Ourika Valley, Morocco

The great outdoors.

Ourika Valley is an hour-ride away from the city of Marrakech. It is where lie the 7 waterfalls of Setti Fatma, on the foot of the Atlas Mountain. My friend and I booked a private tour online and met up with the driver at a famous restaurant down the market, as no car can squeeze in the narrow alleys leading to our hotel. (Only motorcycles and donkeys can pass through.)

The drive was smooth and easy that I found myself drifting off to sleep to the sound of Arabic beats blaring on the SUV’s stereo. After some time, I woke up to bladder calls and hunger pangs and to a view of rushing lakes with colourful hues of blue and pink table tops by the bedrock. And bam, hunger’s intensified.

Initially thinking that our trip would compromise of a lakeside lunch with views of the picturesque mountain, we were mistaken: lunch was on us. When buying a tour online, make sure to read the details and take a screenshot or a printout of the receipt. And if it says a tour guide will be provided, it should be at no extra cost. Ours was a native Berber from the village in the valley. Skilled and brave as he was, we were the complete opposites. And as we crossed the wooden rickety bridge, I knew there was no turning back. We didn’t endeavour to climb a mountain, but climb we did. We huffed and puffed and amidst the coldness of the January air, we felt the sweat and the heat escaping from our bodies. We devised a plan, and that was to stay in one piece. The struggle was real.

My mission was:

a. to reach the first Waterfall unscathed;
b. that my Kate Spade bag had to be salvaged;
c. to take awesome pictures (as a proof that we made it alive).

The Berber villagers prepared a visual feast for the climbers as they displayed their wares along the way. Earth-coloured ceramic plates, rainbow-painted pots, hand-carved white stones and beautiful patterns of handwoven carpets were strewn on grounds for all to see and buy. And it seems that the higher you go, the more expensive the product gets. And why not, if rightfully deserving of their ingenuity?

The three-hour trek up and down the steep & rocky terrains of this valley was worth every panic and mini heart attack. The crystal clear waters, white fluffy clouds on blue skies, yellow tinged mountains, terracotta plateaus and gigantic grey rocks were like a painting come alive. The houses at the hilltop resembles Cinque Terre (minus the vivid colours) in the way that they’re smartly piled up beside and on top of each other. To call it beautiful is an understatement.

We finally had our lunch by the lake: chicken tagine with vegetables, a plateful of flatbreads, pumpkin soup, freshly squeezed juice and orange slices with sprinkles of cinnamon powder. A trio of Berber natives clad in their traditional clothes came playing at our table and indulged us of their music: a fusion of drumbeats, bagpipe, guitar and chants. It was time to rest our feet and enjoy the fruits of our labour, so to speak. (Don’t forget to tip your guide, by the way.)

In reality, nothing comes easy. And I relish the rewards that will be reaped from sheer hard work. This trip was one for the books and I am happy to recommend it to the not-so faint-hearted who will dare to step out of their comfort zone once in a while.

Ourika is Eurika!