Things to Do in Marrakech - page 2
Nestled in the foothills of the mighty High Atlas Mountains, the Ourika Valley makes a popular day trip from Marrakech at just 30km from the city center. A lush expanse of terraced fields and forested hillsides, the valley provides a picturesque backdrop for hiking expeditions, with its verdant hills set against the stark red rock of the mountains. At the heart of the valley are the dramatic Setti Fatma falls, a series of 7 cascading waterfalls that flow into the Ourika River and make a thrilling scramble for adventurous travelers.
Set at around 1,300 meters, Ourika not only offers welcome respite from the summer heat of Marrakech but makes a popular base-camp for winter tourists visiting the ski resort of Oukaimeden. For the majority of visitors though, the area’s principal attraction is its traditional Berber settlements and the valley sides are dotted with red mud-built houses, camouflaged against the sparse mountain slopes.
When you think of the Sahara, Northern Africa, or the sunny Moroccan plains, things like snow, ice, and crampons usually aren’t part of the picture. When climbing Mount Toubkal, however, conditions quickly go from hot to brisk, mountainside cold. Towering 13,751 feet above sea level, Mount Toubkhal is not only the highest mountain in central Morocco, but also the highest in the Atlas Range and all of Northern Africa. It’s a trail that’s accessible all year round to a wide range of hikers, and is more of a long, very steep stroll as opposed to a technical climb.
Trips begin from the town of Imlil about an hour south of Marrakech, where temperatures can still be blazingly hot despite the hillside perch. By the end of the first day of walking, however, the trail levels out at Toukbal Refuge near 10,000 feet elevation, where the air is suddenly crisp, cool, and a welcome break from the heat.
The souks (covered markets) of Marrakech form the teeming, bewildering sub-conscious of the city, a vast network of alleyways pierced periodically by shafts of sunlight. Each souk has a different specialty, be it rugs, leather goods, spices, metalwork or clothing. Haggling is compulsory; the first price the merchant mentions is usually a fanciful multiple of what they actually expect. French is handy but money talks and the traders know it often speaks English.
Sales gambits range from simple shouts to elaborate showcase routines served up with steaming tea. If you want to explore your luggage allowance you’ll find one of the largest assortments of carpets in the world, while more portable gift suggestions include filigreed tea glasses, distinctive pointed leather “slippers”, brass lanterns, serving platters, chess sets and baskets.
The majestic landscapes of Oukaimeden Valley are among the most visited of the High Atlas Mountains and along with the nearby Ourika and Asni valleys, it makes a popular choice for a day trip from Marrakech. A lush gorge carving its way through a tableau of jagged peaks, Oukaimeden is strikingly beautiful, and it also boasts a rich cultural heritage, dotted with traditional Berber villages and prehistoric rock art sites.
During the winter months, the slopes of Oukaimeden are also a celebrated ski destination, home to Africa’s highest ski lift and a selection of runs for all levels, including a number of hair-raising red and black runs.
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