The Atlas Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to Marrakech. One of the great pleasures of the Red City is to relax on the roof terrace on a clear day enjoying views of the snow covered mountain tops. The mountains themselves are easily accessible for a day trip or excursion.

 A favourite route is the Ourika valley trail either to Setti Fatma a picturesque riverside village behind which there are seven waterfalls. Further up the same route is the winter (February to April) ski resort of Oukaimeden with its 3,273 metre ski lift, at one time the highest in the world. Hiking in the Atlas MountainsOutside the ski season Oukaimeden is the perfect base for trekking. In the summer the pastures below Oukaimeden are used for a gathering of Berber tribes who traditionally bring their whole household including livestock returning each year to their ancestral patch of grazing on the plains.

 An alternative route leads out to Ouarzazate at the confluence of the Draa and Dades valleys. Ourzazate is a base for quad and motor biking, and camel treks on into the Sahara dessert. It is also home to Atlas Studios one of the largest film studios in the world used for films from Lawrence of Arabia to The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra and Gladiator.

It is tempting then to follow the Draa river up through fertile palmeraies crammed with date palms, olive and almond groves. The Dades on the other hand passes between the mountains of the High Atlas to the north and the Jbel Saghro range to the south. For a very good reason this route is nicknamed the valley of a thousand Kasbahs and at the end of the valley is the stunning Todra Gorges.

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The picturesque town of Essaouira is only two hours drive from Marrakech and offers an outstanding day excursion to the coast. Under Portuguese occupation the port was fortified and the town was known as Mogador, the ramparts were used in Orson Welles 1952 film Othello.

Seagull on the beach at EssouiraStill a fishing village Essaouira retains its authenticity and charm.Strong coastal winds known in Moroccan Arabic as the ‘alizee’ are a distinctive feature of the beach which is an outstanding venue for wind surfing and other water sports. 

Boats in the harbout at Essouria, MoroccoJimi Hendrix and other 1960’s rock stars frequented the town which retains a strong musical tradition. Each year at the end of June Essaouira is the venue for the Gnaoua and world music festival. Gnaoua music, a familiar sound in the Jema al Fnaa in Marrakech has its roots in sub Saharan Africa. 

Your Ryad staff will be pleased to help you to organise a visit to Essaouira. Our suggestion would be to take a taxi for the day and return to the ryad in Marrakech after a leisurely meal in the early evening.

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