Category Archives: Morocco

Your Next Adventure: Ouzoud Waterfalls, Morocco

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The Ouzoud Waterfalls–I jumped on in!

An adventure to the Ouzoud Waterfalls begins at the Hotel Ali in Marrakesh.

I had spent the night on the roof overlooking the Jemaa El Fna (main square) and medina (a honeycomb of miles upon miles of souks, stalls, alleyways, mayhem, and mischief).

My roof-top room included several mattresses and dozens of loud and obnoxious French primary-school students on a class trip.

My roof-top room included several mattresses and dozens of loud and obnoxious French primary-school students on a class trip. Consider spending the extra $2 to sleep inside.

Random shot  of the buoyant Marrakesh medina

Random shot of the buoyant Marrakesh medina

In hindsight, I think the shop  owner was having fun with me--Marrakesh medina.

In hindsight, I think the shop owner was having fun with me–the medina in Marrakesh.

Almost every foreign visitor to Marrakesh will end up at the Hotel Ali. It is where you book absurdly cheap multi-day treks down the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs,” through the Todgha Gorge, and into the Sahara Desert.

"The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs"

On the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs”

On the "Road of a Thousand Kasbahs"

On the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs”

It was the dry season at the Todgha Gorge

It was the dry season at the Todgha Gorge

Room with a view in the Todgha Gorge.

Room with a view in the Todgha Gorge.

My best effort at looking rugged in the Todgha Gorge.

My best effort at looking rugged in the Todgha Gorge.

Me on the obligatory Sahara Desert camel trek.

Me on the obligatory Sahara Desert camel trek.

And for fun I wandered into some tribal disputed territory--hinting at  what would be a lifetime of whimsical exploration of conflict zones.

And for fun I wandered into some tribal disputed territory–hinting at what would be an eventual lifetime of whimsical exploration of conflict zones.

Yes, you should go on that adventure first.

But on the last day of my dalliance to Marrakesh, for $10, I was transported a hundred miles through the High Atlas Mountains to the Berber village of Tanaghmeilt, fed a rooftop lunch of kebab and fries while overlooking the Grand Atlas, and then hiked to the Ouzoud Waterfalls.

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Ouzoud Waterfalls–during the dry season.

Besides the Ouzoud Waterfalls, this region of Morocco is mostly associated with its local mills. “Ouzoud” is Berber for “grinding grain.”

I explored some of the bucolic mills as I ambled through a canyon, a network of mountainside paths adorned with olive trees, and rustic wooden-bridges over the El Abid River which tumbles into the Falls.

Hike in the Atlas Mountains to the Ouzoud Waterfalls

Hike in the Atlas Mountains to the Ouzoud Waterfalls

Hike in the Atlas Mountains to the Ouzoud Waterfalls

Hike in the Atlas Mountains to the Ouzoud Waterfalls

I was traveling with two English friends and we were among the only foreigners to venture this far into rural Morocco. Local children and Moroccan urbanite day-trippers cascaded the sundry tiers of mountain into an oasis created by the falls.

The children would perilously reascend part of the mountain, cling to a jumble of cliff, and then–let go. Others dived from natural platforms eroded into the rock.

Child cliff-divers of Ouzoud Waterfalls

Child cliff-divers of Ouzoud Waterfalls

Child cliff-divers of Ouzoud Waterfalls

Child cliff-divers of Ouzoud Waterfalls

I mistakenly told my companions that I wanted to jump into the oasis and they teased me until I did.

I went back and forth in various states of dress before actually diving off!

I went back and forth in various states of dress before actually diving off!

And then I finally jumped, having summoned the same valorous courage of Moroccan 8-year-olds who do this all the time.

And then I finally jumped, having summoned the same valorous courage of Moroccan 8-year-olds who do this all the time.

Come on in, the water's great!  And very, very cold.

Come on in, the water’s great! And very, very cold!

In a pathetic demonstration of my non-existent athletic ability, it took me twenty minutes to pull myself back onto the jagged shore. Everyone was too busy laughing and taking pictures to help.

And then the whole village came to watch my feeble attempts to get back up.

And then the whole village came to watch my feeble attempts to get back up.

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I felt like a beached whale.

I do not blame them. 

Obviously a traveler should first venture into the Sahara Desert before visiting the Falls, but this journey is one of the most memorable day trips Marrakesh has on offer.

Logistics:

Fly directly to Marrakesh or take a scandalously cheap bus ride from any other major Moroccan city. If you’re backpacking in Europe, you can take a ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. Tangier itself is a nightmare which is why buses to Fez and Marrakesh run directly from the pier. Once in Marrakesh, negotiate hard with taxi drivers to pay the appropriate price. When I went, $1 got you anywhere, but today a ride from the airport will cost $20 by day and $40 by night. Once you’re at the Jemaa El Fna $5 is sufficient to get you anywhere in the medina.  Located on the Jemaa El Fna, the Hotel Ali will book you a trip pretty much anywhere you want to go at the most reasonable conceivable price. My three-day desert excursion cost $45 and included everything. The day trip to the Falls set me back $10. Presumably prices have gone up.

While in Morocco, negotiate all prices as aggressively as you would negotiate a hostage release.  

Please share your favorite Marrakesh day trips in the comment section below.