Introducing Drâa Valley
Until you see the desolate Drâa Valley, you can’t fully appreciate the amazing feat of Morocco’s existence. Before the Almoravids could conquer territory all the way up to Barcelona, and Saadians could monopolise the sugar trade, first they had to get past unassailable gorges, mudbrick watchtowers and fiercely autonomous oases. Today a well-paved road and cushy hotels make the going considerably less rough, yet this desert landscape still seems wildly adventurous.
From Ouarzazate the N9 plunges southeast into the Drâa Valley, formed by a narrow ribbon of water from the High Atlas that occasionally emerges triumphantly in a lush oasis. The lushest and most fascinating section of the valley lies between Agdz and Zagora, a stretch of about 95km. The drive from Agdz to Zagora takes three to four hours, though the more scenic route is the piste through the oasis (see Circuits Touristiques). Beyond that, a road takes you 96km further south to M’Hamid, a town 40km short of the Algerian border that recently opened as a desert tourism destination and still has a no-man’s-land feel.