Trying to find Le Maiz Ksour
Desert Brain plants & White Marabout
Town – Loudaghir Ksour
The source and Minaret
One day we are just going to do a photo essay. Just not today. I have been told I have to type. Not sure who’s idea it was, but this blog is turning into a monster. Any publishers out there interested in a really crappy writing style?
Having said that, let me say it was worth the effort to get to Figuig. On first appearances it is a standard small Moroccan town. There are a few cars, and motorised bikes, but you are more likely to see a cart being pushed by a man, or pulled by a donkey. Town itself does not seem to be much more than the one big street going through it. There is an urban development program here, and you can see the work that is being put into this street, although just down from the hotel, part of the retaining wall has collapsed and covered part of the road. The lightposts have yet to be put up, and are lying on the sides of the road, waiting for the electricity to be wired into them.
Walking down through the town, we saw a sign pointing to on side saying Le Maiz Ksour (Ksar, Ksour – a small fortified village) so we went in search of it. The only other sign we saw was one advertising to put your garbage in a bin, and the work being done to clean up the empty lots in the area. This is the first we have seen a sign with this simple message, and we thought it was a good idea.
We never found the Ksar, we think. We did find an old ruin though, and spent a while exploring it. The ruin was quite large, and we did think this was the Ksour, as it had small streets and multi levelled buildings in it. Sometimes you would have to pass through the ground floor, and others you would be on the remains of the second or third. The collapses made it difficult to tell. The one section that was still being maintained was the old Mosque. (See the featured photo on the home page)
The only way to see into it was through a round hole in the wall. There was one place that provided a perfect view out over the escarpment and the palmeries below. Sitting here looking out at the region, you start to get a bit of perspective on the town. Originally there were seven Ksars here, all with small feuds between them that sometimes erupted into open warfare. Due to this, they each had their own town walls, and watch towers.
We are not sure how they sorted out the water supply, but it seemed to work, as there are about 200,000 palm trees (according to the rough guide. However on re-reading their section on town, and looking about, it is apparent that the writer for this section of the book has never been to Figuig!) You cannot see these trees on entering town, as they are on the other side, but from here they stretched out into the distance. Making our way down to them, we found running canals and big swimming pools full of water. You wouldn’t go swimming in them though, as they are for irrigation only, although the fish and frogs don’t seem to mind. In the palmeries, there are walls everywhere, and each plot is walled off. Most of the time we were on a sandy road, as you could not go into the fields (well, you could if you jumped the crumbling walls, but we didn’t think that was a good idea).
Popping out on the other side, we were back on an arid plain. There were hills off in the distance, although a lot closer than before, and nothing in between. A few plants were scattered around. The main one strangely reminiscent of brain coral, so we dubbed them brain plants. They are a round plant that is very dense to protect against the desert. On finding an uprooted one, we discovered that it was hollow. There was the main trunk and tap root that branched out into the small bud like leaves. The centre gap was mostly filled with dirt and sand to create a solid form.
Finding a nice shady place for lunch, we enjoyed the peace around us. While sitting there, we spied a white building off in the distance, on the other side of the palmerie. Walking back through a different part of the palm forest, we popped up below some small hills. The white building on top of them. As we got closer, we found it was a Marabout, or shrine to a holy/important man.
There was a person outside, sitting on the wall, We tried a quick conversation, and found he was the caretaker, but wasn’t feeling well, and needed a nap.
Asking if it was ok to look around as long as we didn’t go in, we got his permission. There were a few buildings around the Marabout, but nothing that interesting, other than breaking up the monotonous landscape. The Marabout itself was well built with a small mosque attached. He must have been an important man, as this shire is bigger then any other we have seen, but it is not much frequented we think. From here we walked off into the desert. No real plan but to see what is over the next small rise, and the one after that. It is quiet and peaceful. The temperature is quite warm during the day, and perfect for doing this. Eventually we turned around and headed back to town.
It was not late enough to hole up in the hotel, and we decided to explore the other side of town. This turned out to be much larger. We went past crumbling dirt walls and half built houses, past mansions that proudly flaunted their wealth, and through the clean! streets. This turned out to be Ksour Loudaghir, the richest of the seven Ksours. Along the way we came to a tower. We had seen a few watch towers through the palmeries and outside of town, but this was different. To our immense surprise, we found a sign.
It is the Mosque Ouled Ziyane with Minaret Pierreux built in about the 12th century. We knew there was an ancient minaret in Figuig, but wanted to go looking for it tomorrow, as we though it was out of town. Turns out it wasn’t and we had found it a bit early. The mosque built around it is fairly new, although you can never tell in Morocco. As we walked on, we found even more signs. Ksour Loudaghir was apparently very touristy, and they had all the signs up about what you are looking at. This is the second time we have seen anything set out for tourists (the first was Fez) and was another nice touch for the town. As we progressed through the Ksour, we found many of these signs, and they at least gave us an idea of what we were looking at (even if the details were in French and Arabic. At least we could decipher the French a bit).
In this way, when we came to some vaulted archways, we found out we were looking at the Grande Mosque Rahba. It used to be a vaulted verandah, but has now been completly built in. There were many marabouts, and even a few gates. On exiting the Ksour at Gate Jadid, we walked around the back of the Ksour, beside a rather large graveyard and ended up at a small park area. The place was undergoing an extensive makeover. This gave it a slightly unkempt appearance, but will be worth it when finished. There was a deep excavation here, with steps leading down to a pool of water. On the other side there seemed to be a series of levels that could have been used for a variety of purposes. Behind this is a large columned building.
This is Place Ajdir, a natural hot spring. There is a small well to one side, and putting your hand over the opening, you can feel the steam and warm air. Going down the steps to the big pool, you can even see some steam rising from the water. It would be perfect for a dip.
Apparently they thought this in the past as well, as the big building was home to three Hammans, and water was piped to another three under the old minaret.
On the other side of the park there was a mechanical sound. Being so unusual in the area we went to see what it was. Here there is a monstrosity of pipes rising up out of a concrete slab. This is where they pump the water from nowadays. Using mechanical pumps and pipes to rise it up enough to drop it into renovated aqueducts. Our quick walk around the other side of town had now taken several hours, and it was time to head back to the hotel.
We grabbed a sandwich from the only place serving food in town and called it a night.