Marrakech Part 4:
The morning of our 5th day in Marrakech we checked out of our riad in the medina and headed out of town. We booked our last couple of days in Morocco at a fancy resort.
Cathy, Jessica and Catherine spent the day with us as well.
We checked in and changed into our bikinis right away. Well, Mike wore trunks, sorry ladies!
The girls played in the pool while Mike, Cathy and I lounged in the sun. We visited and sipped our drinks under the warm African sun. We savored our last day with Cathy as she would be heading off on an adventure to the desert in the morning. They drove across the Atlas mountains to the end of the civilized world then continued on dromedary back. Cathy is going to have to write a guest post so we can find out the details of their adventure!
Our last day we enjoyed an amazing, exotic buffet at the Kenzi Palace. My favorite was a fruit spread that was made of mashed oranges, cinnamon and honey. I ate it on warm Moroccan bread. Heavenly!
To me no trip is complete without a good hike or even better, a really long trail run. We spent the majority of our time in Morocco in Marrakech so we were ready for some nature. Abdul, our driver who took us to ride the dromedaries, picked us up at the hotel. The plan was to visit a Berber village in the Atlas mountains and go for a hike. As we drove out of town Abdul explained that we were headed to the Ouika Valley. We drove for an hour to a Berber village called Setti Fatma which I imagined would be a remote, quaint little village. Instead, as we neared the village the road became dense with cars. We stopped at an Argan Oil Co-op where the women demonstrated how the argan nuts are cracked then ground and turned into oil.
Our guide was delightful, the girls liked her immediately and they even let her braid their hair.
We bought several bottles of magical Argan Oil. She promised that one was specifically formulated to clear skin blemishes. I was skeptical but before bed that night Sky put the oil on a little patch of acne on her nose. Amazingly after one application and a day of swimming in the sun the next day the patch had completely resolved. Youth, the sun or the oil? Your guess is as good as mine.
Our next stop was a rug store. Of course we were perfectly aware that our guide had a vested interest in our purchases and I had no intention of buying a rug but we were curious just the same.
The man in the rug store showed us rug after rug but wouldn’t give me any idea of the prices unless I would choose one. Strangely, it was very rushed and stressful. Finally I told him that I liked one and he told me the price. It was outrageous and I suggested that we leave. Suddenly the price was a 1/3 of his original offer. I know that is typical but I was surprised. We left and I think our driver was a little annoyed with us.
The “typical” Berber village turned out to be a typical tourist trap but it was still exotic to us and we enjoyed it. We dined on a sandy bank of the Ourika river on plastic tables under colorful umbrellas.
Cheesy strolling minstrels played for us and posed for pictures.
Sky ate eggs and as usual, a pack of stray cats found her.
After lunch our hiking guide, Jamal was waiting for us. He was a cheerful, 25 year old who spoke excellent English and even some Spanish. Jamal told us he grew up in Setti Fatma. He learned his English in school and explained that schools in Setti Fatma are taught in Arabic and French. Anyone who attends school is fluent in both. He also spoke Berber but pointed out that he could not read or write the language of his ancestors as it has a different alphabet and it is not taught in the schools. Jamal led us through a cacophony of vendors on the way up the mountain.
I love to shop but this was really too much even for me. We finally passed most of the hikers and shoppers.
Jamal pointed out the “Berber refrigerators”. Cold snow-melt, running off the mountain keeps drinks cool in gaudy painted fountains.
Once past the many blankets and little tables of stuff for sale the only way to continue was to hop across streams and climb over boulders. Now we were hiking!
We hiked for several hours and counted the 7 waterfalls. We were thankful that our girls had good stamina and balance. They could climb straight up the mountain. Much like this goat:
We came across one goat stuck in a tree. He cried until his shepherd could climb up and help him out. Jamal was a great guide, he was patient and clearly loved his job. He was in his element and let us know that getting paid to show foreigners his trails was a very cool gig for him. The views were breathtaking.
We hiked back to town through another gauntlet of vendors. On the way down the hill I bought some “Moroccan Nutella”, a delicious mix of honey, almonds and Argan oil. The trail actually cut through restaurants where earthenware tagines roasted over charcoal bricks. There were couches and chairs with plush, colorful pillows right on the back of the river. Tourists from all over the planet lounged and enjoyed the Moroccan sun or slept in the shade of brightly colored umbrellas.
After the hike Mike and the girls had an ice cream reward.
Back at the car Abdul was waiting for us. We settled in for the drive down the mountain back to the resort. I didn’t feel like I had seen anything remotely near what life is like in a typical Berber village as promised by our guide. I did recall that a well traveled friend warned us that we were not going to see the real Morocco. I am certain that she was correct but we did see the side of Morocco that has embraced visitors. We didn’t see a single person that was unkind and everyone was genuinely welcoming, friendly and quick to share their culture.
We spent our last day in Marrakech by the pool. We sat in the shade and I researched and wrote about our adventure. Sky and Savvy swam and met some lovely girls, Georgia and Lexi.
The next morning we flew back to Spain and when we got off the plane we all took a deep breath of Andalucía. Adventures are great but it also feels really good to get home!