Ifrane is one of the most beautiful places in Morocco, residing on the Atlas mountain with a population of rougly 13,000 people. The current Moroccan king and his projects - like the university and huge new hotel - have had a large impact on the town. However, it can not be considered a large town. The majority of the population are farmers, sheepherders, etc, and therefore live outside of the town borders.
The main language in Ifrane is Berber, but you can also hear a great deal of Arabic and French. It is home to Al-Akhawayn University, an American-style university taught in English, French, and Arabic. Nearly all university students will be able to converse fluently in English, but most of the native residents can not.
The climate is mostly cold with a beautiful clement summer, with a great deal of rain in the first few months of the year. The people are overall very friendly.
Overall, there is very little reason to specifically visit Ifrane if you're limited on time in Morocco. Unless you're a student here or a member of the king's entourage when he visits, there's not a huge amount to visit here- a carved lion, some parks, funky roofs, lots of storks, outdoorsy things, and a Sunday souq pretty much summarize the town.
Most of the business comes from Fez and Meknes, which are the two major neighboring cities. Both cities are roughly 45 minutes away by taxi, which should cost no more than 150MAD for the entire cab, but drivers will certainly try to charge mmore. At some times (very late/early, during strikes), you may have to pay a good bit more. There is no train station in Ifrane. There is a bus stop, though catching busses from Ifrane can be a trick. There are always buses stopping in Ifrane from nearby cities, with CTM buses being cleaner and quicker, but 'sketch' buses being equally safe - just alot dirtier and a little cheaper, with more stops (longer trip), and leaving more often (easier to catch).
Most places are within walking distance, but petit taxis are also readily available for reasonable prices. Grand taxi drivers are a little more unscrupulous, so try to be aware of how much you should be paying for any given trip.
Places to visit: - Al-Akhawayn University. Normally the campus is closed to non-students, but there are occasional events that allow visitors to see the campus. You can also request special permission from the faculty.
- Centerville: The newer part of the city. Here, you can find the center for tourism, the iconic lion statue that many tourists like to take pictures next to, the lake and park, and a number of restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores.
- Marché/souq: The souq, open every day, is where the locals buy their supplies. Anything from books and electronics to meat and fruit can be bought here. There are also many restaurants of varying quality and price.
- Ein Vitel: A series of waterfalls, some of which are found inside the forests of Ifrane, others which you should take a taxi to. None are particularly impressive, but all are pretty.
There are three centers of nightlife in Ifrane: Teal, the Grand Hotel, and Aglemem. Teal and the Grand Hotel both contain dance clubs, and offer expensively priced alcohol. The clubs are most popular on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, and play only House/Techno music. Teal is currently the better-attended of the two, due to its recent renovation and their promotion of special deals. Aglemem is a bar/restaurant that occasionally holds live music events.
However, Ifrane's main attraction is its natural beauty. It is highly encouraged to hike in the area. You can easily rent a horse and guide for a few hours. It is also only a short distance from Ifrane to a place where you can find and feed wild monkeys.
Places to eat:
-In Centerville: 1. L'Apelle-- a bit expensive, but more high class than most restaurants in Ifrane. The only place that serves pastilla in the vicinity. 2. Agelmem-- a bit expensive, and most of the food is only mediocre. Very good chicken tagine. Has alcohol, and sometimes live music. A favorite of the university students. Where international students go to briefly forget they're in Morocco. 3. La Rosa-- middling prices, but normally has mediocre to bad food. 4. Various cafes-- all of the cafes are priced roughly the same, and have roughly the same quality of food. Normally a safe bet, though you can expect only the standard fare--pizza, tagine, harira, brochettes, etc.
-In the Marché: 1. Restaurant Al-Akhawayn: decent prices, good food. More varied menu than many others. 2. Syrian Food: the chawarma is the best option, and for about 50MAD. Those with a lot of experience with traditional middle eastern food may find this chawarma lacking, but others will find it delicious. (The Syria restaurant is closed now because the owner went back to Syria).
There is no budget accommodation in Ifrane. The best is probably to stay in Azrou (15 minutes by grand taxi, ~6 Dh).