Meet up with your Mountain Guide in Ouirgane [or Marigha] at 9am to drive with him to the Berber village of Ijoukak. Here, at the juncture of the Oueds n'Fis and Agoundis, alight from the vehicle to set out for a 5 hour hike. The route begins down what can best be compared to a country lane, in the foothills of the Jbel Erdouz (3579m), passing the Berber villages of Souq Ijoukak, Tagountafte, Souk Larbaa and Ikhfe N'Boul until you arrive, after the first half an hour, at the riverside tribal kasbah of the once-powerful feudal chieftain Sultan Caid Goundafa. The inner part of this now decaying palace-fortress, with storks nesting on the ramparts, still retains traces of its original Hispano-Arabesque decoration and seems to have been built either in the late 17th century (or late in the 19th century, depending on whom is telling the tale).
This area is the traditional land of the Berber Goundafa tribe, one of several powerful tribes who strove to control the High Atlas Mountains in the 19th century. This feudal warrior of the old tradition constantly waged war with the neighbouring Glaoui clan, who burned down his kasbah of Talaat n'Yacoub. As a result, this castle of Agadir n'Gouf was built. It was here that the Scottish author R.B Cunningham Graham had been detained at the Sultan's convenience. In the 1920s, this became an outpost of the French Foreign Legion. Continuing on your guide will bring you to the partially ruined Goundafa stronghold of Talaat n'Yacoub. From here continue this easy walk down alongside the river, following the contours of the high valley of the Assif Nfis, amidst stands of olive, walnut and almond trees until you come across the hauntingly beautiful hidden Valley of Ijoukak, with its stream of clear, cool, slow-moving water full of trout, lined with hillside hamlets, orchards and ancient terraced irrigated fields.
After a further half an hour, you will reach the small, remote stronghold settlement of Tin-Mal high up on the opposite bank of the river, set amidst brown slopes, green shrubbery and seasonally snow-capped mountains. Here your guide will take you to visit the fortress (and one-time state treasury) with its high walls and strong towers, the sole survivor of the once holy 12th century city built by the founder of the Almohad (Unitarian) dynasty, Mehdi Ibn Toumarte. This is the only mosque in Morocco - other than the mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca - into which a non-Muslim may enter - except on Fridays. You may enter the mosque, built by Abd el Moumen between 1153/54 (and sacked in 1276) through a small, sturdy door in the corner of the main tower. Now roofless, deep shadows thrown by the surviving bas relief pise columns and carefully restored arcades and horseshoe arches contrast with the large sunbaked wall. Intact amongst the ruins witness the fine examples of the ancient, intricate and variety in Almohad decor of rosette, scallop and palmette. Cedar from Azrou is now used for the ceilings; a special lime has been imported from Spain; no cement or concrete is used and the several cupolas have been restored in some areas with richly decorated stalactite plaster work.
In the actual village there is another small kasbah in ruins, a Medersa and an old water tank which produces a regular supply of the French gastronomic delight - edible frogs. And you might buy a litre of Tin-Mal olive oil from the olive press and mill down towards the river, where your guide will prepare your picnic on the river banks. Refreshed, set off towards the south down the valley of the Oued N’Fis through stands of juniper, Barbary fig, apricot, cherry and walnut tree, bypassing many Berber hamlets on the lower slopes of the Adrar Adafelt until you reach the town of Mouldikht at the beginning of the cork-screw road up through the Tizi n’Test (3080m). Here rejoin your vehicle for the long drive back up the delightful valley to Ouirgane.