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Reviews of Holidays and Hotels in Morocco - One Hour From

The Independent, 28 April 2002

One hour from: Marrakesh

Morocco highs (not that kind)

By Ian McCurrach

Escape the madness of Marrakesh and be spirited into a world of kasbahs, camels and oases.

Ourika Valley

Cutting deep into the heart of the High Atlas Mountains, the lush Ourika Valley is home to a series of small Berber settlements and spectacular scenery. The top spot is the settlement of Oukaimeden, "the meeting of the four winds", which in winter turns into the country's premier ski resort and in summer makes an excellent base for trekking in the high valleys. There are many fine prehistoric rock paintings in the area.

By car: take the S-501 south and follow signs; journey time approx 45 mins.

Tahanaoute

This picturesque village consists of a cascade of red-clay houses, surrounding a massive rock which shelters the shrine of Sidi Mohammed El Kebir, whose festival is celebrated at Mouloud, the Prophet's birthday. It was the subject of Winston Churchill's last painting in 1958. The souk is open on Tuesdays.

By car: take the S-501 south and follow signs; journey time approx 20 mins.

Zaouia-Moulay-Brahim

A small maze of streets, secret courtyards and paved passages make up this hillside town, which radiates around a central shrine. Although the mosque isn't open to non-Muslims the rest of the town is yours for the taking. Expect bustling caf�s, stalls selling pilgrim trinkets, two potteries and superb hill views.

By car: take the S-501 south and follow signs; journey time approx 40 mins.

Setti-Fatma

Setti-Fatma is known for seven sensational waterfalls. A 15-minute stroll in the shade of walnut trees takes you up to the first and its pool. Here you can take a cooling dip or simply catch some rays. To reach the higher falls involves some serious scrambling among big boulders.

By car: take the S-513 south and follow signs; journey time one hour-plus.

Asni

Known for its Saturday souk, Asni is the gateway to some serious walking routes. Visit the hamlet of Imlil, used by Martin Scorcese as the Himalayan backdrop for his cult film Kundun, about the life of the Dalai Lama. The hilltop kasbah doubled as a Tibetan Buddhist temple. After a dusty trek, return to Asni and chill out in one of the many bathhouses.

By car: take the S-501 south and follow signs; journey time approx 1 hour plus.

Ouirgane and Tin-Mal

Rest and relaxation here comes in the form of two celebrated hotels, La Roseraie and Le Sanglier Qui Fume. The former is scattered around a riverside garden and a great lunch is served on the shaded terrace. Le Sanglier Qui Fume is a hangover from colonial days and offers fine French-Moroccan fusion cuisine. Activities include walking, riding and mule-trekking. Just south of Ourigane is the Tin-Mal mosque, with high pink walls and soaring towers. One of only two mosques in Morocco that a non-Muslim may enter.

By car: take the S-501 south and follow signs; journey time approx 1 hour plus.