Of the two mountain routes over the High Atlas to the southern side of the mountains, the N9 from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, with its Tizi-n-Tichka pass, is a marginally larger road and safer option than the route over the Tizi-n-Test to Taroudant. Completed in 1936 by the Foreign Legion, this stretch of the N9 gives stunning views. It runs through the full range of Atlas environments, from the Haouz plains, through the verdant foothills of the Oued Zat, to the barren peaks of the Atlas and the arid regions around Ouarzazate. Maximum concentration is required on this route, especially in the twilight when as likely as not you will meet donkeys and flocks of sheep wandering across the road, guided by small children (watch out too for the fossil sellers who hang out at viewpoints and café stops). Clapped out local buses break down, and there are some very hairy bits leading up to the pass after Taddert. Don't cut corners. Also note that in winter there can be heavy cloud, snow storms and icy rain, reducing visibility and making the road extremely slippery. In such conditions the road is not much fun at night. If snow cuts the pass, the snow barriers will be down.
The total distance from Marrakech to Ouarzazate is nearly 200 km. You should pace yourself. Good places to stop include upper Taddert (very busy, 86 km from Marrakech), the Tizi-n-Tichka itself which is almost exactly halfway, or Ighrem-n-Ouagdal, about 118 km from Marrakech where there is an old
agadir(granary) to visit. Driving carefully in good conditions, Marrakech to Taddert will take you two hours, while Taddert to Ouarzazate is about another two. Bear in mind that you will also probably want to stop for photographs, and may want to do side-trips to Telouet and/or Aït Ben Haddou.
Leaving Marrakech, the best way out is on the Fès road. Then after 7 km and a large service station, go right onto the Aït Ourir and Ouarzazate road which runs through a sparse eucalyptus plantation and past olive and fruit tree groves. After 15 km, you intersect with the road coming out from the médina of Marrakech. At 36 km from Marrakech, you are on the Aït Ourir bypass. On the right on a bend is a possible stopping place, the small restaurant
Le Coq hardiwhich also has some accommodation. Then the road climbs through the foothills with some splendid views of the green valley of the Oued Zat.
Before the pass is the roadside village of
Taddert, which now sprawls in two fairly unsightly parts. Pause for tagine, biscuits and drinks in upper Taddert. A few kilometres after the Tizi-n-Tichka pass is a turning on the left leading to the kasbah Telouet. From the pass the road winds and sweeps down to Ouarzazate. At
Ighrem- n-Ouadgal(1970 m) there is a fine fortified granary to visit. Next point of interest is
Amerzgane, where there is a turn-off right (west) for Taroudant and the neighbouring ruins of
Tasgedlt. At 167 km from Marrakech a track leads off east to Aït Ben Haddou. The next major junction is a right turn for Taliouine and Taroudant. Then, about 176 km from Marrakech, at a fairly built-up junction, there is a left turn onto the road for Aït Ben Haddou. At 191 km from Marrakech a right turn onto the road for Zagora enables you to avoid Ouarzazate - and passes just by the spectacular kasbah of Tifoultoute. Otherwise you can carry straight on into Ouarzazate, past the film studios and the bus station.
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