Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps


7/12/09 Azrou

Azrou is one of my favorite places in Morocco. It's big enough to have all the amenities I miss in my village (restaurants serving western food, shops that sell *everything*, trees) plus it's in a lovely part of the country, in the forests of Ifrane National Park, in the Middle Atlas mountains. It's close to Fes and Meknes and Ifrane (a swiss-chalet style town that rich Moroccans retreat to in the summer - it's like the Martha's Vinyard of Morocco) while being remote enough to feel cozy and intimate and just friendly.

We stayed in Azrou for several nights while visiting Ifrane National Park. There are some inns deeper in the park, but they're priced for tourists. In the Park, you can find Barbary Apes - sad, tourist-spoiled little monkeys* that will flock to you if you toss them bread - as well as gorgeous ceder forests (mostly secondary growth, but reforestation is succeeding well) and some lovely lakes. The lakes are year-round homes for several unusual species of waterfowl, and are key nesting habitat for a few endangered species, so bring your binoculars and prepare to be impressed. I think 90% of the life-birds that my Dad, an avid birder, added to his "life list" in Morocco were spotted here in Ifrane.

Lakes Aoua, Hichlat, and Ifrah are well known and mentioned in every tour book, but I want to mention Lac d’Afennourir, a RAMSAR site that doesn't get nearly as much ecotourist attention as it deserves. Like the other three, it hosts many species of waterfowl, amphibian, fish, etc, plus it's tucked farther away from agricultural and population centers, and is therefore much healthier as an ecosystem. All of the lakes are difficult (if not impossible) to access by public transportation. This is one outing where it's worth hiring a guide and/or renting a car to get around.

I want to give a quick shoutout to our Inn, the Auberge du Dernier Lion d'Atlas (The Inn of the Last Atlas Lion), for its extraordinary hospitality. The rooms are airy and clean, the food (breakfast and dinner are both available) is plentiful and yummy, and the host/owner, Aziz, is a prince. He adores Peace Corps, which would give him a special place in my heart anyway, but he's just a kind, thoughtful, genuinely helpful man. His inn is about 2km away from the Azrou bus/taxi station, but it's an easy walk or else a cheap petit taxi ride (I think 4 or 5 dh). You can find his place online at or call them at 0535561868.

* Yes, I realize, Barbary Apes are technically *not* monkeys - they don't have tails - but everybody calls them that, and it's hard to refer to such little creatures as apes. That word calls to mind gorillas and orangutans, both of which are about 10 times more massive than these little simians.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps