Ourica Valley, Berber Foot Bath, Majorelle Gardens and a Reunion

May 8th – Ourika Valley and Marrakesh, Morocco

Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens

Only seven of us chose to take the optional tour to the scenic Ourika Valley. It seemed a shame to take our large bus for so few of us, but it did allow us plenty of room to spread out and be comfortable for our drive into the Atlas mountains.

The first small village we visited was rustic and basic. 

Clay adobe and brick homes. Many still under construction.

Clay adobe and brick homes, many still under construction or constant renovation.

Invited in for a cup of hot tea, we also had the opportunity to tour the home including the kitchen, living quarters and below the home where livestock (a cow, two sheep and a mule) was kept stabled.

Inside the kitchen where a grinding stone is still in use

Inside the kitchen where a grinding stone is still in use

Two young boys peering into the tiny store

Two young boys peering into the tiny store

Known for their pottery, we observe some being made quickly on a wheel and then placed in the sun to dry.

More pottery offered for sale

More pottery offered for sale

The prickly pear is in bloom. We look across the valley to see another village clinging to the side of the mountain.

The village blends into the hills across the valley

Ourika Valley ~ The village blends into the hills across the way

Prickly Pear cactus. They eat the fruit.

Prickly Pear cactus. They eat the fruit.

We drive to the end of the road where the bus lets us off to walk a few minutes. The river is moving much faster than normal after the rain storms of the previous few days. Precarious wooden walkways bridge the gap from one side to the other. This valley is a favorite weekend get-a-way for the wealthy of Marrakesh.

Now this bridge looks like it would give OSHA a field day...

Now this bridge looks like it would give OSHA a field day…

And here are some random pictures from the morning including a baby camel, a gathering of caterpillars, tajine pots cooking over charcoals, cute kid, fun doors and more donkeys. They really are a commonly used method of transportation here from carrying people, pulling carts, or piled a mile high with a variety of cargo.

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Moving on to the Jardin Bio-aromatique de Ourika, we got a tour through their gardens where a huge array of organic herbs are grown. Our knowledgeable guide informed us the names of each plant and how it can be used both medicinally as well as in what products, food dishes or cosmetics it is suited for.

After consuming a satisfying lunch that had been flavored with the local herbs, we were treated to a “Berber foot bath”. The small in-ground pool is filled with steaming hot water, then the cool water is added slowly until it is just the right temperature for your personal taste. A concoction of seaweed, herbs and aromatics are added to the water as we relaxed and enjoyed our pampering time.

Tim and Greg with their feet in hot water, soaking it up!

Tim and Greg with their feet in hot water, soaking it up!

Walking through the side streets of Ourika, I stumbled past these settings that seemed to call out for a picture.

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Returning to the city a little late, we picked up the rest of our group to visit Majorelle Gardens, a botanical marvel set in the heart of Marrakesh. Originally created by artist Jacques Majorelle, he gathered plants from all over the world to create his garden masterpiece.

“…hundreds of rare varieties of trees and plants: cacti, palm trees, bamboo, coconut palms, thujas, weeping willows, carob trees, jasmine, agaves, white water lilies, datura, cypress, bougainvilleas, and ferns. As in the composition of a painting, Majorelle arranged the species between light and shadow around a long central basin and along irregular, meandering walkways with curved, painted walls.” ~ JardinMajorelle.com

Using bold primary colors including what later became known as Majorelle Blue, he further transformed the gardens into a visual painting. Following a difficult divorce and a devastating car accident, he fell into financial ruin.

Plans were underway for the land to be sold and replaced with a hotel when renowned designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé stepped in and saved the grounds. YSL passed away on June 1, 2008, in Paris where he was cremated. A memorial to him can be found in the gardens

I often talk about the lovely people we meet on our travels and how it gives us great joy to stay in touch with many of them. In the fall of 2013, Tim and I met Randy and Deanie Little before our Gate 1 tour throughout Thailand. Tonight we had a wonderful reunion at a restaurant in the heart of the Medina with them and two of their traveling companions. They were on a different Gate 1 tour through Morocco which just happened to overlap with ours.

Tim, Deenie, Randy, Joanne, Gloria and Joby

Tim, Deanie, Randy, Joanne, Gloria and Joby

And finally we all walked through the cold, dripping wet and lonely streets of the medina in the direction of our separate hotels.

The back streets of the medina were deserted and dreary in the night rain.

The back streets of the medina were deserted and dreary in the night rain.

Overnight: Riad Bahia Salam, Marrakesh

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for Randy’s efforts to coordinate our dinner tonight in the medina. How amazing is it to have met almost three years ago in SE Asia and then have a reunion on African soil. I continue to be amazed by how we are all intertwined.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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23 Responses to Ourica Valley, Berber Foot Bath, Majorelle Gardens and a Reunion

  1. Anne Jorgensen says:

    Hi J and T, How wonderful that you were able to see the other couple from Gate 1 …. such a great story. How long/which title is this Gate 1 trip? I am so loving this blog… and we’d love to take this trip ourselves… hope our paths will cross one of these days and thanks for the eyecatching entertainment …

    I am better… the surgery was a success (phew!) and the pain is diminished… I am so fortunate!! Excellent medical team and home care (family and friends) =amazing!! Best is that I am off all the pain meds and I just started to drive! Hopefully will begin to swim/stretch next week… all in all, happy with my progress!

    All this down time is giving me overwhelming wanderlust! I/We have planned a Seattle trip ( and to the far NW Neah Bay coast) in July; Maine in August; and Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and Grand Teton NPs for September… each trip will be a week or so.

    I love the vibrancy and color of your photos… your eye catches lots of great details and yes- you make me smile, as many of your shots are ones I would have also taken. The narratives are succinct yet informative and enticing… and you are a great ad for Gate 1 !! keep having fun! hugs,Anne



    • Anne, I am so thankful that you are doing well and that the pain is gone. It sounds like you have some wonderful get-a-way trips planned. Yellowstone is one of our very favorite places, and definitely our favorite National Park. This was a Discovery trip called Moroccan Allure. We loved it from start to finish. Some of the hotels were more basic, but authentic and in GREAT locations. I’m quite sure you guys would enjoy it as much as we did. And YES, we too hope that our paths will cross again on another trip. Big hugs to both of you. ~ JJ


  2. GeorgieMoon says:

    Another fabulous tour, I feel I could be there with you, you describe it so well. Lovely photos again. Enjoy the rest of the trip. By the way, is a Medina like a Souk?


  3. ardysez says:

    Another wonderful tour through your eyes, and what eyes they are! I continue to be surprised at the things that remind me of Australia and specifically central Australia. We have many camels here, and prickly pears were grown in large numbers in South Australia last century, for the fruit they bear. They adapted well to the climate, of course, being warm and dry much of the year. I have yet to taste one, though, I wonder if you did and how you found it?


  4. dinkytravels says:

    Those bridges on the Ourika valley are amazing , I watched a lady carrying a heavy load with a goat just hop and skip over a an unstable bridge whilst I carefully did it step by step! ….and Majorelle Gardens so out of place with the real Marrakech.


  5. So much in this post intrigues me, though I suspect I’d have wanted more time to explore that village. That final photo is a beauty, and I love Majorelle Blue – so intense and vibrant. Favourite photos: the baby camel, the man on the burro, and the man in the brown jellaba and white hat.


  6. Alison, one of the things I like the most about organized tours is the variety of places we get to see. We can maximize our time and leave the nuts and bolts of the details up to a capable guide. HOWEVER, when there is a particularly interesting place where we would love to spend more time, it just is not possible. I have felt that delimma several times on this trip. So many fascinating places…


  7. That foot bath looked special. And the foot bridge. Seems in another blog I follow, they went across it and ate on the other side. 🙂 Glad you included the blooming prickly pears, one of my favorite cacti when in bloom. –Curt


  8. Trish says:

    I especially enjoyed this post since we did not do the herbal garden excursion. Thanks!!


    • It was an interesting visit, but, for me, not one of the highlights of the trip. It is so hard to know which optional tours to choose. Some turn out to be “wow” moments. I am always concerned that I might miss something special…


  9. This is such a beautiful post and I enjoyed a virtual tour through your post. Along with your write up your pictures describe the place equally well. Ah! I just loved the prickly pears in bloom and the garden of Jacques Majorelle. 🙂


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