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223km (138 miles) SW of Marrakech; 79km (49 miles) E of Agadir

Enclosed by an almost complete circuit of high, rammed-earth walls and lacking any sprawling ville nouvelle outside, Taroudannt could very well be that quintessential untouched, ancient Moroccan city that you've been looking for. Its location, at the heart of the fertile Souss Valley, has always ensured a steady stream of powers keen to have the town under their wing before moving on to grander conquests. This was certainly the case with the Saâdians, who made Taroudannt their capital in the 16th century, when they constructed most of the walls while plotting their eventual victory over Wattasid-held Marrakech and eventually ruling over all Morocco. The town has had its share of tragedy, however. In 1687, it was left virtually uninhabited when the feared, some would say barbaric, Alaouite sultan Moulay Ismail massacred most of the town's inhabitants in response to their opposition to his Meknes-based rule. In 1919, El Hiba the Blue Sultan was killed here while leading a fierce resistance to the French occupation.

Berber down to its core, this is essentially still a market town that doesn't rely on tourism or even seem that interested in it. The town lacks any great monuments or sights other than itself, which is exactly what draws some travelers here. It's a pleasant place to visit most times of the year, with warm winters and summers that, apart from the months of July and August, are cooled by the prevailing winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean.

For much of the year, the snowcapped Western High Atlas make a perfect backdrop to the ocher walls that seem to change color during the day. Taroudannt is exceptionally friendly and relaxed, and the sort of place that you intend to stay the night but end up staying a week.