Skip to main content

Ifrane and Azrou





During training, I had two getaway weekends. One was in a little place called Moulay Yacoub, and I've already mentioned that trip. The second was a double-whammy trip to a French Garden Town called Ifrane and nearby Azrou, situated in the Middle Atlas mountains.

Ifrane is a completely different world from Fes and its proximal towns. First, it's new. The French created it during the protectorate period as a Hill Station, a summer retreat for French citizens wanting to escape the oppressive heat of North Africa. Therefore, it is very European. It looks like somebody transplanted a Swiss town right into the middle of the Atlas Mountains (it's nickname is "little Switzerland"). The houses are very European, and one might think they were in Europe if it weren't for the giant stork nests perched atop the chimneys around the city.





Next we went to Azrou and checked into a hotel. Azrou is also fairly new, though it has an old section. It has very few tourists, especially compared to Ifrane, and is mainly used as a hub for hikers. My group set out early on Sunday for a long hike through the tree-studded alpine landscape. Our goal was twofold: to find the oldest tree in Morocco and to see monkeys.

We were successful in both. I was the first to spot a wild monkey (a Barbary macaque, which according to the Oxford Dictionary of English is "a medium-sized, chiefly forest-dwelling Old World monkey which has a long face and cheek pouches for holding food), about a hundred yards away through a patch of trees. The group stopped to look, and within seconds, we spotted two more. Soon, other monkeys were appearing here and there, eager to see if we would give them any food. We gave them some peanuts.



After seeing the monkeys, we stopped at a tourist-heavy spot (which had more monkeys and lots of dogs and donkeys) and had a picnic: bread, fruit, and cheese. I approached a European-looking girl who was holding some bulky gizmo and a little net with a plastic bag and asked her in Darija what she was doing, which was met with a frightened stare like I'd never seen before. I tried English, and it worked. The girl was French, and she graduated from college just recently, but couldn't find a job. She is working for a graduate student, she informed me, as volunteer work for one year in the Azrou area. They are studying the impacts of tourism on the monkeys. Her little pouch/net thing was being used to collect samples of pee, so they can analyze the stress levels of the poor things, and the boxy gizmos were used to record various data relating to the monkeys' behavior and numbers.

After our lunch, we hiked on, into a very large cedar forest planted by the French. The French, by the way, introduced a number of European flora and fauna into these places to make it feel more like home for the administrative officials who chose to vacation there. The cedar forest was naturally beautiful and beautiful, naturally. Plus, it was quiet - I dare say serene.

Through the forest, we eventually stumbled onto the oldest tree in Morocco, which was admittedly disappointing, as it was covered with graffiti and barren of any green. Plus, there were tourists galore. Oh, well.

That about rounded out our weekend. We caught a grand taxi back to Fes (about an hour drive) and I slunk into bed, sore from hiking but thoroughly pleased to have spent my last free weekend in training with people I love.



1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Clink (New Friends)

Each other is all we have. It's no surprise, then, that when we think about the chapters of our lives, those chapters usually begin and end with the beginning and ending of relationships. My current chapter began in July 2016, when I made the move from Philadelphia to Denver. In many ways, it was the fulfillment of a promise made between Peace Corps friends; Carly, Evan, and I spoke often of our desire to live in the same place some day, and after two wonderful years spent with Kyla, it was time for me to join them.

The great advantage to this arrangement is that Evan and Carly had been cultivating friends in my absence, so upon my arrival last summer, I was met with a wonderful group of people who had been carefully conditioned by Evan and Carly to like me.

Readers of this blog will remember Evan and Carly from my Peace Corps days. They were the closest I had to family for two years, and by the end of our service, we were inseparable.


Evan

Pappy. Pop-pop. Dilly-dally. Evan is know…

Reaction to Dante's Hell as Portrayed in Dante's Inferno

Since its Patristic roots, the Church has struggled with two seemingly contradictory aspects of God's nature. One one hand, God is said to be loving and caring towards his creation. At the same time, however, God is seen as a judge, dealing out justice to all according to their actions. Some Christians have argued that God, due to his overabundance of love, can never punish or cause harm. Other Christians have no qualms in maintaining that a loving God sends people to Hell, even against their own will. Most fall in between these two extremes. I would maintain that Dante's view of punishment in Hell errs on the side of the latter extreme, given the assumption of a loving God as described in Christian literature. The God portrayed in Dante's Inferno punishes based on gross oversimplifications. His God ignores the larger picture of human psychology and sociological influences in addition to the rehabilitative capacities of wrongdoers.

Good parents do not punish their children …

Morocco, Land of Ambiguity

The sun was pummeling me. On my shoulders and on the back of my skull. When Moroccans catch the sniffles, they say "The cold hit me." On this particular afternoon in Sidi Bennour, as I wandered from street to street, that bully Sol took no mercy, and as my fragile frame absorbed each blow, I could feel the scorn from the sun, the mocking and scorn, and not just from celestial bodies, but Arab bodies as well, from behind their piles of watermelon and cactus carts, straw hats and tooth-ish grins going "What is this white guy doing wandering around here in the middle of the afternoon?"


What I was doing was looking for a damned pair of socks. Eventually, I found a guy selling piles of used clothes. There appeared to be no order to the mess, so I just asked him if he sold any packages of socks. Hell, I didn't know. I've witnessed butchers selling toothbrushes on the side. Anyway, I might as well have asked the man if he had any poisonous snakes for sale. He could…