It’s not hard to get well off-the-beaten-track in Morocco, just stop off in any small town that’s not in a guide book and you’ll experience how it feels to be a foreigner in a place where they barely ever see any. Despite the astounding array of spectacular beauty spots the country offers most people head for the same old ‘must see’ places, which quite frankly, is a shame.
The Ait Bougoumez valley is not exactly off the radar, but despite its many charms it sees relatively few visitors. If you make the effort to get here you will be rewarded with what some have described as being ‘like a hidden Himalayan Shangri-La’ and they’re not exaggerating. The valley floor is a verdant green of fertile fields, juxtaposed with sudden escarpments of barren rock behind which the snow-capped M’Goun massif rises 4,000 metres skywards.
The proud Berbers of these valleys are also astoundingly hospitable and you will most probably be invited in for tea in someone’s fantastic traditional adobe house. Industrious to the bone, they have also set up a ton of cooperatives where you can buy fair trade, locally made products, thereby helping the community.
The best way to get here is from Azilal, a pleasant Berber town about 4 hours from Marrakech and 9 hours from Fez. Stop off at the Cascades d’Ouzoud on the way to see the spectacular 50 m high waterfall if you can. Get to the small, easy going bus station just opposite the mosque and ask around for the next minibus to Tabant, most leave in the morning so get here about 8 or 9 am. You might have to wait around for a couple of hours but there are plenty of cafe’s to while away the time. You will eventually be piled into a colourfully adorned minibus and begin a 4 hour journey on stunning, winding mountain roads.
There are plenty of small gites dotting the valley, many of them desperate for some business, so you won’t need to book anything, unless you want to. If you haven’t already made a friend on the bus whose cousin owns one, just ask around in town when you get there, you will be led to a converted local home and made to feel very welcome. Relax and spend blissful days exploring the area and you will soon understand why this enchanting place gets dubbed ‘The Happy Valley.’