Gorges d’Aouli


A drive through this spectacular gorge, following the river along a badly degraded road from Midelt, is truly breathtaking. Past the first abandoned village of Mibladene, you'll eventually come to the eerie ghost-town mining village of Aouli (ow-li) and the dramatic crevasse it fills. It was built by the French in the 1930s and at its peak housed 6000 workers. Today just a couple of guardian families are left. It's a scenic 30km drive northeast of Midelt.

Before you reach the village of Aouli itself, stop off at les galleries – one of the locations where workers would have burrowed into the hills for lead, copper and silver. The domed caverns, carved into hillocks, are just the type of place where you might expect to hear goblin drums rising out of the depths. They're difficult to find; look for a dirt track on your left, seemingly to nowhere, just after the start of the only village along the S317 coming from Midelt.

After les galleries, the road starts to deteriorate in places as you get deeper into the hills. Keep following the track and it'll be clear when you reach Aouli itself – note the open shafts, some halfway up the cliffside, the railway line that disappears 20km into the mountainside, and the furnaces. Continue along the road through the village and the road will eventually start to ascend, doubling back on itself to reach an abandoned mosque and hundreds of rows of crumbling workers' houses overlooking the gorge.

In total, it'll take at least two hours to get here and back from Midelt. You leave Midelt via a plain distressingly strewn with rubbish blown across from the unsecured town dump. You'll need your own vehicle and don't attempt the drive when the river is high. Alternatively, Ksar Timnay Inter-Cultures offers this circuit as a day tour (4x4 vehicle, seven hours, including picnic lunch for up to four people, Dh1200).

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