Beni Mellal, Morocco

On the way from Marrakech to the High Atlas, you may pass through Beni Mellal, one of Morocco’s fastest growing cities. With a population of over 500,000, it serves as the capital of a large region between the High and Middle Atlas mountain ranges.

Despite its large size and dramatic expansion, Beni Mellal has a few specific sites and only a handful of tourists. The town’s Kasbah in the old Medina, a 17th century creation of Moulay Ismail, has been restored but remains of little interest. A more worthwhile sight is the smaller Kasbah Ras el Ain and the nearby spring of Ain Asserdoun, set within well-tended gardens. Take a petit taxi from the Medina to Ain Asserdoun, from where you can walk up to the Kasbah Ras el Ain, precariously perched on the Cliffside.

Beni Mellal is also an important market centre, hosting a large Tuesday souk. The souk is good and genuine, especially for woollen blankets featuring local Berber designs. The fruit and vegetables stalls sell fresh local agricultural products, especially oranges – considered the best anywhere in Morocco!

Beni Mellal is not a tourist place but makes an easy, restful place on the Fez – Marrakech road. It serves also as a good base from which to explore both the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountains as well the Cascades d’Ouzoud.