In resume, there’s not much to do or see in Ouarzazate itself, and most of the people who visit this place come on organized tours to the desert, as this city is located in the midway from Marrakesh to Merzouga, to visit the Taourirt Kasbah.
Unexpectedly, a concentration of cinema studios appears in this place, which maintains the structures and decoration that served as scenery to shooting some blockbusters. This structures stand out, as anachronistic creatures that do not belong to this space or culture, but that by inertia are allowed to yield to the erosion that whirls this semi-desert landscape.
But despite this, the choice of staying a couple of days at Ouarzazate was not bad at all, as it worked as a slow transition between the Marrakesh oasis plains to the sandy desert landscape of the Sahara. It also offers the chance to visit Aït Ben Haddou located around 30 kilometers away.
The Ouarzazate city shows up empty and silent during the day, looking more like a ghost town. But it’s close to the sunset, when the shades start to take the colours of the buildings that people come out, gathering at the main square (Place Al-Mouahidine) where a market takes place, selling a big mix of products from second-hand clothes to electronic products, but where we can also find nuts and dry fruits. October is the season for walnuts and dates, that can also easily be find all over the country.
Taourirt Kasbah (20 Dirham), an ancient fortress made with the traditional clay walls, is the most popular place at Ouarzazate, and it where all the tours pour the visitors. But is at the Jewish quarter, an old kashba located at a short distance from the kashbah, that you can feel the real vibe of the city, with the local population busy with daily routines, with men gathering at tea shops and women occupied with housework.
Walking along the narrow streets of this maze quarter, where is hard to find any trace of Jewish religion or culture, we can feel the smell of the bread, freshly baked. A delightful scent that is characteristic of any walk through a Moroccan town and or village, coming from the wooden ovens from unnoticed bakeries, that quite often are close from the mosque and not far from a public bath, this last one hard to spot if you don’t know the arabic language.
Where to sleep in Ouarzazate:
There are not many budget options to sleep in Ouarzazate and don’t expect to find dorms or even a hostel. The Youth Hostel is the only exception but is located a bit far from the center, around 4km south, on the other side of the river, away from the bus terminal and the comercial area. But if you travel by car, the Youth Hostels are usually a very cheap option, providing basic but clean accommodation.
The Bab Sahara Hotel right in the main square,offers a good location with reasonable prices (check image below). It’s a decadent place that lacks in maintenance and comfort but it’s clean and the staff is very friendly and helpful. You can skip the breakfast as outside, 50 meters away you can find a eatery, open from 6 a.m. serving delicious local breakfast.
Where to eat in Ouarzazate:
Despite the lack of charm or interesting things to see (the studios were not even an option for me to visit), Ouarzazate was a good surprise in terms of food with a lot of choices in terms of street food and local eateries, away from the tourist food clichés… and tourist prices.
For the breakfast, the best choice in terms of local food, is at a corner café at the mains square, close to the Rue Al-Mouahidine, that serves a delicious besara soup (fava soup), seasoned with paprika and cumin. The flatbread is mandatory at Morocco tables and the omelet with a triangle-processed-cheese on top is also a standard… a less interesting trace of the French presence in Moroccan food, eh eh. This place, that looks more like a small grocery, opens at 6 a.m. and it’s easy to spot as there are always local people eating there.
Close by this cafe, a small stall pops up at evening time, run by a friendly woman that cooks amazing medfouna, a.k.a. berber pizza, a grilled flatbread filled with vegetables and spices… and good vibes. In fact, evening time is the best to find food at Ouarzazate and during the day the place looks numb.
On the other side of the main square, on the right side of the court building, along a road that runs behind the food market, several eateries serve in the evening harira, the traditional morocco soup usually made with vegetables and beans cooked in meat stock.
How to move around in Ouarzazate:
Ouarzazate is small enough to be done on foot and from the main square until Taourirt Kasbah or the Jewish Quarter is less than 2 kilometers.
How to go from Ouarzazate to Aït Ben Haddou:
There isn´t a direct public transport from Ouarzazate to Aït Ben Haddou (also written as Aït Benhaddou). You need first to get a bus to Tabourahte and from there a shared taxi to Aït Ben Haddou.
So the best option, if you are with more people, is to share a taxi. You can find taxis close by the main square or at the bus terminal. The taxi ride cost 100 Dirham one-way, and if you want you can ask the driver to wait for you (even if you don’t ask he will probably be there waiting and will spot you when you return).
How to leave from Ouarzazate:
There are two options to leave from Ouarzazate, no matter in what direction you want to go:
- CTM bus departure from its own terminal, 5 minutes walking from the main square (check the schedule below) with buses to the main cities.
- From Gare Routiere (bus terminal) located 2 km west from the main square, you have the SupraTour buses as also many other small companies that provide transportation form nearby destination (check image below), with a big choice in terms of schedule.