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Notes on the Geography of Morocco: South of the Atlas

Here's a transect from the Atlas south to desert oases, where caravans once set out to cross the Sahara.

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Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 1

Between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara, the Middle Atlas rise high enough, here between Fes and Midelt, to support a forest.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 2

The trees seem like giants in a country as dry and long-occupied as this one.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 3

Not far south, however, the forest is forgotten.  The Oued Ziz winds its sinuous path through the desert.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 4

The Ziz finally disappears in the desert, but not before irrigating a series of oases.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 5

Look closely, and there's always a water channel.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 6

Date palms are the staple, but there's room for field crops.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 7

A village street in the oasis.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 8

Turning a hoist to lift sediment from a water tunnel.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 9

Some of the oases are good-sized, like Tinerhir, at the mouth of the Todra Gorges.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 10

Others are in ruins.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 11

There are many challenges to farming in this environment. One of them is suggested by these apparent fences of thatch.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 12

They sometimes cover whole hillsides.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 13

The quadrillage, to give this interlocking system its French name, is a sandcatcher. It works for a while but is finally overwhelmed.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 14

The government of Morocco has tried more modern materials, in this case corrugated concrete panels.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 15

Along the paved road following the Ziz into the desert: a fortress.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 16

Another, all in mud-brick.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 17

Ornamentation.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 18

Ait-Benhaddou, an abandoned fortress northwest of Ouarazate.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 19

Detail.

Morocco: South of the Atlas picture 20

Architectural detail of the wall.


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