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Tiout is this delightful oasis not half an hour out of Taroudant.

The notion of an oasis in this same plain between the Anti-Atlas to the South, and the Atlas proper to the North, is a strange one indeed, with all the fields and commerial agriculture you see along the road, both West towards Agadir and the Atlantic, and South whence we came, on the most beautiful of drives from Tafraoute.

Still, in 20 or so km from Taroudant to Tiout at the foot of the Atlas, the vegetation unbelievably changes from fairly green stuff that wouldn't seem terribly out of place in dryer parts of Europe, interspersed with pines (OK, something akin to pines, I'm not the greatest of botanists), to palm trees and cacti sparsly dotting a stony landscape, and before the road starts snaking up the mountain, a track leads off towards Tiout oasis and its lush date palm groves beneath a sadly ruined kasbah.

actually, right beside the handsome ruin is a horrid wart of a faux-kasbah restaurant cum hotel that bullied its way up under the thuggish hand of, we were told, the glaoui's (some local bigwig's) son. Needless to say when the time came we picked a much nicer watering hole down below (just a few yards behind the spot on the photo).

Delightful, long walks through the palm groves are the main attraction, and we dutifully hired a guide and two donkeys to go and explore.

Our guide was wrestling with a bit of a dilemma concerning Tiout's potential: excellent tipple could apparently be made from the abundant dates (in keeping with an ancient tradition that had since been left by the wayside), and hunters could be persuaded to come from far afield for the wild boar - except that both enterprises would of course be haram, so that all this potential was being left untapped.

About the end of our guide's lament about the wasted wild boar, we passed a bald patch of untended land littered with so many beer bottle tops they could've considered mining for iron ore.


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