The Glaoui kasbah at TELOUET is one of the most extraordinary sights of the Atlas – fast crumbling into the dark red earth, but visitable, and offering a peculiar glimpse of the style and melodrama of Moroccan political government and power well within living memory. There’s little of aesthetic value – many of the rooms have fallen into complete ruin – but nevertheless, even after over a half-century of decay, there’s still vast drama in this weird and remote site, and in the painted salon walls, often roofless and open to the wind.
The Dar Glaoui
Driving through Telouet village you bear off to the right, on a signposted track, to the kasbah, or Dar Glaoui as it’s known. The road twists round some ruins to a roughly paved courtyard facing massive double doors. Wait a while and you’ll be joined by a caretaker-guide (tours 20dh per group), necessary in this case since the building is an unbelievable labyrinth of locked doors and connecting passages; it is said that no single person ever fully knew their way around the complex. Sadly, these days you’re shown only the main halls and reception rooms. You can ask to see more – the harem, the kitchens, the cinema – but the usual reply is “dangereux”, and so it is: if you climb up to the roof (generally allowed) you can look down upon some of the courts and chambers, the bright zellij and stucco enclosing great gaping holes in the stone and plaster.
The reception rooms – “the outward and visible signs of ultimate physical ambition”, in Maxwell’s phrase – at least give a sense of the quantity and style of the decoration, still in progress when the Glaouis died and the old regime came to a sudden halt. They have delicate iron window grilles and fine carved ceilings, though the overall result is once again the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century combination of sensitive imitation of the past and out-andout vulgarity. There is a tremendous scale of affectation, too, perfectly demonstrated by the use of green Salé tiles for the roof – usually reserved for mosques and royal palaces.
The really enduring impression, though, is the wonder of how and why it ever came to be built at all.
Getting to Telouet is straightforward if you have transport: it is an easy 21km drive from the Tizi n’Tichka (N9) road, along the paved 6802. Using public transport, there is a daily bus from Marrakesh, departing from Bab Rhemat (daily at around 2–3pm), to Telouet and on to Anemiter (see p.518); it returns from Anemiter at 6.30am (7am from Telouet). Alternatively, there are shared grands taxis from Marrakesh to Anemiter, via Aït Ourir and Telouet. Telouet itself is no more than a village; it has a Thursday souk, and makes a pleasant stopover at any time. Finding a room should be no problem. At the turn-off for the Dar Glaoui is the Auberge Telouet (T024 89 07 17; 3), with its nomad tent outside and new kasbah building across the road. It has good food and ambience, and the owner, Mohammed Boukhsas, can also arrange interesting accommodation in village houses. Alternatively, there is Chez Bennouri (2), run by Mohammed Benouri (a trekking guide) and his father in part of an old ksar, and the simple Auberge Le Pin (T024 89 07 09; 2) at the west end of the village.
There are several cafés, which serve meals. Telouet to Aït Benhaddou The Tizi n’Tichka road will bring you from the pass to Aït Benhaddou or Ouarzazate in a couple of hours (see p.515 for this route). However, if you have four-wheel drive (or a mountain bike), or want a good two-day walk, it is possible to reach Aït Benhaddou by the Tizi n’Telouet and the Ounila Valley. This is now a rather minor piste road but before the construction of the Tichka road it was the main route over the Atlas. Indeed, it was the presence in the Telouet kasbah of T’hami’s xenophobic and intransigent cousin, Hammou (“The Vulture”), that caused the French to construct a road along the more difficult route to the west. The route is surfaced as far as Anemiter but pretty rough beyond there, and requires fording streams at several points – most precariously just north of Aït Benhaddou.
The Ounila Valley All in all, it is 35km from Telouet to Aït Benhaddou by the Ounila Valley. If you are walking or biking, the route offers tranquillity and unparalleled views of green valleys, a river that splashes down the whole course and remarkable coloured scree slopes amid the high, parched hillsides. Despite the absence of settlements on most of the maps, much of the valley has scattered communities.