DUNES TAKE SHAPE AND DISOLVE IN A PERPETUAL MOVEMENT
A part of Moroccan territory is occupied by the desert which stretches from the Atlas down to Mauritania, from the Algerian border to the Atlantic Ocean. It is populated by animals which are camouflaged due to their sand coloured coat. Dromedary camels are characterized by an ochre coloured coat, not to mention golden jackals and light reddish gazelles.
A kingdom of silence and solitude, Morocco’s Great South is an Ocean of dryness dotted with islands of life, its oases. Oases form in desert valleys and are worlds of serenity protected by the shade of date palm trees.. These are worlds of sweet sounds: the trickle of running water, the air laden with citrus aromas. Oases are structured on three levels. Vegetable crops (carrots, onions, melons, pumpkins), cereals (lucerne, barley, wheat), colourants (henna) and herbs (mint, coriander), are all protected by the shade of fruit trees (apricot, fig, olive, pomegranate), which in turn are protected by the shade of palm trees. Palm trees are the true ladies of the oasis. Originally from Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates, they were soon introduced to North Africa by Beduins who sowed date seeds close to water sources where they were camped. Palms can reach 30 metres in height thanks to their deep roots. A tree of life, abundant in dates, a symbol of prosperity and happiness, dried palms are also used as construction material.
A journey towards Zagora, Goulimine or Rissani, those great Saharan cities which linked African kingdoms to Moroccan capitals, shall take you along ancient caravan routes where gold, ebony ivory or acacia gum was transported from Sudan and exchanged at oases for salt, fabrics, perfumes and wheat. A journey of discovery conducted by numerous dynasties which ruled Morocco. You shall undoubtedly evoke the memory of “blue men” of the desert, nomads with skin stained by their indigo garments, who would travel throughout the Great South. Today Moroccan oases are no longer essential stops for caravans however they continue to be sources of inestimable resources for women and men who have settled here and who have come to rely on this balance increasingly threatened by the advancing desert.
The Draa valley, a long strip along the south west of Morocco with its canyons, leads to an oasis of almost 200 km. At Zagora, the last true agglomeration before the Sahara, a sign depicting a caravan of camels indicates that Timbuktu can be reached in 52 days by foot. Located in south-eastern Morocco. Tafilalet is still one of the country’s most important palm tree groves. Rissani is located here, a small city founded in 757 on the ruins of ancient Sijilmassa, an essential stop for trans-Sahara caravans making the crossing between the East, Sudan and Maghreb. Rissani is animated by souk three times a week.
The sand desert begins just south of Rissani, with the majestic dunes of Erg Chebbi. An immense sea of sand crafted by the winds which whip dunes of up to 150 metres in height as far as the eye can see. The chergui, hot wind of the Sahara, moulds and destroys dunes in an incessant movement. Hour after hour its colours change, from pink to yellow ochre, red to orange, right up to sunset.
A teapot contains the entire universe: the sinia (round plate) represents the earth, the teapot the heaven, glasses represent the rains; the heaven and rain become one with the earth. (Abdallah Zikra)