The Berbers are a people ethnically indigenous to North Africa west of the Nile Valley. The Berber’s rich cultural history dates back to prehistoric times, over 4000 years ago! Their long recorded influence affected commerce by establishing trading routes between the West African and the Sub-Saharan region where they transported goods from beyond the Sahara desert to the Northern Moroccan cities. Indeed, the Berber identity is usually wider than language, craft and ethnicity; it encompasses the entire history and geography of North Africa and Morocco.
Today, it is still possible to still find many traditional Berber settlements in the mountains of Morocco. Although the Berber people do not live exclusively in rural settlements, these communities offer an interesting insight into the Berber tradition and history. So, when we were invited to visit a traditional Berber Village during our excursion to the village of Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains, we just could not pass on the opportunity.
It had taken us around an hour to reach the village from Marrakech, but the two were worlds apart. The village we had arrived at stood as a cluster of pisé homes carved into the hillside, set to the backdrop of the majestic Atlas Mountains. The Berbers call the Atlas range idraren draren, “The Mountains of Mountains”, and it is easy to see why. The Atlas Mountains stood tall as an unmoving monument, towering over dozens of small Berber communities. The scene was marked by a prevailing silence and an overwhelming stillness; two luxuries rarely found in the vibrant medina of Marrakech.
As we ascended up the narrow pathway lined with clay houses, our tread was delicate as if not to disturb the ambience of scene. That is not to say that we were not or did not feel welcome; instead, our silence was partially a feeling of awe and amazement, and partially an attempt to witness the everyday Berber life unnoticed, so to capture a glimpse of the local community in a way that was as pure as possible. Indeed, the Berber people are renowned for being their hospitality and we were invited into a small home and offered to share a glass of famous Moroccan mint tea. After, we were given a tour of the settlement and had an opportunity to ask our hosts any questions about Berber life. We only visited the village for around 20 minutes, but this experience will stay with us for a lot longer.
When you visit the Souks of Marrakech, you will find many examples of Berber craftsmanship from the stunning silver Tuareg and Amazigh jewellery to handmade Berber rugs. However, if you want to learn more about the authentic Berber way of life, we highly recommend a trip to a traditional Berber village as part of an excursion to Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains.
Our experienced Riad staff are on hand to organise any trips or excursions you wish to take. Our luxury Riads act as the perfect base to explore the Marrakech medina, the Atlas Mountains (including Imlil and the Berber Villages) and beyond.
The road from Marrakech to Orika Valley’s Setti Fatma is long, straight and stunning. What starts as a long snowcapped penciled horizon above the steering wheel slowly begins to engulf the whole front and side windscreens as you approach the colossal High Atlas Mountains.
A small village that is not too far from your Marrakech riad and not too touristy Setti Fatma has beautiful cafes alongside bags of character, charm and relaxation plus is the door to 7 mesmerizing waterfalls. Aside from these joyous cascades, the routes up to the waterfalls are littered with small but wonderfully bohemian cafes, built intricately into the mountainous banks of the many streams coming down from the mountains. Intriguing looking artisans of varying craft are spaced randomly along the paths, many using very basic tools to make their trade.
During the summer, these cafes are a hive of local Marrakechi people escaping the medina for some pacifying tranquility whilst engulfed in these imposing yet very inviting mountains. Visiting these café’s is a blissful experience and a great way to spend a relaxing sunny afternoon alongside the wild monkeys and chilled ambient staff while the more energetic group members clamber the rocky paths up to the water source.
For an excursion from Riad Cinnamon, Riad Papillon, or Dar Habiba the Riad staff will be able to arrange a transport at very reasonable prices. (around 800 dirhams for two people to have exclusive use of an air-conditioned car with driver).
Hiring a guide for around 30 dirhams per hour to take you up to the waterfalls is a very good way to discover, in-depth, this fantasia. The shortest waterfall is reachable within an hour and a half, the longest is a whole day trip.
For a short day trip from marrakech, Sitti Fatima’s cafes make for a great visit from this grand historical city and a year round must see.