Zagora, Morocco

At first sight, Zagora does not look compelling in itself – a mere a one-street, modern market town with a deliberate array of administrative buildings and hotels. Like most Saharan towns, it is a relatively recent creation, a French administrative colonial post. However, the oasis has long been inhabited. The Saadians launched their expeditions from here to control the caravan routes across the Sahara. The mock-serious road Timbuktu sign still reads “52 days – by camel”.

The modern town has very little character, but the array of hotels and travel agencies make it the perfect staging post for treks in the Sahara. The location of Zagora is also a major plus point: you only have to walk a mile or so out of town to be amid the plush palm and oasis cultivation.

In fact, just outside Zagora is the picturesque village of Amazrou, a palmery where the oasis life and cultivation are still fairly unaffected. Directly behind the town, just across the valley, rises a sunset Mountain: Djebel Zagora, with stunning views across the palmery and ksours to the south.

Zagora is also famed for its moussems (festivals) which bring the town to life. The big event is the Moussem of Moulay Abdelkader Jilali, celebrated at the same time as the Mouloud.