Dadès Gorges And High Atlas In Morocco

A place where the rivers Dadès is carved among the daunting peaks of the High Atlas Mountains, a narrow gorge winding between cliffs that rise to the dizzying height of 500 meters.

When the sun rises and its light strikes through the sumptuous rock walls, the rocks change color from black, through a series of green and red tones, up to the glossy, depending on the season and time of the day.

Approximately 200 million years ago, these rocks were coral reefs at the bottom of the sea, but in the last few million years the Earth’s crust movement has gradually picked up and wrinkled to the looks of today’s High Atlas Mountains.

Its geological history is now reflected in the multi-colored layers of sandstone, limestone and clay, which adorn the walls of the gorge.

Did you know … The gorge is still geologically active and the earthquakes are frequent … On February 29, 1960, the earthquake shook Agadir, a city in southern Morocco. The earthquake was short, lasting only 15 seconds, with a magnitude of 6.7 degrees per Richter scale, between 12 and 15 thousand people were killed in this earthquake.

Thousands of years of winter storms scoured the flow of the river. From November to January or March heavy rain bombarded the High Atlas, a river of almost drained riverbed converted into a raging torrent that for a few hours again completely disappears.

In that short time, abundant rain can increase the amount of water in the river twenty times. In Arabic, these non-existent rivers are called “wadi”.

In one part of the valley erosion has so rotten rocks that now resemble desks, pyramids and toothed peaks, and even unusual human beings here referred to as “hills of human bodies.”

High Atlas mountain chain

The High Atlas Mountains are a mountain chain that is 740 km long, which divides Morocco into two parts. The Dadès River is formed in that part of the mountain, where the highest peaks are always under the snow, then extends southwest along the 350 km long and joins the Draa River near Quarzazate, the oasis and the former French fort on the northern edge of the sandy desert of the great Sahara.

Did you know … This mountain range was named after the Atlas of Greek mythology.

In the lower course, the river flows between palm and almond plantations and fields separated by roses.

Dadès Gorge is located about 24 km upstream from the commercial town Boumalnea. Between the small towns and gorges on the banks of the river there are ancient kasbas (fortifications) and ksouri (established villages), and fields of rich red land in the shade of walnut and almond trees. The hills of human bodies are 15 km away from Boumalne.

As the gorges are narrower, the road approaches the water level, and the vertical rocks provide a shelter from sunshine.

Did you know … The highest peak of Atlas is Tubkal with 4167 m.

In the village of Ait Oudinar, the road crosses the bridge and begins with the most spectacular part of the gorge. The pebble trail rises up to the town of Msemrira, and afterwards the climb is getting harder because the slopes of the “Atlas” slope down to the river.

Atlas Mountains are rich in iron, lead, copper, marble, silver and natural gas. The Atlas has a mostly Mediterranean climate, so the summers are very warm and in winter the tops of the mountain are covered with snow

There are numerous endemic animals and plants that are unique in Africa. Some of these species have been extinct, or are already disappearing. The most famous examples are the Magot or Maghreb macaque (a type of monkey), Atlas Bear (the only African bear, which is completely cut off), Berber leopard, Berber deer, Berber sheep, Berber lion, Atlas snake ….

Todgha Gorges

Northeast of Dadès Gorge is the spectacular Todgha Gorges (Todra Gorges). Next to it is a road that winds along the crystal clear water of the river Todgha. Tall trees of date palms cast a protective shadow over the vines, olives, walnuts and pomegranates.

At the spot where the valley narrows and converts into the gorge, cliffs are vertically elevated to a height of 300 meters, and at the narrowest part of the gorge is only 9 meters wide. Loud African mountain swallows circling around their nests in holes in the rock, and high in the sky you can see the magnificent mountain eagles.

Near the gorge there is a pure water source that the Berber people of this area worship, as it is supposedly a miracle. Specifically, they believe if a woman can not get pregnant look at the water saying the name of Allah, will become fertile. The road here stops, although trucks and off-road vehicles can continue to enter the heart of the High Atlas.

Who Are The Morocco Berbers?

Berbers were nomads who breed sheep, and they had settled this area for centuries before the Arabs came here. It is believed that they are descendants of West Asia conquerors who have spread to northern Africa.

Did you know … In North Africa there are about 70 million Berbers.

They came to Morocco after the 10th century BC, and at the beginning of the 8th centuries they converted to Islam. These people lived in the mountains and built mountain forts where they could live in their own way, away from the tempting pleasures of the towns, no matter how difficult their living conditions were.

Their greatest virtue was courage in the fight. If a Berber were suspected of cowardice, he had to wear a cap and could eat after the women had finished eating. The laws of hospitality were strictly applied, and every time two Berbers broke the bread together, they would defend themselves until death.


Did you know … Famous Berbers are French footballers Zinedine Zidane and Karim Benzema.

In the 1920s, British travel writer Walter Harris described the life of the Berber village as warlike and sumptuous. Still, there was the joy, organized ceremonies, and traveling performers sang songs and told stories.

Did you know… Berbers wore the wounds in a strange way. The skin would be pressed together, and with the wound they would put a living red ants. When the ants caught the skin on both sides of the wound, they broke his head and the jaw would stay as a clasp that would fall when the wound healed.

Then, as now, Berber women could act more freely than their “Arab sisters”. They did not wear a veil and were much more likely to marry for love.

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