Morocco has everything. The coast, the mountains, the desert, the treasures of architecture, and even an untold promise of perfect weather. What else would you ask for? Morocco is stunning and it seems to be well aware of its beauty. It flirts with travelers a lot. Sometimes it seduces them effortlessly, sometimes they play hide and seek for a little bit before the visitor surrenders and admits the place’s charm.
This is what happened to me. We came from hide and seek to wrestling. I’ve experienced my biggest travel disappointment in Fes. I fell head over heels for Chefchaouen and Essaouira. Morocco had never kept me lukewarm. When I arrived to Marrakech, I was amazed by everything. Its crowded, hectic medina was a shock to all my senses, including the vague 6th one. It was a whole new world and I thought I loved it. Two days later I was rather tired and I longed for a getaway from the maze of the city. This might sound a little capricious, but, well, Morocco would do that to a girl. I was dreaming of green plains with no vendors. Or, perhaps, waterfalls with no restaurants in close proximity.
It was definitely time for a day trip. A day trip up the hill, because when hustle and bustle of cities give you a headache, mountains are the best cure. My mom and I both felt quite the same. We were thinking of various places we could pick – the list was long and Google Images looked stunning.
We decided to bet on Ourika Valley. It’s just 60 km away from Marrakech and it makes an easy day trip. You can do it with one of many local travel agencies or with a shared taxi, better known as grande taxi.
I slept half of the way to the valley, which probably was a mistake. I missed at least a dozen of Berber villages and argan oil cooperatives. Berber villages are partly serving as open air museums. Locals are used to tourists and seem to be happy to show them around for a fee. Sometimes, it’s also possible to see a typical Berber house from the inside. As for the cooperatives, if you are interested in purchasing any argan products, this might be a good place to do so. Cooperatives are certified and they probably won’t sell you a fake. Moreover, they only employ women and the money they earn is directly transferred to the community that produced what you bought. If you feel like empowering the region, stop by. Actually, argan trees don’t grow in these parts, but the kernels are transported to Ourika Valley to be processed. Most of the cooperatives make cosmetic oil, soaps, creams, and cooking oil.
When you are done with all the argan and each and every Berber souvenir seller, hike to Setti Fatma waterfalls. The hike is rather easy. Even if you are a bad hiker, you should give it a try. I promise you that the way back is way smoother and significantly less slippery. The landscape is worth it. The valley lies right at the feet of High Atlas. If this doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. Well, perhaps some photos to tease your imagination.
Here it is. My one afternoon romance with Atlas Mountains.
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