The Ourika Valley is a popular escape from the summer heat of Marrakesh. The village of Setti Fatma is a weekend resort for young Marrakshis, who ride out on their mopeds or BMWs to lie around and picnic beside the streams and waterfalls. The village lies at the end of the road, but a piste (to Timichi) and then a mule track continues up the valley to passes to Tacheddirt and Oukaïmeden, which has the best skiing in Morocco and interesting prehistoric rock carvings. The path also continues through to Imlil and Toubkal, making it a useful starting/finishing point for trekkers.
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SETTI FATMA is a straggly riverside village, substantially rebuilt, expanded and made safer after its 1995 devastation by floods. The setting, with grassy terraces and High Atlas peaks rising to over 3600m, feels like a dreamscape after venturing from the dry plains that surround Marrakesh. In the rocky foothills above the village are a series of six (at times, seven) waterfalls.
The Ourika Valley cuts right into the High Atlas, whose peaks begin to dominate as soon as you leave Marrakesh. At Setti Fatma these mountains provide a startling backdrop that, to the southwest, include the main trekking/climbing zone of Toubkal. The usual approach to this is from Asni but it is possible to set out from Setti Fatma, or from Oukaïmeden.
Setti Fatma Moussem
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.
Weather and affected routes
The High Atlas is subject to snow from November to April, and even the major Tizi n’Tichka (road to Ouarzazate) and Tizi n’Test (road to Taroudant) can be closed for periods of a day or more. These passes are seldom blocked for long and snow barriers on the roads leading up into the mountains will be down if the passes are not open to the public. If blocked, the southern regions can be reached from Marrakesh via the Tizi Maachou pass (the N8, along with the newly finished A7 toll highway towards Agadir ) followed by the N10 through Taroudant and Taliouine.
The thaw can present problems as well. When the snow melts in spring, swollen rivers are dangerous to cross. And the possibility of spring/summer flash floods must be taken seriously, as they can erupt suddenly and violently and are extremely dangerous. To keep safe, always camp on high ground while avoiding any spot where water might become a course for a torrent. This includes (even in summer) dried up and apparently terminally inactive riverbeds.