Ifrane’s Souq

We’re awake early again, in fact early enough not to be woken by the melismatic sound of the muezzin broadcasting at high volume at 5.40am. This happens a lot wherever you stay in Morocco, but thankfully, this one is a really good singer, and we lie in bed listening with rapt attention. We had a good night, in spite of sleeping directly underneath the ubiquitous ‘palm tree’ (or in this case a ‘pine tree’, since we are in a mountainous area):

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We start our day with a spot of Yoga in the car park :-)

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The internet tells me that Ifrane has its weekly market on Sundays, so we hop on our bikes and cycle into the part of town where we think it may be. We ask for directions to the Souq and get sent with great clarity in one direction. After 500 metres, we ask again and get sent, with equal clarity, in the opposite direction. And so it goes on for a good hour or so, while we discover everything but the Souq. Finally the mystery is partially solved: there are several markets – one is an established building, housing the daily municipal market, the other is a more ephemeral Souk that happens once a week in a dusty and stony valley on the outskirts of the town. There are also several totally different ways to get there. We go shopping in the municipal market as it’s so close to our van, where we meet a friendly American who lives here and is fluent in Arabic, thus can explain to us the meaning of some of the signs which we unsuccessfully tried to Google translate. It is still hard for me to properly read handwritten signs, so something that comes out as ‘The mystery of softness’ (and leads me to believe that what we are trying to translate maybe a quote from the Q’uran) actually turns out to be an advert for Tender Goat Meat!

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We ask the American, a university professor, how he feels since the awful unmentionable number one person of America has made those divisive statements about Jerusalem. Does he feel anxious about his and his young family’s security? He shakes his head. They usually can differentiate pretty well here, between a person and what their government does. I lived in Morocco during 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq and never have I felt unsafe. But this is a small town, it may be different in the larger cities.

 

We bring our shopping home to Emma and set off once again on our bikes to find the other Souq and it’s well worth the hunt! This one is the real thing, cheap good quality fresh local veg and everything else you may or may not need is on offer. It’s a true a feast for the eyes, ears and nose!

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The weather forecast predicts several days of heavy snow in the direction we are travelling, so we stock up with food in case we get snowed in and then we drive another 60 km to a Cedar Forest near Azrou where we have been told we can see monkeys in the wild, apparently the only free-roaming colony in the whole of north Africa.

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for a series of photos of Ifrane’s Souq, click here

 


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Fes to Ifrane

A few kilometres on, we join a bigger national road. We stop at one of the roadside market stalls to buy fruit and veg but everything seems to be quite dear. We walk from one trader to another to compare prices but they are each as expensive as the other. We try to haggle but the traders, with friendly smiles, hold tight against us. We don’t know when we’ll get to another market, so we buy just a few items for at least the same price as they would be in Spain and drive off. We still need to learn a thing or two about haggling. Number one is probably that as foreigners, you will never get a good price in a hurry.

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The moment we enter the outskirts of Fes, we get tailed by a motorbike. You are looking for international camping? Follow me. And he scuttles off. We follow google maps on our phone and for a while this coincides with where he wants to lead us. But then we turn off. A minute later he’s again at our side. You are going the wrong way, come with me! But for once we have our mind set on a particular spot for the night, where we can have electricity for the computer, a washing machine and a hot shower. Maybe we should have followed him because the Diamant Vert Campsite is nothing to write home about – not particularly welcoming reception, intermittently working showers and a broken down washing machine! There are some workers on site, cutting trees and doing general repair work and they seem to be the only friendly people around. We depart again the next day, having managed, for the princely extra sum of 60 Dirhams, to squeeze our washing into the daily workload of the laundry that deals with the sheets etc. from the many bungalows on the site.

We leave around lunchtime in the direction of Ifrane, along a well-built national road that feels like a motorway after our three days in the middle of nowhere. But here too are roadside stalls with the produce having changed to apples, nuts, figs and dates, or occasionally a bumper crop of Pomegranates.

Entering Ifrane is like entering a European alpine town. . The houses here are totally different to anywhere else in Morocco – they have very steep gables and look more like the houses of an east German village or maybe Alsatian, than of African style.

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There are xmas decoration of sorts, except they’re not: a blue smurf with a Santa Claus costume and festive lighting but with the five pointed Moroccan star instead of the star of Bethlehem. We find our parking spot by a Mosque and have another early night.

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For more photos of houses in Ifrane, click here


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