Serving as the gateway to the Middle Atlas mountains, Azrou, meaning “Great Rock”, is named for the rocky outcrop on its western edge. This Berber trade hub was established at a major crossroads en route to the Moroccan cities of Meknes, Fez, Khenifra and Midelt and is surrounded by dense cedar forests where Barbary apes roam.
Things to do in Azrou
The minaret of Ennour mosque towers over the city, having been built using locally-sourced cedar in the heart of a small medina. Its narrow streets are a relaxed place to wander and shop for traditional Berber wares, including handmade rugs and silver teapots. For a local experience, time your visit for the weekly souk market that draws traders from the surrounding villages.
To the east of Azrou, the Cèdre Gouraud Forest is where Barbary macaques can be seen up close. The only African primate population to live north of the Sahara Desert, these tame creatures congregate by the side of the road during the morning hours before venturing deep into the forest later in the day.
There’s excellent hiking in Azrou’s surrounds, with the remote lakes eroded into the limestone plateau and the waterfalls that lie at the source of the Oum Er-Rbia. You can also take a guided walk into the dense cedar forests to spot the region’s endemic butterflies.
Want to see what Switzerland would look like if it were transplanted in the Atlas Mountains? Then take a day trip to nearby Ifrane, where alpine-style architecture and ski slopes have been nicknamed the “Switzerland of Morocco”.
Getting around Azrou
Azrou is situated around 90 minutes’ drive south of Fes and the Fes-Saiss Airport, connected by regular bus services. The town itself is easy to explore on foot, although a private vehicle or day tour is best for visiting the surrounding landscapes.