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.
Between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara, the Middle Atlas rise high enough, here between Fes and Midelt, to support a forest.
The trees seem like giants in a country as dry and long-occupied as this one.
Not far south, however, the forest is forgotten. The Oued Ziz winds its sinuous path through the desert.
The Ziz finally disappears in the desert, but not before irrigating a series of oases.
Look closely, and there's always a water channel.
Date palms are the staple, but there's room for field crops.
A village street in the oasis.
Turning a hoist to lift sediment from a water tunnel.
Some of the oases are good-sized, like Tinerhir, at the mouth of the Todra Gorges.
Others are in ruins.
There are many challenges to farming in this environment. One of them is suggested by these apparent fences of thatch.
They sometimes cover whole hillsides.
The quadrillage, to give this interlocking system its French name, is a sandcatcher. It works for a while but is finally overwhelmed.
The government of Morocco has tried more modern materials, in this case corrugated concrete panels.
Along the paved road following the Ziz into the desert: a fortress.
Another, all in mud-brick.
Ait-Benhaddou, an abandoned fortress northwest of Ouarazate.
Architectural detail of the wall.
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