Guide to Taroudant, Morocco

Hidden by a majestic, tawny-brown circuit of walls and with the forbidding appearance of the High Atlas peaks beyond, Taroudant appears intriguing and mysterious. It is, however, every inch a Berber market town: a friendly, laid-back sort of place, with all the good natured bustle of a market where the produce of the rich and fertile Souss valley is traded.

The main sight of the town is its souks: more laid-back than Marrakech, but more varied and authentic than anything you could find in Agadir. The magnificent red-mud walls and the backdrop of the Atlas are also chief attractions, although not enough to sway Agadir tour groups in big numbers.

Taroudant is also an excellent base for trekking into the little-explored western High Atlas or on to the Djebel Serwa in the east. It also stands at the beginning of two magnificent road routes for those into great road journeys. North is the Tizi n Test road, a perilous and spectacular pass leading you across the High Atlas to Marrakech and south is the Tata road to the beautiful oases of Tata and Foum el Hassan.

Being at the heart of the fertile Souss Valley, Taroudant has always played an important commercial and political role in Morocco. The Saadians made it their capital in the 16th century for 20 years before moving to Marrakech. However, the town was more reputed as a centre of intrigue and sedition against the central government than a “great” city. It opposed the rule of Moulay Ismail in 1687 and was subsequently ransacked and its inhabitants massacred. It was also at the centre of a rebellion against the Treaty of Fez which introduced French protectorate rule into Morocco in 1912. Today, Taroudant’s status has remained the same: A major market centre in the whole region, yet the population is only a mere 30,000.