ERFOUD, like Er Rachidia, is largely a French-built administrative centre, and its desultory frontier-town atmosphere fulfils little of the promise of the Tafilalt. Arriving from Er Rachidia, however, you get a first, powerful sense of proximity to the desert dunes, with frequent sandblasts ripping through the streets, and total darkness in the event of a (not uncommon) electrical black-out. This desert position is best appreciated from the vantage point of the Borj Est, the hill fort 3Km across the river, from where you can get a glimpse of the sands to the south; the fort itself is still used by the military but you can drive up to the public car park, by petit taxi or rental car, and then walk the last 200 metres for the all-round views.

Views apart, for most travellers Erfoud functions very much as a staging post for the sand dunes near Merzouga, and/or the last oasis village of Rissani. Its only other point of interest, aside from its date festival, is the local marble industry, which produces a unique, high quality black marble which, like all marbles, is metamorphosed limestone, in this case containing fascinating fossils. When polished, it is attractive and is to be seen locally on every bar top and reception desk.

You can visit the marble works on the Tinerhir road; ask or look for the Usine de Marmar (Marble factory). A German sculptor, Fred Jansen, and his Arts Natura group, pioneered carving the marble so that the fossils are revealed in 3D and, at its best, this is most impressive. But the process has been developed locally without taste so that the contrived artifacts are pure kitsch. The better-class work can be seen in the showroom at the marble works or the more central H. fossile Export opposite the Hôtel.

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