May 8th – Ourika Valley and Marrakesh, Morocco
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.
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.
Known for their pottery, we observe some being made quickly on a wheel and then placed in the sun to dry.
The prickly pear is in bloom. We look across the valley to see another village clinging to the side of the mountain.
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.
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.
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.
Walking through the side streets of Ourika, I stumbled past these settings that seemed to call out for a picture.
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.
And finally we all walked through the cold, dripping wet and lonely streets of the medina in the direction of our separate hotels.
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.