A hair-raising experience at the Berber’s

An Ourika Valley day trip is the closest day trip destination from Marrakech, spread between the first foothills of the Atlas Mountains, but this beautiful lush green valley is definitely one of the best preserved valleys in all of Morocco. Aside from the glorious scenery, a trip to the Ourika Valley is noteworthy for being a chance to see a traditional Berber village and people that live in it.

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Despite it being close to Marrakech, the Ourika valley is still inhabited by Berber villagers living out their traditional lifestyles. It seems a million miles away from the bustling markets of downtown Marrakech, where every trader is trying to sell you his ware – including sheep heads for lunch! You won’t find any such happenings in the Ourika Valley, which is very much considered a key day trip away from the city, as Berber culture and architecture can be seen on every hillside here within the fabled Atlas Mountains. Driving here from Marrakech takes little more than an hour in a private car (slightly more in a public bus), but the scenery is astounding every inch of the way. The journey to the Ourika Valley is perhaps the first leg in a longer trip eastwards, which will take you all the way to the so-called gateway of the Sahara Desert at Merzouga, so you will inevitably come across many other tourists enroute.

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Traditionally in Berber village life, men take care of livestock, such as sheep and goats, and are thus assured with an abundance of wool, cotton, and plants used for dyeing. For their part, women look after the family and particular handicrafts. These handicrafts are first and foremost for their personal use, but they also find their way on sale in local souks (even back in Marrakech). At various points of the Ourika Valley, it was nice to observe local women from the villages having a good old gossip down beside the river, seemingly doing their laundry or washing some ornaments of dust in the water.

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The village I travelled to here in the Ourika Valley was said to be around 64km from Marrakech and it lays at the end of the road. However, a mule track continues up the valley to pass to Tacheddirt and Oukaimeden, which has both the best skiing station in Morocco and interesting prehistoric rock carvings. Going around the valley takes a bit of effort, but as long as you are physically fit you will not find it too much of a problem. You will also be crossing many Berber bridges to get from one side of the valley to the other, and while they look very weak and about to collapse, actually they are fine pieces of makeshift engineering!

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