Touring the Ourika Valley

We decided to do a day trip to the Ourika Valley with a driver, which is about 37 miles outside Marrakech and takes around an hour or so to get there directly. On our way we stopped off at a local Berber Market, as it was a Friday it was the main market day. Bustling with locals alike buying and selling copious amounts of fresh vegetables, dates and spices along with hanging meats with a separate part for clothing and second hand shoes. I throughly enjoyed walking around the market, taking in the surroundings, smells and atmosphere. We stopped at a ‘ready made’ cafe and drank sage tea, a first for me, it was lovely! Food wise we were brought lambs liver on skewers with freshly baked bread, delicious it was devoured in seconds. It is refreshing to get a proper insight into how other cultures live, away from the usual tourist traps. After the market we drove to Berber home, as we were shown around the house, the outdoor hammam and to the yard where the live stock were kept. I looked out at the beautiful views of the Moroccan countryside that stood in front of the home. The family were very hospitable and made us traditional mint tea with fresh bread alongside locally made honey, oil and butter to dip the bread into. As we said our goodbyes the Ourika Valley beckoned.

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The Ourika Valley is located in the foothills of the High Atlas and is by the village of Setti Fatma. This is a riverside village swarming with tourists, wanting to see their 7 waterfalls and rest afterwards with a riverside setting luncheon. The village is situated in the canyon beneath the High Atlas Mountains. The Ourika River rises in the High Atlas and flows through the Ourika Valley. The area homes a lot of Berber people, who are practising the traditional way of life. Despite being not far from Marrakech, it is still seen as rather unspoilt. When we arrived we were met by a guide to take us up to the waterfalls, I had though I was prepared with flat shoes and warmer clothing, however I was not. The hike, yes a hike up to the waterfalls needs a proper walking shoe as at times you have to cling to the rocks and place your feet wherever they can go. It is not for the faint hearted and sadly I did not see all the waterfalls as my shoes would not grip the rock and for my own safety I bowed out and returned to the village. I was upset not to be able to continue but want to express the need to others going to take a good trainer with grip or a walking shoe! On the plus side I bought a carpet from one of the shops on our way back down to the valley, it was made by the local women’s cooperative. The carpet is made from cactus silk, fibre extracted from filaments of the aloe vera cactus.

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We ate lunch at the Restaurant La Vall’ee on the terrace which was a treat, with the amazing views of the snow capped mountains and the river flowing beneath, as the winter sun shone down on us. Tagines, couscous, salads, bread and seasonal fruits were brought to us, with mint tea and water. I was certainly pleased to have visited this area and witnessed the natural beauty of the waterfalls and surrounding areas.

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With an hour and half drive back to Marrakech and our Riad, I took in the views on our way back to town. I would recommend doing a trip or tour of the Ourika Valley and the waterfalls, I would just reitterate that you need to be aware of the hike, 1 hour to the top to the last waterfall and wear the right footwear, else you will be sadly disappointed.

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