Tizi n'Tichka (called Col du Tichka in French) is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.260m (7,410ft) above the sea level, located in the High Atlas mountains, a mountain range in central Morocco in Northern Africa. Tizi n’Tichka means “difficult mountain pasture” in Berber and you’ll see why.
The pass is traversed by Route Nationale 9. At the summit visitors will enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. As the road begins to make its way down to Ouarzazate, travelers will be able to marvel at pre-Sahara regions that lie dry and motionless and the silent peaks of the great Atlas Mountains. The views, the villages and the time spent on the Tizi n’ Tichka Pass are a truly unique experience. Travelers are encouraged to take this journey of history, wonder and natural amazement. The road is the only gateway to the South of Morocco and its desert, so it can get quite busy. If you are travelling south, it’s recommended to take this road in the morning an avoid any crowds. The thoroughfare is not just made of tourists, there are lots of trucks.
This road is usually open all year, but from November to March, snow can often fall on the pass, and can be closed when the access is not cleared of snow. In winter, avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous in winter due to frequent patches of ice. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh, particularly during winter. From November to March, snow can often fall on the pass, but it can be warm all year round in the strong sun. Near the pass is Kasbah Aït Benhaddou, probably the most celebrated, filmed and photographed kasbah in Morocco. Featured in numerous films (including Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and Gladiator), it is the best-preserved kasbah in Morocco and has 10 families still inhabiting it.
The experience of using this road is very impressive. The road to reach the pass, with 60 miles of very steep climbing, was built as a military highway in 1936 by the French. Today, Route Nationale 9 links the south-east of Marrakesh to the city of Ouarzazate. Tichka means "it’s difficult" and so it means literally a difficult path, because it has so many switchbacks. The road has more than 100 turns. Drive with your headlights on at all times as it is easier for oncoming vehicles to see you. On the climb, the road is quite good, and some parts have recently been upgraded. Interestingly, the road is upgraded in chunks, so you may alternate between the old road and newly sealed road.
The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. The most famous road through the High Atlas leads from the vast plains surrounding the royal city of Marrakech to the pass, which is quite often blocked by snow in the winter and is then impassable down around the beautiful kasbahs (clay medieval fortress) to Ourzazate, the gateway to the valley of river Draa and Sahara Desert. The pass lies between the great Marrakech Plains and the gateway of the Sahara Desert. At the summit there are shops selling minerals.
Pic: Jl Soli