Having followed the course of the Draa River South to M’hamid El Ghezlane, it’s very easy to just keep on driving, off the tarmac road and then in to the desert. With the lure of the desert, the end of the road doesn’t seem worth stopping for – maybe to pick up some provisions, cold water, perhaps a turban and gondorah as keepsakes.
However, for those who are interested and want to get out of the 4×4 and explore a little more by foot, we’d certainly recommend an hour’s detour at least. For those who are trekking in to the desert with us, this can be arranged much more easily, as part of the trek itself. The scale of the dried bed of the Draa River is a stunning sight, and water never usually flows this far South (except after occasional deluges upstream).
Walking just 6km along the river course from M’hamid El Ghezlane, northwards, you reach the ksar of Bounou, an old Berber settlement on the northern river bank (some claim that its former site was on the southern side of the river). The oldest parts of the remaining structure are approx. 200 years old. When asking colleagues about its age, the most common replies are – ‘it’s always been there’, or ‘it’s older than my father’. That’s quite usual, as nothing would be documented.
The ksar is on a strategic point, on a river-bend, and is surrounded by fertile land and palm groves, which are still farmed and cultivated today, despite the drought. The palm grove that reaches a little beyond M’hamid El Ghezlane is the last oasis on the Draa.
The ksar of Bounou is almost abandoned but some families still live there and work is under-way to restore some of the structure. It is worth visiting to appreciate how ancient communities lived together. The outlying farms and Bounou village also offer a glimpse into a pastoral way of life that most visitors would scarcely think possible in desert conditions.
The best part of walking out to the Draa River at Bounou has to be the tranquility and the unexpected views. We encourage you to see it all for yourself…