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63km (39 miles) S of Fes; 84km (52 miles) SE of Meknes; 143km (89 miles) N of Midelt

The mountain resort of Ifrane is like no other in Morocco. Built by the French in 1929 as a colonial retreat, the first impression upon entering the village is of a "little Switzerland" -- hence the marketing slogan used by tourism bodies to promote it. Within the village are tall, triangular-roof alpine chalets, neatly trimmed gardens, a leafy park surrounding a mountain-fed lake, and a central square surrounded by stone-wall cafes and restaurants. What attracted the French -- and now affluent Moroccans -- is the heavenly cool climate during summer. As Fes and Meknes swelter, Ifrane is pleasant and refreshing. This climate is also an attraction in winter, when the surrounding mountainside can be blanketed in snow.

The addition in the 1990s of a royal palace and a private university, Al Akhawayn University, has added extra prestige to the village's status as a favored location. Some hard-core travelers scoff at the chance to stop and visit Ifrane, citing it's not the "real" Morocco. I personally enjoy wandering around the village. The beautifully fresh air is revitalizing to say the least, and I also like the happy and vibrant atmosphere that prevails here. Many Moroccans come here on day visits, no doubt wanting to see this "foreign" town and how the other half lives. While families play in the park and have their picture taken next to the village stone lion -- carved by an Italian soldier during World War II -- university students mingle in cafes and check out each other's new cars. Ifrane offers a different view of Morocco, and many travelers leave here refreshed and surprised that such a village can exist.