Essaouira and the Ourika Valley were done in two separate day trips from Marrakech. Essaouira is a port city and resort area on Morocco’s Atlantic coast just under 200km away which took us 3 hours to get to with stops along the way. The Ourika Valley area is about 50km south-east of Marrakesh and can be done in just over an hour, but we took close to 2 hours with a few stops along the way to see the amazing countryside on the foothills of the Atlas mountain range. Both destinations are a great way to see the rest of Morocco, if you only visit Marrakech and want to get out of it for a day.
Essaouira is a lovely seaside city, one part is surrounded by a huge wall that protects the city from the ocean, and the southern part is an open fishing port. Along the way there we got to see the tree-climbing goats of Morocco. Essaouira gets packed out in summer full of local and international travellers. Surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing are popular here. It is generally a very laidback place compare to Marrakech, the whole chilled seaside vibe is noticeable throughout the medina. The shopkeeper's don't hassle you as they do in Marrakech and the street kids don’t even bother the tourists, at least from what I experienced on the one day that I was there. Street photography here is much easier because of the laid back nature of the people. It didn’t take us long to cover the medina areas it is much smaller than Marrakech. We had lunch at a little restaurant that overlooked the sea walls, then ventured into the fishing port area. Overall, you can spend a good day here and see most of everything, but I can imagine having a relaxed weekend or a few nights here can be fun too. In the summer it would be totally different though.
Fun story: as we were driving into the city area, there were men standing on the roadside waving keys at all incoming cars. They are apparently the “agents” of property owners in Essaouira, whose job is to rent out empty apartments to tourists or visitors. You get one of them to show you an apartment that they have and if you like it, negotiate a price and it is yours to stay in for the agreed upon duration. In summer you would see less of them as most places would have been booked out in advance.
The Ourika Valley is on the footsteps of the Atlas Mountain range and offers some stunning landscapes of snow-capped mountains and green valleys. The day trip was to see this magnificent mountain range and also to hike up to some waterfalls. Along the way we stopped by a Berber museum to learn of their culture and way of life in this land. The drive up to wards the waterfall was along the Ourika river and alongside it there were many small restaurants, and some even have seating arrangements in the river itself. Once again, this area would be a getaway spot for locals during summer, to run from the heat and get some cool air, but during this trip it was all closed. The hike to the water falls wasn’t the easiest and many elderly tourist and ones with small family members had to get guides to assist them up. The waterfall itself wasn’t that spectacular in my opinion. We managed to see two of them, when in fact there are about 7 different levels, and that would require a longer hike too see them all. After the hike we ended up at Kasbah Bab Ourika for lunch. A really nice hotel on the hill side that overlooked different sections of the surrounding valley. The image of the swimming pool with the snow-capped mountains in the background was taken from this hotel. On the way back to Marrakech, we were lucky have traveled on the same day as the Ourika local market day. We didn’t stop but witnessed it from the car.
This ends my two-part blog on the trip to Marrakech. Hope to be able to re-visit this wonderful part of the world again sometime soon.