Hiking in the Middle Atlas

Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane is relatively isolated from the mainstream flows of Morocco’s social, political, cultural and economic life. Yet, as far from the country’s “core” as it may be, Ifrane is centrally located and provides many opportunities for recreation. The town is surrounded by pristine forests of cedar, scrub oak and juniper which makes it an ideal base for nature walks, hikes, picnics, fishing and camping–skiing is not really possible as winters are now too mild and snow-cover is often too thin and erratic. While some university professors (and many students) complain about the the town’s isolation, others take full advantage of its assets.

cedar forest

Hiking through majestic cedar forests in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco. (ph. Micheal Peyron)

It is with these people in mind that my colleague Michael Peyron prepared a guide to walking and hiking in the Middle Atlas. Michael Peyron is a fellow geographer, a veteran mountaineer, and a renowned compiler and translator of Berber orature (local history and poetry transmitted orally).

Michael Peyron in Dayet Aoua

Professor Michael Peyron enjoys some tea with peasant women during a Middle Atlas field trip. (ph. Eric Ross)

I was delighted when Michael asked me to contribute to this project. In particular, I drafted the maps of the various hikes described in his text, and I wrote sections presenting the geology of the Middle Atlas Mountains and the town of Ifrane. Hiking and Walking Guide to Ifrane and the Middle Atlas has just been published by Al Akhawayn University Press.

Road map of the Middle Atlas with location of hikes described the guide book.

Road map of the Middle Atlas with location of hikes described in the guide book.

The Middle Atlas Mountains, one of Morocco’s least trodden tourist zones, contains a wealth of stunningly beautiful landscapes, rugged and bucolic in equal measure, numerous heritage sites steeped in mystery, and many challenging hikes. The itineraries described in the backpack-friendly guide-book range from half-day excursions appropriate for family picnics to veritable multi-day treks across peak and valley. As the current local development strategies of the Province of Ifrane aim to boost environmentally sound tourism, the publication of this handy guide is timely.

AUI students Aguelmam Wiwane

AUI students enjoy a trip to Aguelmam Wiwane. (ph. Michael Peyron)

I am not much of a nature hiker myself (though I will happily indulge in urban hiking for days on end) and have not actually taken any of the trails I mapped here (with the notable exception of Zawiyat Ifrane and the Tisgelt Plateau). If readers of this blog would like more information about hiking in the Middle Atlas I advise them to contact Michael Peyron or Frédéric Brayard (who wrote the book’s preface) directly.

I have, however, taken advantage of this publication to post a new Ifrane page on this blog. The aim is to present this strange garden-city-hill-station-cum-college-town to prospective visitors and AUI’s newly hired faculty. I cover this material each semester in my Freshman-level Introduction to Geography class, just prior to our half-day walking tour of Ifrane. Every place has a story–often more than one–I tell them, and Ifrane’s is as compelling a story as any. Whether you are thinking of settling in Ifrane or are just passing through, I invite you to take a look.

The guide book’s handy size means that the maps of the trails are printed in a very small format. I invite hikers to download the high-definition jpg versions posted below. Michael Peyron’s hikes are plotted on scans of official topographical maps of varying scales. Finally, this downloadable Google Earth (kmz) file locates all the Vehicle Drop-Off Points (VDOP) as well as a few other physical features and relevant points of interest.

Happy hiking!

a. Amane n-Dalline loop

a_Amane n Dalline

a. Amane n-Dalline

b. Dayet Aoua to Ifrane

b-Dayet Aoua to Ifrane

b. Dayet Aoua to Ifrane

c. Michlifene craters circuit

c-Michlifene craters

c. Michlifene craters circuit

d. Aguelmam Afennourir

d_Aguelmam Afennourir

d. Aguelmam Afennourir

e. Tisdadine

e_Tisdadine

e. Tisdadine

f. Zawyat Ifrane, Tisgdelt Plateau

f_Zawyat Ifrane Tisgdelt

f. Zawyat Ifrane, Tisgdelt Plateau

g. Iguer Awragh circuit

g_Iguer Awragh

g. Iguer Awragh circuit

h. El Gara

h_El Gara

h. El Gara

i  & j. Jbel Hayane & Jbel Koubbat traverse

i _j_Jbel Hayane & Jbel Koubbat

i & j. Jbel Hayane & Jbel Koubbat traverse

k. Tichchoukt SW

k_Tichchoukt SW

k. Tichchoukt SW

l. Tichchoukt NW balcony

l_Tichchoukt NW balcony

l. Tichchoukt NW balcony

m. Tizi n-Tigoulmamine from Skoura

Sorry, no map of this hike. It proved impossibly huge and unwieldy to assemble the four scanned topographical maps into a decent base map.

n. Jebel Masyoujine traverse, Aït Hsayn to Sidi Yahya

n_Jebel Masyoujine

n. Jebel Masyoujine traverse, Aït Hsayn to Sidi Yahya

o & p. Meskeddal Gorge loop from Talzemt & Jbel Bou Iblane traverse

o_p_Meskeddal & Jbel Bou Iblane

o & p. Meskeddal Gorge loop from Talzemt & Jbel Bou Iblane traverse

q & r. Jbel Ayachi, Aït Ouchene to Cirque of Sidi Jaafar via Tizi n-Tirecht

q_r_Ait Ouchene-Sidi Jaafar

q & r. Jbel Ayachi, Aït Ouchene to Cirque of Sidi Jaafar via Tizi n-Tirecht

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About ericrossacademic

Professor of Geography at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco
This entry was posted in field trips, map work, publication and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hiking in the Middle Atlas

  1. Pingback: Visit to a women’s weaving cooperative in Zawiyat Ifrane | Eric Ross, academic

  2. Charles O. Cecil says:

    Eric:

    Many thanks. This looks like a great way to spend a lot of time, in beautiful countryside.

    Best wishes,

    Chuck Cecil

    Charles O. Cecil

    Cecil Images

    4318 Louis Place

    Alexandria, Virginia 22304

    U.S.A.

    http://www.cecilimages.com

    Tel: 703-504-6956

    E-mail: chuck@cecilimages.com

  3. Jari Saoud says:

    Thanks you dear Eric Ross for your efforts to publish the middle Atlas Maroccan i am Saoud jari the montains Escort .We meet in the ceremony of publishing your interesting book Hiking and Walking at la salle des fettes in I FRANE Thanks you
    saoudjari@yahoo.fr
    0665271372
    Said Montains guide Azrou

  4. Thanks for the topographic maps and paths–it is the closest I have come to those places I visited in the early 70s.

  5. Pingback: The annual Interfaith Alliance excursion down Oued Tizguit | Eric Ross, academic

  6. Mohamed says:

    Thank you for this article. I am myself from the Bouiblane region.
    If needed, I can give you some contacts.

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