Ahhhhhh! An escape for the day to the Ourika Valley.
Today Jamal took us away from the hustle and crowds of the Medina. We headed to the Atlas Mountains, and being only 30km (or 16 miles) from the Medina makes it the perfect getaway.
The terrain is a sharp contrast to Marrakesh’s desert landscape. The High Atlas is a region of lush valleys, gorges and some of the highest mountains in Morocco. The Ourika Valley is also the traditional home of the Berber people. The Ourika River flows down from here feeding the valley’s many orange orchards, olive groves and cultivated terraces. Here, it was evident that some traditional ways of living were still alive and well. We saw men working their fields and digging to maintain vital irrigation channels and women carrying barley on their backs. One of the highlights of the day was a chance to go inside a traditional Berber home. We were invited in with a smile from the father of the family, then he disappeared to go prepare us some mint tea as Jamal showed us around.
Jamal told us that they are farmers and that 14 members of their family live in the home together. We had a seat in one of the several rooms they had for entertaining (we loved their “coaches”) and soon Marika joined us. Marika (her name means Queen) is the wife and mother of the family. She was very kind and showed us how they make their delicious mint tea.
After some mint tea and conversation (mostly between Jamal and Marika since we’re still working on our Berber) they brought out some warm bread, olive oil, honey and something that looked like butter but we think was their version of cheese since Jamal said it was made with milk. We enjoyed the warm hospitality of this family and then met the newest member of the clan, their granddaughter Ikran, which means kind. Zach and Ikran got along great! After a few games of peek-a-boo, we think we’ve recruited a new UNE student.
We thanked the family for their warm hospitality and continued toward the mountains. Another stop along the way was a Jewish synagogue. Here we watched the Rabi bless travelers-by.
Next we headed off to the village of Setti Fetima. From here, we ventured off the paved road with a local guide for an awesome trek in the valley to see the waterfalls.
After our adventure, lunch was in order. Our local guide took us to the restaurant with the best view in the valley.
After lunch, we were sad to see the High Atlas in the rear view mirror of our van as we headed back to the Medina but grateful for the fresh air and adventure we had today.