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Taroudant is an authentic Berber market town, smaller and more low-key than our mystery country’s more popular destinations, Marrakech and Fez. It’s located in the gorgeous Souss Valley in the south of the country, framed by the High Atlas Mountains to the north and the Anti Atlas to the south. Atlantic beaches are just an hour away.The walls around Taroudant are the most intact in the country. You will meet few tourists here, if any.

 

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The Saadian Tombs, Marrakech, Morocco

In the Kasbah neighborhood of the Marrakech medina, tucked behind the Kasbah Mosque are the Saadian Tombs, burial grounds of the Saadi dynasty, which ruled Morocco in the 16th & 17th centuries. The mausoleum was built during the reign of sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, not the first Saadi ruler but definitely the most famous.
There are near 200 graves altogether, with the sultan and princes inside and women and officials in the garden. After the fall of the Saadis, the succeeding Alawites (still ruling Morocco today) walled up the Saadian tombs and they were lost to history until discovered in 1917.

Unless you’re seriously into Moroccan history, the main appeal of this place is the interior architecture and embellishments – Carrara marble, elaborately carved cedar and plaster, and colorful tiles, as well as the peaceful courtyard garden, which feels far removed from the busy medina.

The tombs are accessed by a path around the right side of the mosque (non-Muslims cannot enter the mosque). This is a popular tourist stop in Marrakech and can get quite busy, with long lines to enter, best to go early and with a guide.

NAME THAT COUNTRY

This is Kasbah Taourirt in Ouarzazate, a Sahara Desert gateway town in the center-south of our mystery country. Taourirt was built in the 19th century by the Glaoui, a ruling clan of the south. UNESCO has restored the palace section of the kasbah and it is open to tourists. The Kasbah was a small fortified village, with multiple single-family dwellings inside, as well as the palace, and several families still live there.

 

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Two Day Trips from Marrakech to the High Atlas Mountains: Ourika & Ouirgane

High Atlas Mountain range seen from Menara Gardens in Marrakech

High Atlas Mountain range seen from Menara Gardens in Marrakech

Many of our travelers to Marrakech, Morocco request a day trip into the High Atlas Mountains, the white-capped wall on the city’s southern horizon. With Berber villages dotting the foothills, there’s a cultural appeal to these trips, equal to the natural one. Many of the villages have weekly markets.

Probably the best-known mountain excursion from Marrakech is to the Ourika Valley, a stunning 60-90-minute drive southeast from Marrakech. It’s long been a favorite getaway for Marrakeshis and in recent years, it has become quite popular with tourists. While still very beautiful, it can feel overrun at times, especially in the summer.
Some lament the presence of vendor stalls set up along the river, others appreciate the development or look past it to thoroughly enjoy the mountain air and views of soaring peaks, including that of Jebel Toubkal, the tallest mountain in North Africa.

Setti Fatma, clustered around the Ourika River, is the main village of the valley. Above the village is a series of seven waterfalls. The hike to the falls, especially the upper ones, is steep and involves a lot of scrambling over large rocks. Some stretches of the trail skirt significant drops and there are no barriers. Many reach the first fall and call it good. Any hiking in the area, even just along the river banks, is best done in sturdy shoes with good tread.

Ourika Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Ourika Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

one of seven waterfalls or

one of seven waterfalls or “cascades” near the village of Setti Fatma in the Ourika Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Considerably less busy than Ourika (but increasingly popular with tourists), Ouirgane is 90 min-2 hours southwest from Marrakech, in the heart of the Toubkal National Park. This is another gorgeous drive, through Berber villages, orchards and forests, but the destination is quite different. There’s lots of easy-moderate walking in the hills and pine forests of Ouirgane, as well as mountain biking and horseback riding. Ouirgane village has a weekly market on Thursday.

Ouirgane Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Ouirgane Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Beautiful Ouirgane Lake (aka Yacoub el Mansour) was created in 2008 when the Nfis River was dammed. Nearby, the 12th-century Tin Mal Mosque was the original spiritual home and fortress of the Berber Almohad Dynasty, which rose from humble beginnings to conquer all of Morocco, much of North Africa, Portugal and Southern Spain. It is one of two mosques in Morocco that allows entry to non-Muslims (the other is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca).

Ouirgane Lake

Ouirgane Lake

the Tin Mal Mosque, Ouirgane Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

the Tin Mal Mosque, Ouirgane Valley, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco