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The oasis town of Zagora is a ideal place to book a trip into the Sahara to see the mighty dunes of Erg Chigaga. Its wide main road is lined with a multitude of tour operators offering anything from a day trip by 4x4 to the epic supposedly 52 days by camel to Timbuktu.
Market day is Wednesday and well worth a visit. Ironically sheep are sold alongside mountains of fresh mint! Do not miss the dates, supposedly the best in Morocco and are utterly sublime if you buy the fresh current years pickings as opposed to the drier ones from the previous year (these are the ones that are shipped off to the UK for the Christmas festivites and usually end up in the bin cos we prefer chocolate!). October is the time to buy them at their best.
After you've had your obligatory photo taken at the newly painted 'Timbuktu, 52 Days' sign in town, if you have time to linger, Zagora has many little treasures besides this. Take a walk through the vast Palmeraie where dates and goat fodder are grown, to the banks of the Oued Draa which is flooded when they open the dam once a year around July/August. This is a good place to take a rest from the unrelenting heat of summer atop one of the mini sand dunes or under the shade of a palm tree and watch the children play in the water. Bathing is not recommended as the water being from a resevoir is not the cleanest.
From there you can walk along the banks of the river to the bridge to watch the locals doing their annual carpet washing, cross the bridge to your left and you are in Amezrou. If you still have some energy after refreshing yourself in one of the cafes and have not been lured into the Aladdins cave of a shop selling everything from Antique Berber carpets to tacky little lanterns on the corner, you can continue along the road and to your right is the entrance to an ancient Berber village. Its probably best to take a guide, especially through the palmeraie as it is quite a maze. You won't have trouble finding one, almost everyone in Zagora is a guide!
Erg Chigaga is stunning, and less visited than the more popular tourist attraction of Erg Cbebbi. The majority of trips will overnight at a bivouac right at the foot of the massive dunes but if you fancy something a little less 'touristy', Ahssain, the owner of the Kasbah Tifawte in Zagora organises tours to his own private bivouac which is a two hours camel ride from the main dunes. As with the other bivouacs, it comes complete with showers and 'real' toilets.
After a long, hot trek in the desert, head for the public hammam where you can be scrubbed to within an inch of your life and sweat out the stench of camel. Ask a local to take you, or better still, the Dadas (cook) at your hotel if you want it done properly.
An interesting side trip from Zagora is to Tamegroute where you can wander through the ancient mud walled streets, visit pottery factories and the library where you will find books dating back to the 13th century. Market day is Saturday where again, you will find dates, mint and a vast array of spices and dried fruits, together with buckets made from old tyres to carry your purchases home in.
Zagora is one of the hottest places in Morocco, at least during the summer months from May to early October when temperatures frequently rise to well over 35 °C, but 45 °C or more has been recorded during some days as well. It's mostly completely dry during these months and the sun shines from dusk till dawn.
Winters generally is nice and warm, though nights can be particularly cold, sometimes dropping below zero.
Spring (April) and autumn (October) are great months for a visit, avoiding cold nights and extreme heath alltogether.
Zagora has an airport which has recently been built, but so far there are still no flights. It is expected though that in the near future Zagora will receive domestic and international flights.
Zagora is reached by car along the route from Ouarzazate to M'Hamid, which is now tarred all the way. The scenery ranges from very pretty to positively stunning along this route. Driving gives you plenty of photo opportunities of distant kasbahs and panoramic mountain views from the signposted look-out points, which you can't avail of if you're on a bus. Also, you can stop off to buy the best dates in Morocco from young boys who will flag you down along the roadside. To the northeast you can take the route to Tazarine, (the Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchette film Babel was filmed along this route), but you can also choose to travel towards Agdz (between Zagora and Ouarzazate) and take the tarmac road towards N'Kob, Tazarine and onwards to Rissani and Merzouga.
Without a car, Zagora is best reached by CTM buses which ply the routes towards Ouarzazate, Marrakech and Casablanca. There are also buses south to M'Hamid and northeast towards N'Kob, Tazarine and Erfoud and buses to Boumalne, the gateway to the Dades Gorge.
There is also plenty of accommodation to suit most travellers from basic to the full monty complete with pool and a multitude of eateries. Auberge Chez Ali is a great place, with a beautiful relaxing garden. You can sit out in the evening having your dinner and then retire to your berber tent, only a few metres away, at the bottom of the garden!
|Kasbah Hotel SaharaSky||Dunes de sable du Tinfou Tamgroute Prov||Hotel||-|
|Hotel La Perle du Drâa||Hay amzrou - Zagora||HOTEL||-|
|Auberge Ouadjou||Village N'Kob||HOTEL||-|
|Maison Ouriz||Douar Ouriz Province Zagora 2.5 km d'Agdez||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Ferme Auberge D'Ouriz||DR Ouriz , 2.5 km d'Agdez route Zagora||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Le Drom'Blanc||la Palmeraie - Bounou Ouled Driss M'hamid par Zagora||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|La Petite Kasbah||Route M�hamid 45900 Amezrou Zagora||HOTEL||93|
|Kasbah Oulad Othmane||Oulad Othmane oulad Yahia - Zagora||HOTEL||-|
There are plenty of Cybercafes in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.
Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.
Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates.
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