The village of Ikiss is found on the road between Marrakech and Ouarzazate in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Hidden in the valley

Situated on the side of the valley, the red stone from which the village is constructed is mined from the hills behind. Below the village (which is split by the road) the crops are irrigated by the river which has shaped the valley over the centuries.

ikiss fort

The terraces holding wheat and barley for the yearly harvest are found clinging to the valley side, this life line for the village has been protected over the generations; the remains of a fort can be found below the village.


The walls have been eroded over time, leaving only the central strong hold as a memory of times gone by. The fort was one of the extensive lines of defence for Marrakech only 150km away.

The local mosque stands out against the red of the village. The integrate work on the spire a masterpiece in contrast to the harsh rock. A walk around the village is a must. The village is not used to the tourist trade, so smile and say thankyou for a unique experience.

Geode hunters from Ikiss

Geodes from Ikiss in the High Atlas : The main source of income for the village is the natural reserve of geodes which are found behind the village. When you are in the village wait until sun down, the drums will give you the rhythm as the hunters relax after a hard day on the hill. The mint tea will flow from the never ending pot as the Berber voices cut through the clear air.

I was lucky to meet up with the right team for a day of geode hunting in the village of Ikiss.

A 40 minute walk from the village of Ikiss up into the High Atlas Mountains, was just what I needed after a few days in Marrakech.

The steep sides of the valley got my heart racing as I climbed from the village to the "Geode Zone", where for generations the village people have been mining these beautiful crystals. The red rock bands of the valley floor changed to a mustard yellow as we gained height before topping out on the plateau. Here scattered across the ground, pieces of shattered quarts reflected in the morning sun.


Stage 1 : Find the mines entrance hole. These mines are situated on the sides of the mountain and can only be reached by foot.

Stage 2 : Darkness ..bring a lamp. The hole will drop down into the earth. You will have to crawl on your stomach through certain sections. Last views of day light. Check that you know the way back. Some shafts will be over 250m long, cutting into the rock at angles of up to 30'.

Stage 3 : Find your Geode. Hammer carefully the surrounding rock to release the crystal. A prime Geode can take 1-2 days to recover. This is done by candle light as there is no electricity down here. Once on the surface the geode will be hand carried down to the village, where it will be cleaned before being put on sale.

With the industrial revolution missing the country the natural resources found under ground have not yet been eaten by the industrial machine.

crawl on your stomach bring a lamp put on sale

Phosphates, which account for 75% of world reserves, are the main mining resource. Annual output is 22.2 million tons. Other minerals include lead, copper, barytes, zinc, manganese and fluorine which are found in abundance through Morocco's mountainous regions.

written : 2002 updated : 2020