After a couple of days in the frantic medina of Marrakesh, we decided we needed to slow down for an afternoon. An easy day trip is the Ourika Valley at only about 45mins away, which we chose to do with a day tour (about 12€ for 6 hours) leaving from the city. If you´d rather go independently, you could probably take a taxi but I don´t think it will save you any money.
Meet the Berbers
Our first stop was to a small Berber village not far out of town where the experience would leave much to be desired. What followed was a highly choreographed look at Berber life where we were told what to take pictures of while the tour guide cracked boring, well-rehearsed jokes about how poor and rural it was: ¨look at this donkey, they call this Berber Mitsubishi!¨
He took us into the home of a family living in the village for a tour of the premises and a tea break where bread with local honey and olive oil was the highlight for me. Though we were with a group, there wasn’t really any conversation amongst us as we sat around the tiny table in the Berber family´s living room giving me the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop on a father/teenage son duo from the UK. I held back laughter as the father tried to engage his son with desperate prompts like “see, this is what life was like before we had all of our modern conveniences! can you even imagine!?” to which his son always just rolled his eyes, “I guess.”
From here we made a few more stops along the way to our destination: an apothecary shop, a stop on the side of the road for an optional camel ride (where one family got in a heated argument with the camel´s handler about the price), and a rope bridge that I was too nervous to walk across.
Our last stop was the town of Setti Fatma which is basically a strip of tourist trap restaurants offering an overpriced prix fixe lunch for about 9€ (way over the going rate back in town). Opting to just wait until we returned to Marrakesh, we left the restaurant and walked around to see if we could find a cheaper place for a coffee. Next door was another restaurant (with another overpriced tourist lunch) that offered a impressive view of the valley so we braved the brutal cold and sat on the rooftop terrace with our coffees for as long as we could bear. When we could take it no longer we returned for the next scheduled activity, an easy hike up to some waterfalls nearby but since it was so cold, we opted out again and instead stayed indoors hugging our warm mint teas. When the rest of the group returned from the excursion with shrugs and nothing to say but “it was nice”, we knew we´d made the right decision.
Despite my issues with the tour experience, the valley really is beautiful and I can imagine during Marrakesh´s crushingly hot summers, a great escape from the heat. If you are travelling in winter like I did, dress warmly! I was not prepared at all for the cold and wind and it kept my teeth chattering and my hair looking like a highway convertible ride the entire time.
Have you been to the Ourika Valley or on any other trips from Marrakesh? What did you think? I´d especially like to hear if you´ve been ont he Sahara overnight trip since people at our hostel were raving about that one!