143km (89 miles) SE of Agadir; 102km (63 miles) E of Tiznit
Nestled among the palmeraie and boulder-strewn mountains of the Anti-Atlas's remote Ameln Valley is Tafraoute. Roughly translated from Berber as "a trough" or "depression," Tafraoute was originally the name given to the whole Ameln Valley but was gradually used solely for the village where the main, weekly souk took place and still does every Tuesday. A relaxed, unassuming town at first glance, an exploration on foot to its outskirts reveals a smattering of mini-mansions among the boulders -- testimony to the many Tafraoutis who work elsewhere in Morocco and in Europe, only returning for holidays each year. Coupled with their conservative nature (women are generally heavily covered out in public), this hidden wealth has left Tafraoute refreshingly free of the intense hassle that can be experienced elsewhere, and one of the first senses that you experience here is how quiet it is. Boulders surround the village and extend through the entire Ameln Valley, changing from pink to gray to gold, depending on the time of day. Sculpted over millions of years from wind and water, the granite boulders appear as they have been randomly thrown over the landscape. Almond trees are also prevalent in the Ameln Valley and are harvested in late February or early March, sparking off all-night festivals among the villages. Sleepy Tafraoute is slowly beginning to cash in on its harsh beauty, and with the recent construction of two new hotels, the village now offers good accommodations and is a delightful place to stop for a night or two.