Ourika Valley | A true Moroccan paradise in Marrakech
Located 30 kilometers south of Marrakech, the Ourika Valley is is one of the most popular sites in the High Atlas Mountains. The Ourika Valley is easily accessible from Marrakech, and it has a few hotel complexes, Cafes, and restaurants. The tourists flock there precisely for its very preserved nature and its mountain lifestyle, as well as for the numerous small Berber and Chleuh villages which are scattered in the valley.
History of the Ourika Valley
The origin of the name of Ourika comes from Urika, which is the name of one of the Masmouda tribes, belonging to an Amazigh group, itself descendant of the Almohad dynasty. The valley is therefore historically populated with Berbers, and the local population speaks a dialect called Chleuh (Native North African Language).
In the surroundings of Marrakech, stands a natural rock barrier, called "the roof of Morocco" or "the roof of North Africa": the Western High Atlas. The highest mountain in the country, the High Atlas stretches from southwest to northeast over 750 kilometers. It delimits Saharan Morocco from Atlantic and Mediterranean Morocco, and rises to 4,167 meters above sea level.
In the foothills of this imposing massif, there is a major tourist attraction for the surroundings of Marrakech: the Ourika valley. Along the foothills of the High Atlas, the valley stretches 68 kilometers from Marrakech to the village of Setti Fatma, at an altitude of 1,500 meters. Ourika is the name given to the river which flows from the slopes of the High Atlas, and is a tributary of Oued Tensift.
The Ourika Valley is, by its milder climate than in Marrakech, a vast area of agricultural crops, and is notably surrounded by lush vegetation of agricultural fields and olive trees, orchards, almond trees, cherry trees and other green plants. Nature is especially abundant when the rainy season gives way to summer: the bright red earth illuminates the landscape and the villages while the air becomes more breathable as one gains altitude (15 ° C at 20 ° C less than in Marrakech).
What to see and do in the Ourika Valley?
What to do when visiting the Ourika Valley? Well, walks, walks and more walks! But not only that.
The Ourika Valley is full of attractions to visit, including:
The Berber ecomuseum
The bio-aromatic garden of Ourika
The village of Setti Fatma
The 7 waterfalls
In Tafza, the Berber ecomuseum allows you to discover the Berber way of life and culture, with a vast collection of objects formerly used (carpets, clothes, jewelry, pottery). It is actually the universe of the Amazigh woman that is represented. It is also a starting point for many hikes, for visiting the saltworks, waterfalls and wadis (rivers).
Tnine and Timalizene
In the village of Tnine, do not miss the farm producing saffron, the red gold of Morocco (open from the end of October to mid-November). 4 km away, the village of Timalizene is to be seen, especially for the homonymous gardens. This one has several terraces paying homage to the typically Moroccan trees. Continue to visit the Ourika Valley with the Bio-Aromatic Garden at Douar El Haddad, to be visited from March to June to enjoy the exquisite scent of medicinal plants.
In the village of Setti Fatma, perched at an altitude of 1,500 meters, you can choose to spend a night - cool and calm, without air conditioning or fan - before going to the waterfalls in the early morning or going hiking in the mountains to enjoy great views of the Berber houses.
The Ourika waterfalls
From Setti Fatma, you reach the first waterfall after half an hour of walking in the rocks. A first pool allows you to cool off while higher, the small path leads to the other 6 waterfalls.
In the wild, you may be able, if you are lucky, to spot Berber macaques! The trail begins after a small bridge spanning the wadi (river). The more you walk, the fewer people there will be and the waterfalls will be less and less frequented. But beware of the heat if you come to visit the Ourika Valley! Even at altitude, it can be very hot in summer.
For the end of the day, restaurants along the Ourika allow you to eat couscous with your feet in the water.
Ourika Valley features small hotels, restaurants, and traditional cafes, all scattered along the roads to the river for those wishing to enjoy local Moroccan Berber cuisine such as barbecue and tajines.
Finally, coming to visit the Ourika Valley is also an opportunity to see the argan oil cooperatives produced in the area by local women.