Ifrane – Nature and French architecture in the Middle Atlas

Ifrane is a small town located in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco and is approximately 40km north of Meknes. People first settled in Ifrane in the 16th century. A community was established in the Tizguit valley. Just a little downstream from modern-day Ifrane, there is an area populated by the descendants of Abd al Sede ‘Salem, the man who founded the original Ifrane.

The caves

In Berber, spoken in this region, yfran means caves . When you explore the area you will also see an abundance of limestone plateaus. During the days when the city was founded, many houses were hewn into the surrounding rocks. Nowadays things are quite different, of course there are no longer people who live in these caves . The caves are only used as a storage place. It is interesting to explore the caves to see where and how people lived at the time. A guide is not an unnecessary luxury during the tour.

The forests and the French architecture

The current Ifrane only really emerged around 1929, during the French protectorate. The French decided to establish their presence here. The city is located at an altitude of 1600 meters above sea level and is surrounded by pine, cedar and oak forests that cool the city. The beautiful natural area around Ifrane attracts many tourists from other parts of Morocco, who come here to escape the heat during the hot summer months. What is perhaps Ifrane’s most distinguishing feature from Moroccan cities is its unusual Alpine architectural style. This style is completely different from the rest of Moroccan architecture. The French villas are now predominantly in Moroccan hands, but the villas still retain their special charm.

Al Akhawayn University

During the winter, even more visitors come to Ifrane, to climb the snowy slopes or simply enjoy the fun in the snow. During the year, the city has a large population of students studying at Al Akhawayn University. This is the only English-speaking university in Morocco and it is mainly the wealthy elite who can study at this university.

Little Switzerland

Ifrane looks like a small version of Switzerland in winter. The city of Ifrane and the surrounding area also offers cooling in the summer. In the surrounding forests with flowing rivers it is wonderful to take a walk in the woods or have a picnic with the family. In the summer you will see many families having a barbecue or heating a Tagine on the fire. In the forests you will also find many animal species such as the Berber monkey, but wolves have also been spotted recently. In winter you can also go to the ski resort in Ifrane to ski there. Meknes is located 40 km north of Ifrane and Fes further east. Where it is 40 degrees in Meknes and Fes, for example, you can escape the heat by taking a trip to Ifrane to cool down by ten to fifteen degrees. A temperature of -23 degrees Celsius was once measured in Ifrane, one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in Africa.

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