Our time in Morocco was short but I was intent on doing a day trip out of the city to either see some country side or desert. There were a couple of options, but considering our lack of time, the desert would be too far out and some of the other places simply didn’t look too appealling on the searches we made and the Ourika valley, simply on packaging (i.e. photos) looked the better option, so the valley it was.
The Ourika valley is situated in the High Atlas not far from Morocco. The valley and the mountains themselves are home to numerous Berber villages and towns, the most popular for tourists being the town of Setti Fatma, famous of the seven waterfalls close to the town.
The day trip consists of a stop at typical Berber house, followed by a stop at Argan oil factory and typical Berber market, before finally stopping at Setti Fatma, where you can take a light hike to see the waterfalls. Our riad organised a private car with driver (who inadvertantly acted as a guide as well) to take to the town. Quite handy as it gave us the flexibility of chosing where and when we wanted to stop and for how long, unlike the package tours on offer all over Marrakesh’s medina.
Ibrahim, our driver and guide, picked us up from the Riad and immediately started telling us about the trip and what to expect and more importantly asking us to tell him whenever we wanted to stop and see something. The drive towards the valley is interesting as you left the flat rugged area surrounding Marrakesh towards the green terraced fields that flank the river. What makes the landscape so visually strong is the contrast between the green fields and the red rock of the foothills of the mountains.
Something quite interesting is the use of the surrounding material in building the villages and towns of the valleys. Most of the building retain the same colour of the surrounding rock, which is mostly red, thus making the villages blend in with the Atlas mountains.
Our first stop was a typical Berber house in a mountain village. The house’s residents open their home up to tourists for a glimpse of a typical Berber home. The interesting thing is that the house was not vamped up for tourists and remained a humble home.
Just down from the road is an Argan oil cooperative. Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree, endemic to Morocco, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. Now what makes this interesting is that all argan sold today is produced by a women’s cooperative that shares the profits among the local women of the Berber tribe. I even did my part by buying some much needed, if overpriced, argan lip balm.
Our next and final stop was at Setti Fatma for a hike to some of the waterfalls. Ibrahim sorted us with a guide for the hike in between the sides of the mountain, some mountain side shaded cafés and the scorching midday sun. The prize of the hike was the stunning small waterfall. Raquel and I spend a while here soaking the serenity of the location.
We hiked back down the town centre where we would have lunch in the river. Yes, you read correctly, IN the river (more like stream). There were many restaurants which had tables in the river, however the one which went to, didn’t, though the waiter fixed that problem by literaly taking a table and two chairs to the stream. So there, with our feet cooling in the stream, we had our lunch and relaxed while doing what we do best: Talking to each other.
With lunch had and nothing more to do, we found Ibrahim and asked him to take us back to Marrakesh. The daytrip was a perfect way to get away from chaotic medina and highly recommendable break.