An old kasbah in the Tafilalet region, Morocco
© José Antonio Moreno/agefotostoc
An oasis in a sea of sand. Tafilalet oasis in Morocco
Today we've arrived at the walls of a kasbah in Tafilalet, home to the largest oasis in Morocco. Meaning 'jug' in the language of the ancient Amazigh people (aka Berbers), Tafilalet was named for the pottery jars they filled with water from underground springs. After the first permanent settlement of the region, Sijilmassa, was founded in 757 CE, Tafilalet became a stopping point for caravans traveling from the Niger River to Tangier on the northern tip of Morocco and the gateway to Europe.
The oasis here at Tafilalet thrives thanks to underground springs and wells, which are supplied by sandstone aquifers that can be hundreds of miles away. Surrounded by the dry sands of the Sahara, the life-giving waters here at Tafilalet support miles of date palm groves, a major industry in North Africa. Over the centuries, several villages have sprung up in this oasis, some of them with fortified kasbahs like this one, to withstand attacks from invaders.