It’s been a long winter. You are looking forward to a vacation in a new and exotic place. But your partner says they want to go skiing. Besides, you promised skiing this year as the beaches have lost there aura with you. The answer to all your holiday woes is a Morocco holiday.

Ifrane, Morocco
is a nestled town in the Middle Atlas Mountains. Becoming known as Africa’s “Little Switzerland,” it just so happens to be near a ski resort.

At altitude of 1650 meters–complete with cedar and oak forests–Ifrane boasts loads of powdery snow in the winter. In the summer, too, Ifrane is known as a cool city. Depending on which guidebook you consult, Ifrane is the coldest city in Africa.

Six miles from Ifrane is the Mischliffen ski area. Fast becoming the place to ski in Morocco, it has ski slopes and (as yet non-functioning) ski tows to the top of the mountain. Guides and outfitters in Morocco can set up your ski vacation complete with all the equipment you need, though your choices will be limited.

As with most cities in Morocco, Ifrane comes with a long and interesting history. Known as Oufrane by the Jews, it was reputed to be the ancient capital of a Jewish Kingdom around 500 B.C.E.

Jews fleeing King Nebuchadnezzar found refuge here. In later centuries, Arabs and Romans found their way here too. Ifrane soon became an important stop for caravans coming from the Sahara Desert, carrying such things as amber, ostrich feathers, gold and other riches to the port of Mogador (present day Essaouria) on the Atlantic coast.

Ifrane’s name comes from the Berber language meaning “caves.” In its early beginning, many people carved their living space in the nearby hills. You can see them all around. If you go exploring, or on a trek or hike in Morocco here, then it’s best for you to have a guide to the area, or get hold of a Morocco tour operator. It is easy to get confused and lose your way among all the mule, donkey and caravan trails. Seeing the aforementioned caves is an interesting way to spend any afternoon.

Today, Ifrane is probably one of the cleanest cities in Morocco. The housing and infrastructure was built in the late 1920s by the French. The town was designed with coolness in mind–colonial families would spend the hot summers away from cities, such as Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech.

Initially planned as a garden city, it was laid out with curvy tree-lined streets interlaced with gardens and green areas. Originally, it had four chalet styled homes and a palace for the sultan. A post office was erected and a church was later added.

During WWII, a POW camp was built here. After independence from France, Moroccans moved into the city. Ifrane was enlarged: a mosque, public market and other amenities were soon added. Many of the old chalet houses have been torn down and replaced with condos, though there’s plenty of the high-pitched red roofs dotting the town.

Vacation centers and gated communities are springing up along the outskirts of the city, making it a desirable international and domestic tourist destination, especially for Morocco holidays.

Today, the city boasts one of the best universities in Morocco. Al Akhawayn University is a private school built by Morocco’s government, along with American and Arab investors. Ifrane has a joyful yet peaceful feel about it. Residents include an polyglot of Moroccan seniors, students, tourists and everyone between.

All of this gives Ifrane an enterprising spirit. Virtually free of crime, it is one of the best cities in all of Africa. Not only that, Ifrane is a photographer’s dream come true. No matter where you look there are unique and interesting sites. There’s even plenty of barbary macaques (monkeys) to follow in the treetops. Ifrane is the gateway to the famous Ain Vital. Here, Morocco hikers and trekkers, cyclists, and others looking for adventure have magnificent waterfalls and sylvan scenery to delight the senses.

Its proximity to Fez and Mekenes makes it a great place to spend your Morocco holiday. Get up and go skiing early in the morning and then head to Fez for an afternoon of exploring the famous labyrinth filled Fez medina.

Quite a contrast in architecture, Ifrane shows the very European influence in its construction. Not much of the ancient town is left except for the caves. Ifrane is modern and sits firmly in the present. Fez, on the other hand, is considered a living Medieval city right out of days of Moorish conquerors and history. Ifrane comes with wide streets and modern cars. Fez comes with narrow passageways only open to donkeys and foot traffic. Fez has a world famous market, while Ifrane’s market is busy only on Sundays. What a great way to see the older and newer Morocco!

No matter the towns, villages or cities you seek, Morocco is a good choice for a Morocco tour. It’s contrasts and cultural heritages make it a living museum. You can tailor your customized Morocco tour to include mountain climbing, High Atlas Mountain trekking, kite surfing, white water rafting, kayaking or walking through history. Morocco will surely boggle your mind.

by Carole Morris