Shrine of Sidi Moussa – Aït Bouguemez, Morocco - Atlas Obscura

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Shrine of Sidi Moussa

Aït Bouguemez, Morocco

This former community granary is now a lonely mountaintop shrine. 


In the beautiful Aït Bouguemez Valley (known as the “happy valley” due to the friendliness of its residents), in a remote section of the High Atlas, an old community granary, or agadir, sits atop a standalone, conical mountain. It’s estimated to be at least 200 years old. Clearly visible from the main road through the valley, it can be accessed on foot from a trail that starts near the Ecole Vivante school. The legend of the Shrine of Sidi Moussa (Saint Moses) is that Moussa was an important figure in the local Jewish community known for his healing powers, possibly a rabbi, a wealthy man, or a highly respected, pious community member.

The granary functioned as community storage, a lookout, and a fortress. Legend also has it that women struggling with infertility could climb the mountain, visit Sidi Moussa and be healed. Some accounts say that this is Sidi Moussa’s tomb.

The relationship between Muslim and Jewish populations in this valley, which was autonomous for much of its history, is a complex one, as evidenced by Muslims preserving and celebrating the relic of a Jewish man, and venerating him as a saint. The shrine has been restored and is preserved by local community efforts. Some, but not all, visitors report encountering a community elder who hikes up to the shrine each day. He claims to be 120 years old and waits at the top of the mountain for visitors. He may open the granary and invite you in for mint tea—for a small fee, of course.Several miles away, on the other side of the valley is the Shrine of Sidi Chitta: a similar conical-shaped mountain, with a granary at the top. 

Know Before You Go

There is a small village nearby and in the valley. Accommodations, restaurants, stores and fuel may be limited and/or seasonal. It is recommended to research and plan for at least lodging ahead as this is a remote location and small rural village. The trail to the shrine can be accessed from near the Ecole Vivant'e. As of 2020, there is no specific trailhead parking lot. It is a steep, but well maintained trail and likely less than one mile to the top. There is no signage or official infrastructure, but anyone you encounter in town is likely to be able to tell you a little about its history and legend. Some visitors have reported a parking attendant or an attendant at the shrine itself and paying 20DH for guided access. Others have visited and encountered no one. As this is a community restoration and preservation effort, it is likely only attended on a volunteer or as-available basis.

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February 22, 2023

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