The city of Tafraoute came into existence in the 20th century when the French Protectorate consolidated a number of existing villages and douars at the south end of the Ameln Valley in the Atlas to form an administrative district headquartered in the town. However, the area has been inhabited since the prehistoric era, as is evidenced by rock art in close proximity to the town. It is a mountain oasis in the Souss region of Morocco, located at 1,200 m altitude. It is known for the almond trees the bloom in the spring, the cultivation of olives and grains, its Wednesday souk, and the remarkable landscapes formed in rose colored granite peeks that surround it. Through the millennia the rock in the area has been shaped into enormous boulders and unusually shaped geologic formations.
The Ameln valley is named for the Amazigh tribe that resides there. It's architecture is an interesting blend of vernacular architecture made from the red stone of the region, some protectorate era structures, and newer large villas, most of which were built with funds sent back to families in the region by emigrés who left the region for Moroccan cities to the north, as well as other countries. This high level of emigration from the region is generally provoked by periods of drought and the resulting challenges to agriculture and the economy of the region.
The remarkable landscape attracts hikers and climbers from around the world. A number of hotels cater to these travelers, most notably Hotel Les Amandiers, a 25 room, four-star hotel in the center of town that offers a swimming pool, meeting rooms, and a restaurant.
"Getting musicians in Tafraout was complicated. The acting governmental chief took us several miles down the valley one morning to meet a certain caid who would send out a moqqadem to each village, commanding the men to appear the following night at the military bordj. We settled the details, and everything went as scheduled, save that the musicians arrived slowly in groups with hundreds of townspeople trailing after them, and this held us up for a while. The electricity is always cut off a little before midnight, which meant that each moment we lost at the outset was lost completely.
The first piece, 'Ahmeilou', involved thirteen men, five of whom played benadir, and one a gannega. (Gannega is a local term for tbel.) As the evening progressed, more men joined the performers' ranks.
It was an extremely hot night; everything and everyone was suffused with heat: the singers’ and drummers’ faces ran with sweat, and the drums, after being heated, remained taut, giving their sound a dry, precise quality which the same instruments do not have under ordinary circumstances."
Bowles, Paul F. "Tafraout." in Folk, Popular, and Art Music of Morocco. The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection. Washington, DC: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1959-1962.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.