We have been on a little trip to the Draa Valley. It runs south from Ouazazate into the desert. Where it passes through there are a series of Palmeries, famous for the Boufeggous dates that grow there. They will keep for over four years if stored properly but are the hard sort which Madre does not like. When one of the women we had given a lift to forced handfuls on me I thought at first the were nuts, but they are sweet, and prized in Morocco and much more expensive than the run of the mill dates that come in boxes in the UK.
The mixture of palms, river, desert and old Ksars and Kasbahs is quite beautiful and the tourist industry is developing a pace with direct flights from Paris to Ouazazate. We were there in 2005 and the road was only 3 years old then. Now it is improved although there a long sections of deviations where it is being worked on. The area seems generally prosperous and the towns seem to have doubled in size in the eight years since we were there. In the south there are a couple of garrison towns and presumably this helps the local economy as well.
The striking difference to me, which may only relate to the time of year or school terms, is that in 2005 every hamlet we entered had small children (say age 8-10) running along by the car trying to sell us boxes of dates. Now the children all stream to and from school and the dates are sold by adults from roadside stalls much as honey and argan oil and sold here.
The other noticeable feature of the area is the women's dress. A few wear brightly coloured cotton sari-like wraps such as the Berbers wear but the majority wear sequined clothes like the Gypsies of european imagination. Some just black but with sequinned edges, others flaring skirts in broad bright horizontal stripes with bejelled shawls over.
We were surprised as the river had running water whilst the Sousse is dry, but the complaint from everyone was there is not enough water there should be rain now.