beni mellal moroccoThe city of Beni Mellal is one of the fastest growing cities in Morocco. Positioned between the Middle Atlas Mountains and Atlas Mountains, it is a great location for adventures in this region of the country. Beni Mellal is almost exactly between Marrakech and Fez making it a great stop over point if your journey takes you between these two cities, and it is an especially good destination to add to your Morocco itinerary if your plans include a visit to the Ouzoud Waterfall. The city itself is not known as much of a tourist destination but here are five things to experience if your journey takes you there.

Kasbah Bel-Kush and Kasbah Ras al Ain

This Kasbah, built in 1687 by Sultan Moulay Ismail, is one of the oldest remnants intact in Beni Mellal. There are two mosques still in operation. The Kasbah is not in great condition though it still is inhabited, primarily low-income families. The nearby Kasbah Ras al Ain and garden of Ain Asserdoun are in much better condition and worth a visit. Inside this Kasbah is a spring and it is believed the Kasbah was built to protect this vital water source.

The Market of Beni Mellal

Unlike the large markets of Marrakech of Fes, the market of Beni Mellal is still largely geared toward Moroccans. This is an agricultural region and it can be seen in the offerings at the souq. Berbers from the mountains and Arabs from the plains meet here to sell their respective goods. Oranges, olives, figs and other foodstuffs are fresh and readily available. Textiles such as cotton and wool are also for sale in both raw form and woven into blankets, rugs and clothing. Wander the market and pick up items for an impromptu picnic.

Festival of Moulay Aissa Ben Driss

This festival or moussem, which is held yearly in March, honors the saint Moulay Aissa Ben Driss. While veneration of saints is somewhat frowned upon in Sunni Islamic cultures, more than 600 mousseums occur yearly in Morocco. Visitors make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the saint followed by musical and singing acts and dances.

Music and Dance of the Region

Music is a very important part of Moroccan culture, and the music and dance that is specific to Beni Mellal and the Tadla-Azlial region is especially unique. While there are Arabic influences in this area, much of the music and dance traditions are Berber. The high pitched singing and signature gyrations of dancers are immediately recognizable to this region. For the traveler who wants to experience the multiple layers of culture in Morocco, this is a must.

Ouzoud Waterfalls

Beni Mellah’s landlocked status doesn’t provide too many opportunities for water sports or seaside dining, however the beautiful Ouzoud Falls are a site to see. Ouzoud means “olive” in the local Berber dialect because of its proximity to the olive trees in the area. This area is a well-known location for tourists to visit so some infrastructure is in place to facilitate a visit. There are a few restaurants and hotels close by. The falls themselves are accessible via a path at the bottom and also a more difficult track that descends the gorges of the El Abid River. If you are staying in Beni Mellal, take note that this is an easy day trip less than two hours away.

Written by Amanda Mouttaki.

Photo by Martina Rathgens.