Taza Tourism: Sights and Attractions
Monuments in Taza are sparse but the Medina has still got a few of monuments that testify to the once great role this town played in Moroccan history. The nearby countryside, the Tazekka National Park and the Gouffre du Friouato, provides the major attraction around here.
Above Taza Haute stand the partially ruined walls of the medina. This is a legacy from the Almohad’s reign in the 12th century, when Taza served briefly as a capital. A bastion, in Spanish style, was added 400 years later by Moulay Ismail the Saadian ruler.
The most interesting section of the wall is around Beb Errih, where you can get a feeling of Taza’s strategic and historic significance. You can see up the wooded slopes of Djebel Tazekka and the Middle Atlas on one side and the Rif Mountains on the other.
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque – Grande Mosquée – is one of the most interesting and historical monuments in Morocco.
Founded by the Amohad Sultan Abd el Moumen in the twelfth century, this is probably the oldest Almohad structure in existence in Morocco. The mosque was enlarged by the Merenids in the thirteenth-century, who added an ivory-inlaid minbar and brass lamps overlooking the main aisles.
Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque. To get a reasonable impression, walk around to Beb Errih at the far-end of the Medina. Keep an eye for the richly decorated doorways and windows – a feature of Almohad design from the twelfth-century.
Taza’s souks start midway between the Andalous and Grand Mosques on the main street, Rue Koubet.
The souks are a great way to observe the workings of a typical Berber market. Since there are a few tourists around, the souks are free from artificial craft goods. The mats and carpets sold in the souks are hand-woven by Berber women from the surrounding mountains.
Also worth a look are the covered stalls of the kissaria and the granary around Mosquée du Marché (the Market Mosque).
Tazekka National Park & Gouffre du Friouato
The circuit round Djebel Tazekka, southwest of Taza, makes an appealing day trip with its succession of mountain views alternating between the Rif and the Middle Atlas.
It takes on the Tazekka National Park and the cave system of Gouffre du Friouato in a loop of some 123 kilometres around Taza. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can hire a grand taxi in Taza (the lot right next to the train station) for the day for around 500dh. There are also grand taxis departing for Gouffre du Friouato from the edge of the Medina.
The Djebel Tazekka Circuit
The Djebel Tazekka Circuit starts at the edge of Taza Haute (Medina) before climbing to a twisty valley of almond and cherry orchards.
The first stop is the Cascades de Ras el-Oued, some 10 kilometres from Taza. The waterfalls are at their grandest in early spring, flushed with rain and snow melt, but reduced to a trickle in the dry summer months. Just two kilometres above the waterfalls is the village of Ras el-Mar, the source of the ravine. There is a conspicuous café, Café Ras el-Mar, worth a pit stop for its great mountain views from its shaded terrace.
Leaving the waterfalls, continue towards the first pass (at 1198 metres) to eventually emerge into a plateau. On your left, you will see the strange depression of Daia Chiker, a fertile lake bed planted with cereals. In exceptional years, a broad, shallow lake forms due to geological changes in its rock structure.
Gouffre du Friouato
Further along is the Gouffre du Friouato, some 25 kilometers from Taza. It is well sign-posted, up a very narrow and steep road.
The cave complex, over 20 metres wide and 150 metres long, is said to be the deepest in North Africa. You enter by descending into its huge pot with 520 precipitous steps all the way down to the floor of the cavern. Here, you can squeeze through an entrance tunnel to a maze of fascinating chambers which go deeper and deeper. The most spectacular chambers, with unique formations, are the Salle de Lixus and Salle de Draperies.
Exploring the caves is exhilarating and beautiful, but be warned that it is slippery and strenuous. A torch, good shoes and warm clothing are essential. For a guide, use the services of Mustapha Lachhab, who has been the gardien here since 1980: he has extensive knowledge of the cave system and will take you further and deeper for around 200dh.
Beyond the Gouffre du Friouato, the road runs up through oak forests past the low-key site of Bab Bou Idir – 8 kilometers from Friouato. The village has an office for the Tazekka National Park and a campsite for day hikes around the area in the summer.
About 8 kilometres from Bab Bou Idir is the most dramatic and scenic stretch of the circuit: the ascent of Djebel Tazekka (1980 metres). It can be climbed by walking up the rough road (piste) that branches off Bab Bou Idir towards the summit. At the top, encased in cedar forests, you can enjoy breathtaking views out to both the Rif and the Middle Atlas.