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Ourika Valley and the waterfalls at Setti Fatma

 

 

As the sun embarks on its Spring arc and city temperatures start to rise, Marrakshis begin their weekend jaunts to the cool of the Ourika Valley, just as generations have done before them. The land rises from the arid plain surrounding Marrakech, through the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, with olive groves and citrus trees, poplar and weeping willow scattering the hillside, until finally you are in the lush countryside of the Ourika Valley itself, with its pine and cedar forests.

This is the domain of the Berber people, the earliest inhabitants of Morocco before it even bore that name, and agriculture and village life are still lived to a traditional rhythm. As the road rises you pass by tiny villages, many perched precipitously on the hillside looking for all the world as if they are waiting to tumble down into the river below. In the tradition of hospitality of the Berber you will be invited to take mint tea in a village home, and see at close quarters how the family lives.

 

The Ourika Valley is one of the closest areas to Marrakech to watch beautiful Moroccan carpets being hand-woven on ancient family looms. The weaver is always a woman, and her carpets tell the story of her daily life, her joys and sadness, family events and village goings on, the pattern only existing in her head as they are never written down.

If you can time your excursion for a Monday you will have the added bonus of the souk at Tnine Ourika, the weekly open-air market and the biggest in the valley. This is mountain life at its most natural; enormous piles of vegetables, barber/dentists worthy of a tale by Charles Dickens; aluminium pans alongside vendors of herbs and tonics for everything that ails you; bales of hay for animal food, scribes to write and read a letter, dining tents with plank tables and rough benches – a wonderful experience of how life is lived away from the metropolis. 

The waterfalls of Setti Fatma

There are two things that have brought fame to the once tranquil village of Setti Fatma; its seven waterfalls and its summer moussem, a stupendous four-day festival in August, as much country fair as religious celebration, in devotion to the marabout, the village’s holy man whose shrine is by the river a short way up-stream from the village of Setti Fatma, and one of the three most important in the whole of Morocco. Today the village exists mainly for tourism, for Moroccans themselves more than for foreigners, but it’s idyllic location and glorious setting alongside a river more than makes up for any commercialisation.

A thirty-minute stiff walk from Setti Fatma takes you to the first of the seven cascades – and you really must be well-shod for this. If your leaning is more to relaxing than walking, you can enjoy a freshly-made tajine at one of the riverside restaurants.

 

For further information about the Ourika Valley and Setti Fatma Waterfalls tour, please contact Abdellatif Benhrima, Our Man In Morocco. Email: bkabdou@yahoo.fr, Tel: +212 (0)661 20 31 17