Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ourika Valley and Jemaa El Fna

We hired a car and driver today to take us out to Ourika Valley, which is set among the Atlas Mountains and about ~2-3 hours away from Marrakech. The lush, green scenery of Ourika Valley certainly was a stark contrast to the dusty deserts around Marrakech. Ourika Valley was a good few degrees cooler than the 40 degree Celsius weather that we have been experiencing in Marrakech so it was definitely welcoming. We finally made it to Setti Fatma, which is the last village in the valley, by lunchtime and enjoyed a leisurely lunch there by the river. Setti Fatma, which I think means "seven sisters," is known for its seven waterfalls. After lunch, my sister and I decided to hike only to the first one since the hikes sounded pretty strenuous, and it certainly was the right decision for us! We hired a guide since there really isn't a marked trail and there were many dangerous spots (some steep climb and lots of slippery rocks). When we made it to the first waterfall, we felt quite accomplished!

By the time we got back to Marrakech, it was close to dinnertime. We decided to check out Jemaa El Fna, which is the main square that is a market by day (and entrance to the souks), and a giant food court at night. It reminds me much of night markets in Asia, where rows of food stalls line the square, each serving their specialty ranging from skewers to snails to sheep's heads. As you browse through the different stalls, many will approach you to convince you that their stall has the best food. We tried a few different stalls and it's a bit of hit or miss. I suppose only the locals would know which stalls have the best food. We ended our meal with a couple glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice at nearby stalls (and there are many of them) and took a couple bottles home as well (the orange juice here is so sweet and refreshing!) We know we will be back for some more before we leave.


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