Discovering South Morocco
Zagora-Morocco desert, Camel hire
Hiking, trekking and camelriddings in the Draa valley and in the desert
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The draa valley
Situated in South-Est Morocco and crossed in its middle by the 6°c meridian, the Draa valley is 200 km long and expands over 23000 square kilometres. It is bordered by the djebel Saghro in the north, by the Djebel Bani in the east, by the Draa Hamada in the south and by the ani-atlas mountains in the West. It’s prevalent climate is Saharan with very low rainfall. The average temperature is 23°C with very important day and season variations. Agriculture is to be found in valleys and cattle-breeding by nomadic and sedentary people in the mountains, plains and desert plateaux.
The Draa oasis is composed with six big palm groves: Mezguita, Tinzouline, Ternata, Fezwata, Laktawa and M'hamid, linked together and fertilized by the Draa oued. Its average width is 3km with extremes of 100m and 10km. In 2002 the Draa valley population was estimated 30 thousand inhabitants among whom the Haratines, the Chorfas, the Mrabtines, the Imazighen and the Arabs descended from the Maâkile tribes. Traditional housing in Draa valley reflects a harmonious society based on the economic, social and cultural cohesion of its palm groves. Its organization and the techniques which are used for its building show the genius of the population. The traditional housing is the main heritage of the Sahara culture and translates the local socio-economic organization. The Ksar is undoubtedly the most common type of building as well as the Kasbah and Agoudim. (adapted from "Treasures and Marvels of the Draa valley")

In Palaeolithic and Mesolithic ages mankind was nomadic while in Neolithic ages man became seminomadic or sedentary. Today nomadism still remains the way of life best adapted to arid and desolate areas as it is in an adjustment of the environment. Above all nomadic life means organization and foresight, the small number of daily life utensils, the size and diversity of herds, the choice of the place, the installation of the tent and lot of other things are regulated by a deep knowledge of rules linked with the weather and the environment. Tha draa valley nomads are either Arabs who been breeding camel (dromedaries) and goats for long period with occasional trans Sahara trade, or Berbers who also rear camels, goats and sheep.
Men work hard to meet the family needs; they explore the desert looking for pastures and look after camel hoards; they walk to the souks (weekly markets) to sell some cattle and get fresh supplies. Women's work is as hard as men, and even children when reaching a certain age take part in the work. Women are responsible of the daily chores which they share with their children. They walk a long way to find wood and water, they do the cooking, they milk goats and ewes and they do some breeding; they weave and sew the tents and sometimes look after the goats while working the wool to make ropes and blankets. The nomad's main source of income is cattle-breeding although recent droughts have allowed them getting settled.

Rock art
The Draa valley is famous for its numerous rock paintings and engravings. 300 sites are known in Morocco, more than 30 of them in the Draa valley; they are scattered all over the area at the mouths of temporary streams or in hill slopes but particularly around Tazarine, Tinzouline, Tamgroute, Mird and Tagounite. Sandstone and quartzite rocks are ideal for the developing of rock art. The techniques used are pecking and polishing. These painting document a long period of over 4 millenniums. They depict wild animals and domesticated cattle as well as hunting, herding and war scenes and therefore suggest cultural and chronological diversity. Some Libyco-Berber and Arab inscriptions can also be found there.

The Jorf el khil site
Located on the right bank of Oued Draa (22km west to Ouled Slimane), offers more than 109 Libyco-Berber paintings pecked on 51 sandstone slabs and representing horsemen, jewels, fibulas and bracelets. The Foum Chenna site: Located 7Kms to Tinzouline and 1100m long, it is one of the largest rock art sites in the Draa valley with the highest concentration of Libyco-Berber inscriptions in Morocco. The paintings were pecked on the cliffs overlooking the left bank of the Oued Foum Chenna and represent horsemen, felines, ostrich and scorpions as well as javelins, spears and round shields and even abstract patterns. These paintings give a lot of major information about fighting techniques and weapons, about hunting and herding methods and also about domesticated cattle such as goats, camels and horses. The abundance of paintings suggests that this area was largely populated at the end of the first millennium before Christ despite its hostile environment and it reflects the high level of civilisation of the peoples living there at that time

The Assif ouigane site
The drawings there show horses, goats, camels and felines associated with geometrical patterns and unarmed horsemen. Libyco-Berber inscriptions can be seen on three slabs and quiet astonishingly, some Kofi Arab scriptures situated on the left bank of the Oued. The site is quite similar to the Jorf Elkhil site and Foum Chenna site.
The Lbatha lbaida site
Situated 2Kms of the Ouled Youb village. The rock paintings there are to be found at the mouth of the Chaâba on the left bank. They represent horsemen, human figures and goats as well as fibulas and daggers. Specific to this site there are some pecked illustrations of animals (elephants, ox, antelopes) and abstract patterns. There is also an unusual and disproportionate picture of a rider with a long javelin attacking a man on foot.

The Ben slmane site
On the south slope of the eastern part of the Ben Slmane Jabel, paintings are scattered over several kilometres. They document different periods. There can be seen an elephant similar to the polished engravings of the Ouazik area, some pictures of hunting tools and horsemen and some solar signs. They are of different styles: mostly polishing in the Eastern part and carving in the central and Western part. (Adapted from TREASURE AND MARVELS OF TEH DRAA VALLEY)

The dromidary
"The introduction of the camel, more accurately of the dromedary into Maghreb seems to be dating back to the Roman ages. The increase of the number of dromedaries was to drastically change the life in the Sahara oasis and allow long trips from one side of the desert to the other one, whether to look for pastures or to ensure trading relations between North Africa and Sudan" Extracted from (Sahara morocco from origins to 1670 by Dr. Jacques Meunier) Remarks and anecdotes, the fruit of our life with camels. The dromedary is a species. As everybody knows they can manage up to six weeks (up to three months, one nomad once told me) as long as they eat green grass. They usually like being free and if they run away they never come back which explains that you will see camel drivers hobble them at night, otherwise you will have to carry your mattresses and tents on your backs in the morning, so don't be sad for the camels. They've got character! They don't let anybody ill-treat them, not even stroke them for very long. They have an excellent memory as they can remember tracks and wells and recognize other dromedaries and the persons they are used to seeing. They are vindictive and can take their revenge on a master if often treated badly or on a dromedary that was once stronger and might have bitten them.



Discovering South Morocco - DSM - Autorisation n° 00018 (2001), R.C.2522 contact DSM