1 small liquor store across the road from the main square, next to the supermarket.

Sleep

There are plenty of hotels of all ranges around town. If you ask a cabby to bring you to one, you have to realize he will pocket commission for bringing you there.

Budget

  • 1 La Palmeraie, Avenue Al Maghreb Al Arabi. Not the most beautiful and best rated hotel, but centrally located, and they have good offers sometimes, which includes a swimming pool, breakfast, AC and a nice room. That makes it a good price-value deal if you get it cheap. Check Booking.com before heading there and quote the price. 340 dirham for a double.
  • La Gazelle. Clean, cheap hotel, safe parking in the courtyard, ATM just next door, bakery across the road. 156 dirham double room with hot shower.
  • Hotel Atlas, Rue du Marche no.13 (5-7 dirham by taxi from CTM), ☏ +212 0524887745, +212 0605202817. Convenient location, English and French spoken, WiFi, clean rooms, Hassan can guide desert tours. singles 60-90 dirham, double 110-160 dirham.
  • Hotel Amlal (Hotel Ouarzazate), Rue du Marché Nº24-25 Centre Ville (Located on the town center, in front of the big Somalian mosque), ☏ +212 672-730-585. Check-in: until 23:00, check-out: 12:00. Simple and clean hotel located right on the town center. This is a nice cheap option and great quality price and facilities. All rooms have private bathrooms and tv. Breakfast served on downstairs restaurant. 1 person 200 dirham, 2 persons 250 dirham, 3 persons 300 dirham.
  • 2 Zaghro Hotel, 1½ km on the Route de Zagora, Tabounte Ouarzazate, (From the airport or bus station you have to take a taxi (50 dirham during daytime or 100 dirham at night. At anytime you can have the hotel car to bring you to the hotel just call), ☏ +212 524 85 41 35, ✉ hotelrestaurantzaghro@yahoo.fr. It is located a bit far from the village but is neat and clean, has a restaurant and a pool to enjoy after some time in the desert. €7-20 per person with breakfast included.
  • Hotel Royale. Right in the centre, has ugly rooms. It can get very cold in winter, and the street facing rooms are very noisy. triple room 160 dirham.
  • Hotel el Salam, Mohamed Ave. Not bad for budget people, however cold in the night. 70 dirham for single room with hot shower.

Mid-range

  • Hotel la Vallée (Hotel Ouarzazate), Km 1 route de Zagora, Taboute Ouarzazate Morocco (Located in Ouarzazate Tabounte district on the way to Zagora), ☏ +212 24-85-40-34. Offers accommodation, restaurant service, swimming pool, Moroccan caidal tent party lounge, tours and organized excursions in Morocco and 4wd/ATV adventure activities. Rooms decorated in traditional Moroccan style. €20-30 per person with breakfast and dinner included.

Splurge

  • Dar Rita (Riad Ouarzazate), Rue de la Mosquée 39 (Located inside Tassoumate old district on the entrance of Ouarzazate coming from Marrakech), ☏ +212 672-730-585. Check-in: until 23:00, check-out: 12:00. New riad in Ouarzazate located on the typical district of Tassoumate near the river bank and palm trees. 7 rooms with private bathroom, terrace tend, all amenities. Double room + breakfast + diner = €70.

Nearby

  • I Roccha (Irocha), Tiseldey/Tisselday. Extremely friendly hosts and international mix of travellers. Quiet and relaxing place overseeing a valley in a small village of Tisselday. For New Year holidays, normally confirms booking only for those who visited previously (and hosts liked them).
  • 3 Hotel Yasmina, Gorges Todra, ☏ +212 524895118, ✉ info@hotelyasmina.com. 300 dirham.
  • Dar Ahlam. 10-room hotel in Skoura, about 40 km from Ouarzazate. Expensive, but distinctive in every element: architecture, style, service, and food. They also have villas.
  • 4 Riad Ksar Ighnda (Ksar Ighnda), Douar Asfalou - Amerzane, ☏ +212 5 24 88 76 44, fax: +212 5 24 88 76 44, ✉ contact@ighnda.net. On the edge of the desert, the Riad Ksar Ighnda opens its doors onto the Atlas Mountains. Authentic yet modern setting. ~€100-240.

Stay safe

Ouarzazate is very safe, but don't wander into weird corners at night. Crime throughout the Moroccan south is minimal, but it's best not to take (too many) chances.

Go next

  • Drive further through Zagora to M'Hamid for trips in the desert by camels, 4x4 or quad bikes.
  • Er Rachida – A mid-sized administrative town which can be a good launching pad for Merzouga and the desert. There is a bus line which runs from Ouarzazate. Touts will join the bus at stops along the way and try to lever you into going on a 'discounted' desert tour. They are persistent and will ask you about yourself. Claiming to be a 'veteran' of Saharan travel (perhaps more convincing if you can speak French) and already booked into a hotel at your destination may help convince them to let you be.
  • Valley of Dadès – Local agencies offer trips to this place in the mountain. Be prepared to negotiate hard; otherwise, they will rip you off! Plan a full day tour by 4WD jeep. Make a shortcut off-road in order to avoid a part of the paved N10. The views are spectacular and you have a great chance to meet shepherds (often young girls) with their herd. In the area are many Kasbah's, some inhabited, some abandoned. Don't be surprised if you see a for-sale sign on an abandoned Kasbah.



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