Apart from Moroccan Arabic and French, Souss-Massa-Draâ has its own indigenous language, Tachelhite.
The region is divided into the prefectures of Agadir-Ida-Ou Tanane and Inezgane-Aït Melloul and the provinces of Chtouka Aït Baha, Ouarzazate, Taroudant, Tiznit, and Zagora. Its capital is Agadir.
Agadir is Southern Morocco’s capital and most visited city. Rebuilt following the 1961 earthquake that killed 15,000, it exhibits a totally different culture and architecture from the rest of the country. Agadir is a beautiful green resort city with wide roads and low-rise modern homes. Since then, the city has grown more and more colourful and Moroccan in character. Europeans flock to this city in winter.
Monuments and historic sites are just about absent here, but the city is rich in natural attractions, especially the well-kept sandy beaches. The undercurrent can get quite strong here, so care must be taken when swimming. Jet-skiing and horse and camel rides are other favourite beach activities.
Other places to see include the green Valley of the Birds, which has aviaries, a zoo, a waterfall and a playground. There’s also the Jardim de Olhao, a lovely park surrounded by an ancient Berber wall. It has a charming café, a gallery where local artists show their works, and a children’s playground. There is also a Municipal Museum with a modest collection of local arts and crafts on display.
Inezgane-Aït Melloul is the tiniest division of the Souss-Massa-Draâ region, with only six municipalities. Its land area is just 293 square kilometres.
The province of Ouarzazate is a favourite location for shooting desert scenes in international films. Its beauty has been immortalized in Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth and Orson Welles’ Sodom and Gomorrah.
Known as “the door of the desert”, Ouarzazate has been developed as the centre of Sahara tourism. Excursions through the valley of the Draa River into the Sahara Desert start from the city. There are some lovely oases in the area.
Ouarzazate is also known for its striking black-and-vermillion Ouazguita carpets as well as its charming traditional residential areas, or kasbahs. It has its own international airport.
Ouarzazate City is about 130 kilometres from Marrakech. The city outskirts, where the beautiful Palace of Glaoui can be found, are extremely well-kept. But the interior, where the locals live, is definitely lived-in and only rehabilitated by the government every few years. There are not many restaurants in this city, though there are many excellent hotels. It is a popular stopover for tourists going to Marrakech as well as those touring the Sahara Desert.
The city of Taroudant lies east of Agadir on the route to Ouarzazate, south of Marrakech. Most of the city is enclosed within red, gold, and pink ramparts.
Taroudant is sometimes called the Grandmother of Marrakech because it resembles the larger city, but on a smaller and less hectic scale. Known for its traditional jewelry, metalwork, and carpets, it has the atmosphere of a little market town along a caravan route.
Tiznit is a good place to get fine silver jewelry. Established by Sultan Hassan I in 1881, it currently has a population of around 50, 000.
Zagora is an oasis town in the valley of the Draa River in Souss-Massa-Draâ. Overlooking it is the mountain Zagora, from which the town got its name. On its peak are the ruins of an ancient fortress. The town, however, was only established within the last hundred years. Some of the architectural gems of this town include the Timidierte and Igdaouan kasbahs and the ksar (residential buildings) of Tamnougalt and Tamegroute. In the Tamegroute ksar can be found a library containing exquisite illuminated Qurans and other Islamic manuscripts.
This town was traditionally where camel trains to Timbuktu originated and it makes a good starting point for an exploration of the oases, palm groves, and kasbahs of the Draa Valley and the dunes of the Sahara Desert by camel or motor vehicle.