introduction for ourika valley and draa valley

ourika valley

The village of Setti Fatma lies at the end of the road up Ourika Valley. The end of the road also marks the beginning of a scenic hiking trail leading to a grand waterfall. Hence, the town is a big tourist stop and a miniature industry developed around the influx of tourists. There are several shops that sell artefacts and a couple of cafés for a quick lunch. There is also a hotel for those spending a night. The village is extremely scenic with snow-capped mountains and steep cliffs surrounding it.

The Setti Fatma Moussem – one of the three most important festivals in the country – takes place for four days around the middle of August, centred on the Koubba of Setti Fatma, some way upstream from the Café des Cascades. Entry to the koubba is forbidden to non-Muslims, but the festival itself is as much a fair and market as it is a religious festival and well worth trying to attend if your trip coincides with it .

Draa valley

The original, iconic ‘Tombouctou, 52 jours’ (toumbouktou , 52 days) sign featuring a nomad with a smirking camel may have been swept away in an inexplicable government beautification

Eight kilometres north of town, below a spectacular viewing point over the palmeraie follow, ‘Musée’ signs to a triple-storey mudbrick home that houses this fascinating desert-culture museum. In the tea salon, you’ll find key equipment for desert entertaining c 1930: a vintage ham radio, a gramophone, and tea glasses believed to shatter on contact with poison. Artifacts are tagged with insightful explanations of their origins and purpose in French and English – very helpful for explaining otherwise mysterious tattooing implements, the intriguing birthing room and markedly different wedding garments from five local tribes.

Zagora’s desert-crossroads culture can be glimpsed in the adjacent village (south of downtown Zagora, across the Oued Drâa), where artisans in the historic mellah work good-luck charms from African, Berber, Jewish and Muslim traditions into their designs. In the 1930s, Amezrou had some 400 Jewish households, but almost all had left town by the 1960s.

This spectacular mountain rises over the Oued Drâa – worth climbing for the views, provided you have stamina, water and sunblock and set off in the early morning. The round trip to Jebel Zagora takes about three hours on foot, or 45 minutes by car along the piste to the right beyond Camping de la Montagne. Halfway up are the faint ruins of an 11th-century Almoravid fortress , but the military installation at the summit is off-limits.