Ourika a breathtaking story of a journey from Marrakech
Ourika is more than a name for a river and its valley. It is the name of an attitude towards the life of Moroccans, which testifies to the fact that people help each other. You can discover below what exactly lies behind the name and the history of Ourika.
In this report, I don’t want to give you travel tips like the ones you know from my travel guides, but this day trip we took from Marrakech is well worth it. Because on that day we experienced unforgettable moments: breathtaking nature, culture and history, a touch of adventure and of course delicious food.
Trip to Setti Fatma in the Ourika Valley
It is rather a happy coincidence that my colleague Mr Yoness is of Moroccan origin and is in the country at the same time as us. So he went to Marrakech with his brother Reda to spend a day with us.
So we were able to drive by private car from Marrakech to the Ourika Valley, about 40 kilometres away, in relatively comfortable conditions. More precisely to Setti Fatma, a village which is especially known for its 7-storey waterfall.
Setti Fatma in the High Atlas
For those who are not so lucky, you can also book one of the many guided tours that are offered throughout the city, such as the one in private or in public. You can also book such a tour in advance. Most of the time, visitors are picked up at the Djemna el Fna.
Depending on the destination, the journey takes between an hour and an hour and a half. The roads are at least extensible 😉. Some potholes have a diameter of a good meter. You have to circumvent them in a very clever way. Nevertheless, you can still have a magnificent view through and over the valley.
That’s good to know: If possible, visitors can visit the valley and also Setti Fatma during the week. The area is also a popular weekend destination for locals.
History of the Ourika Valley
The Ourika Valley is located in the northern part of the High Atlas Mountains, at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres.
Setti Fatma is about 75 km from Marrakech and is one of the last places upstream from Qued Ourika, which can still be reached by car. The approximately 1,500 inhabitants of the village, located at an altitude of 1,500 metres, are mainly of Berber origin, which is why the main language of the village is the Moroccan dialect Tamazight.
We had the impression that the village, like the previous villages, is still quite original, even though in recent years, hiking and trekking tourism has increased in particular.
One inhabitant told us that the village was named after a lady of the same name who came to the area from Egypt centuries ago out of love. According to the stories, she was a wealthy lady or even a noble woman who remarried in the Berber region.
With her husband and son, she did a lot of good for the poor population. According to tradition, this is the reason why the valley and the river are called Ourika. Because the word Ourika from the ancient Berber language describes the moment when a person from a higher class comes to a poor region to do good.
Hiking on the Qued Ourika
What can we do in Setti Fatma?
Mainly hiking and eating 😉. But let’s start with the most tiring part.
The Ourika Valley is known for its great trekking possibilities; Setti Fatma in particular for its seven-step waterfall, which can easily be reached by a few stairs.
Hiking through Setti Fatma
Hiking in the village
On site, we took a local guide, specifically a student of about 18 years old, who, like his friends, earns extra income from visitors. This young man was definitely in better shape than we were, because like a mountain goat, he was jumping from stone to stone in the mountains while we were laboriously chasing him.
The tour took us first through the village and then across the Qued Ourika River, a dry river at the top of the mountain. During this tour, he told us more (actually, more our Moroccan friends Youness and Reda) about the area and the history of Setti Fatma. We could also learn more about the local dialect, writing and the local economy.
As we slowly made our way up the riverbed, the first shadows around us began to fall – monkeys! They were the increasingly rare Berber monkeys, running around us a little shy but still interested. There were about 40 animals in the pack. It was a great sight to see monkeys in the wild that are not attracted by food.
Hiking in the Ourika valley with Berber monkeys
Hike to the waterfall
The visit of the waterfall is much easier and, in my opinion, a little more interesting, as it leads all along the river. Moreover, it is fun to walk on the bridges, climb on the rocks and have a look at the houses of passage and the small sales stands of the inhabitants.
It took us about 20 minutes to go up to the waterfall. But our guide told us that he does this tour about 3 times a day during the main season and that he has already reached the top in about 5 minutes – it’s incredible.
Those who don’t want to take the same route but want to see the valley from above have to climb another staircase, which is a bit adventurous. Besides, this one is taken care of and maintained by the local population, so a small tip is appropriate. After another 20-25 minutes and a few more photo stops, one of them breaks down again.
Waterfall in seven stages at Setti Fatma – Ourika
Delicious food in Ourika
Food at the Ourika River in Setti Fatma
Here in Ourika, I probably had the best tagine of my holidays in Morocco. Even better than the ones I cooked myself during my cooking class in Marrakech. However, I can’t say whether this is due to the quality, the exhaustion of the ride or simply to the special atmosphere of the day and the landscape.
The advantage of Setti Fatma and the Ourika Valley is that the restaurants are located on the river bank. This is fine in summer, but after the snow melts, these restaurants are often flooded.
We shared several dishes with four people. Among them, a chicken tagine, a lamb tagine and several skewers. There were also some side dishes and salad.
Another little highlight, which we tried at the end of our day in Ourika, was the invitation to try freshly pressed argan oil and Amlou Moroccan marzipan. In addition, different kinds of honey were served.
A somewhat rustic experience, if one sits with the locals around a small table in the shop, does not include a word of the discussions and in the meantime dipped honey, oil and marzipan in bread.
The Ourika Valley in Morocco – My conclusion
This conclusion is easy for me on the one hand, because it was really a great trip and one of, if not the best day of our vacation. On the other hand, I know that without our Moroccan friends Youness and Reda, we probably could never have made this trip in this way and would have had to join a guided tour of Marrakech which is also not bad, since the guides are very knowledgeable about the secrets of the region.
Nevertheless, I can recommend an excursion to the Ourika Valley to any visitor to Marrakech who spends a few days in the city.
Don’t hesitate to try this unforgettable experience, which certainly words are not enough to describe, you really have to live it, because every moment is magical, mixed with the expectation of what will come next, and especially the quality of the present moment with surprises, stories, hospitality, authenticity.