Just 10 mins beyond the town of Zagora the main road south towards M’hamid El Ghezlane will bring you to the small village of Tamegroute. All too easy to keep on driving and not realise the significance of this small collection of inter-connecting pise kasbahs (ksar) and its religious buildings on the outskirts.
Tamegroute was once the most important settlement on the Draa River and its ‘zaouia’ (a religious sanctuary/complex of buildings established around the tomb of a holy man) had great influence for decades over the people of the Draa, and those passing through the region in camel caravans.
From the 11th Century onwards, Tamegroute was already an important seat of learning and theology. From the 17th Century onwards, it was the centre of the Nasiri Brotherhood (a key Sufi movement), and bin-Nasir al-Drawi (the founder of the spiritual movement) himself took over teachings in Tamegroute. His son travelled further south in Africa and to the Middle East, spreading the message of the Brotherhood. He then collected manuscripts, tablets and other works, from the wider Islamic world, to be added to the already-extensive library at Tamegroute.
At the time of the death of bin-Nasir’s son (in the early 18th Century), the library at Tamegroute held one of the richest collections in North Africa (covering subjects such as mathematics, history, language, astronomy and, of course, Islam).
Although the library collection today is much smaller (approx. 4000 manuscripts), it is open to visitors. There are early editions of the Koran and some rare ancient books. Photography is not permitted in the library. A small medersa (theological school) is still on-site.
The zaouia attracts the visits of the sick and mentally ill, who hope for healing by the anticipated curative power of the Brotherhood, and some may remain there for months. Tamegroute is also renowned for its green pottery. The ancient glaze technique comprises silicon, manganese and copper, which, once baked in earth kilns (left), results in the striking green hue. This colour is reminiscent of the Fes glaze – potters (and other craftsmen and traders) from Fes were invited to Tamegroute in the 17th Century, to encourage the development of the settlement as a major city. Links between Fes and Tamegroute were very strong at the time.
All that remains of that legacy is a small, family-run pottery cooperative, on the road out of the village. A handful of families share workshop space and earth kilns, which are open to visitors. There is no modern equipment in use and the finished pottery is very attractive in its simplicity.
Please contact us for further information on including a visit to Tamegroute in your itinerary.