Environment Field Note: Ifrane, Morocco

Hi everyone. This week we will be learning about the town where I have been living for the past few months: Ifrane.

Ifrane is a very special town. It is most famous throughout Morocco for being a popular tourist destination. Visitors enjoy coming here to Ifrane because it snows a lot and is perfect for winter activities, especially skiing. Ifrane is not really an agricultural area. This makes it unique from many other areas in Morocco.

The locals have a few ways in which they are directly connected to the environment. The first is that the natural environment makes tourism popular here. The second is that the cedar tree, which grows naturally here, is a good source of revenue.

What makes this environment special or different?

The winter and snow make this environment special in Morocco. In fact, the coldest temperature in the history of Africa was right here in Ifrane. When I arrived, I certainly agreed with that weather record. It was so cold my bones hurt and my fingers and toes were numb. I also couldn’t feel the tip of my nose. I figured tourists must really love skiing in order to come here!

Did you know that Ifrane’s nickname is “Little Switzerland?” Do you know where that country is on a map? When the French were here during the era of the French protectorate, they built many of the buildings as chalets and other forms of European architecture.

The large number of cedar trees found here in the High Atlas is another feature that makes Ifrane and its surrounding areas so special. Since the trees are abundant here, they provide a lot of cedar wood. This type of wood is famous for being very strong. It can last many years. It is ideal for making furniture and other wooden things.

I love taking walks around the town, especially in the mornings. When the sun is blazing brightIy, I can see all the different shades of green in the trees. The ceiling of my university’s auditorium is made from cedar. It is painted very beautifully and will last for a long time.

What parts of this environment help people to live here?

Since the climate and natural land attracts a lot of tourism, it helps Ifrane to be what it is today. Tourism generates a lot of revenue. Do you know what that is? It means that tourism provides a lot of jobs for the people here. Many people run little shops and fancy restaurants for tourists and students. My university is also a major employer of the people of Ifrane.

There are also many wonderful places close to Ifrane that are popular with tourists. Fes is an hour and fifteen minutes away. Volubilis, a former Roman city with many ruins, and nearby. It is even a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Hertitage Site. Do you know what that means? Can you think of other places that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Try to find out some and make a list of the ones you would like to visit someday. Since all these wonderful places are close to Ifrane, taxi drivers and tour guides are important jobs, here.

What challenges do people face living in this environment?

The weather creates opportunities, but is also a challenge to the people of Ifrane. The snowfall can be very heavy during the winter. The snowy season lasted a long time this year and didn’t end until April. The heavy snow and rain make getting to work and doing other daily activities difficult at times. Sometimes when the snow gets very bad, it even blocks the roads that lead to the other cities. I always thought of this whenever we had to make travel plans. I did not want to be stranded out of Ifrane!

I’ve also noticed that there aren’t industries here. I suppose it is because they want to keep the place pretty for tourists. Also, I believe it would also be difficult to have factories in the high and cold mountains.

How have people been adapting to this environment?

The locals adapt to the environment by wearing lots of winter clothes and working hard to keep themselves and their homes warm. Many people here and in Morocco use wood-burning stoves in their homes for keeping warm. It is now a major issue, because too many forests are being cut down for firewood.

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