Ouarzazate's only real sight of historical interest is the former el Glaoui palace, the Taourirt Kasbah. The el Glaoui clan controlled one of the major southern caravan routes to West Africa and were given extensive power by the French during colonial rule in exchange for keeping the southern tribes subdued. The Taourirt Kasbah was built in the 19th century and reached the height of importance during the 1930s, when the el Glaoui powers were at their peak. Although located at a strategic junction of the caravan routes, the kasbah was never actually resided in by the el Glaoui chiefs. Housed here would have been the second tier of command, such as the dynasty's sons and cousins and their extended -- numbering in the hundreds -- entourages of servants, builders, and craftsmen. The palace has close to 300 rooms and within the kasbah were more than 20 riads.
The kasbah today is partly ruined, but it's still inhabited on its rear side by a small group of villagers who are always willing to show you around for 15dh to 20dh ($1.90-$2.50/95p-£1.25). You can only enter the former palace from the main entrance, however. The palace has been restored, with assistance from UNESCO, and it is this section of the kasbah that visitors are shown. Rambling off in all directions from a main courtyard -- originally the souk area -- visitors can see the former reception rooms, harem room, and palace kitchens. Some of the upstairs area affords fabulous views of the remainder of the kasbah as well as the Oued Ouarzazate in one direction and the High Atlas in the other. If you're not part of a large group, guides, waiting for business at the entrance, will often show you a few more rooms if you're interested. Ask for the very pleasant, English-speaking guide Mohammed Amrani.
- © Frommer's 2013
- East end (Tinihir direction) of av. Mohammed V
- Daily 8am-6pm
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