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Ifrane, Morocco: Africa’s Little Switzerland (photo essay)

February 3, 2012

Morocco, Photos

Ifrane (إفران‎), Morocco is one of the few places in the African continent where snow falls almost every winter. For this very reason, the French developed this town after an Alpine village in the early 20th century (Protectorate Era), which explains the village’s extremely European flair. And at an elevation of 5,460 ft., this Moroccan town also happens to be a popular ski resort in the Middle Atlas region, thus nicknamed Little Switzerland.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Little Switzerland, Morocco

a street in "Little Switzerland" during the fall (Ennaimi, Flikr Commons)

Ifrane: Quaint village or college town?

Due to its size, it is easy to describe this town in the Atlas mountains as a quaint village and retreat. I lived there for 4 months as a transient student at Al Al Akhawayn University and all I remember are tranquil, fresh days.

Al Akhawayn University campus

part of Al Akhawayn University's campus (Amina Lahbabi, Creative Commons)

While most people would then think of Ifrane as a college town, this could not be farther from the truth. The Al Akhawayn campus is quite small, plus most students simply chill at the university or go grab a meal & tea close to the market in the center. Moreover, this Alpine village is quite small, which makes students want take road trips around the rest of Morocco almost every weekend. In turn, Ifrane’s calm oasis aura remains unspoiled.

Ski season

Another reason why Ifrane remains so calm year-round is because the ski season is hit or miss. Snow does not fall frequently every winter, so the term “seasonal” resonates greatly when it comes to some of its hotels! In fact, some smaller guesthouses and motels shut completely during the winter months with no snowfall.

Michlifen Suites, the luxury hotel in town (click for video)

Michlifen Suites hotel, Atlas mountains

panorama of grounds of Michlifen Suites hotel

Michlifen Suites pool area

Michlifen Suites hotel - pool area & grounds from a balcony

You might see the odd tourist bus every couple of weeks (foreigners stopping for a brief break in town during a Morocco grand tour). They leave Ifrane after a few hours, though. What about those who actually stay in the hotels? They either enjoy the facilities of their hotels and grounds or use Ifrane as a base (aka sleeping quarters) to explore other hectic, more popular towns such as Fes. The result? A calm oasis still! ;)

Gite Dayet Aoua guesthouse, Morocco

Gite Dayet Aoua: A quaint guesthouse in the village (Photo: Tripadvisor.com)

What happens when it does snow a lot in Ifrane, though? Well…

snow in Morocco!

a gorgeous village when covered in snow! (Nssaw Tawahd, Wiki Commons)

…the most beautiful Little Switzerland comes to life! You will totally forget you are in the middle of North Africa, just km’s away from the hot Sahara desert.

winter in Morocco Atlas mountains

=)

Just a little over an hour away from Fes, Ifrane is a nice off-the-beaten-path stop-over that should be added to your Moroccan itinerary. You will feel like visiting both the European and African continents in one day!

Cedar forest in Morocco

Cedar forest by the Atlas mountains, Morocco (Photo: Miguel González Novo, Creative Commons)

Have you ever been to Ifrane, Morocco? Post your photos below!

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10 Responses to “Ifrane, Morocco: Africa’s Little Switzerland (photo essay)”

  1. Nicole Says:

    We love Ifrane – our friend is a professor at Al-Akahawayn and we’ve spent a fair amount of time there as a result. Cafe du Paix is a favourite. Lovely photos!

    We went for drinks at the Michelifen so will have a post about that on our site in the future. Would never stay there, but a great place for a lazy afternoon.

    Reply

  2. modassirhasan Says:

    Hi, beautiful place to visit I love to enjoy it very soon

    Reply

  3. Someday I'll Be There - Mina Says:

    this is Morocco they never show you. Because all pictures of Morocco are of the busy local markets or of the desert. which links back to stereotyping Moroccans as people living in tents in the desert with no civilized streets and cities :D

    Just like I still get asked the question about Egypt if I live in a pyramid and own a camel! lol :D

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I know what you mean Mina! I lived in Egypt and no one would ever think they have salsa dancing night 7 days a week somewhere in Cairo. Or just like once a traveler asked me if we slept in hammocks and if Puerto Rico is in Africa… gee! :P

      Reply

  4. Antoinette B. | love.antoinette Says:

    Wow Maria this is a surprising post about Morocco for me! The only Morocco I’ve ever known or read about are the crowds, Casablanca architecture, street markets, colorful rugs, etc. Thanks for sharing a different side of Morocco. Since I’m a big snowboarder, I’m always on the lookout for the next best snow mountain resort!

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I’m glad I introduced you to a different Morocco! I lived and studied there for a semester, so i got to know some little towns. Still, I feel like I barely scratched the surface. I didn’t get to see much of the south! Can’t wait to go back :)

      About the snowboarding, make sure the winter season if favorable before you book your flight ;) Btw, Fes is the closest airport to Ifrane

      Reply

  5. Samir Says:

    Morocco is not Middle East, just saying, otherwise, nice images, only thing is that the houses and structures built in Ifrane comes straight out of the pockets and lands of the people, thus theft! And also the ruler owns 179Million acres in Morocco, go figures, while you play on the ground of a people living in great squaller, HAVE FUN SNOWBOARDING AND EXPLOITING POVERTY AND ROBBERY!

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I know Morocco is not Middle East, I have set it on previous posts. I guess it was too late to change my domain name to travel around the Arab world, eh? ;)

      As for the political aspect, I don’t know. I simply went there to study and found the town to be beautiful, the people lovely. Thus, I decided to write about it.

      Reply

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