Khénifra is situated on both sides of the river ‘Oum er-Rbia’ (at an altitude of about 830 meters) on the western edge of the Middle Atlas, and is the capital of the province in the region ‘Meknès-Tafilalet’. The origin of the name is interpreted differently. It could be derived from the Berber ‘Khanfar’, which is translated as ‘attack’ and seems plausible in the eventful history of the region. An alternative justification is the anecdote of a strong man who allegedly harassed on the street passers-by. There are also the popular game ‘akhanfer’, what means ‘catch’. The descent from al-Hafra (‘pit’) would refer to the location between the mountains. The suffix Khénifra al-Hamra (the red Khénifra) could be the reddish brown land or reddish façades mine.In the ‘Middle Ages’, it was an important camel caravan route between Fes and Marrakech.
From the conquest of the ‘Almoravids’ around 1057, the region was owned by the Sultans ‘Bilad al-Makhzen’ and various Berber tribes, which made the area for centuries a battlefield. In the 17th century, the Alawite Sultan ‘Moulay Ismail’ built a Kasbah (fortified settlement) and an important (three-arched stone) bridge ‘the Pont Portugais’ over the ‘Oum er-Rbia’ river, in the same style as the much longer bridge in Kasba Tadla. During this period, many other Kasbahs were built in Kasba Tadla, Beni Mellal, and other places.
Since 1877, all the Berber tribal groups were under the command of ‘Moha ou Hammou’. From the Kasbah of ‘Moha ou Hammou’ are nowadays barely present ruins. At least until the early 1970s, there were still small remnants of the Kasbah Moulay Ismail. During the beginning of the French protectorate in 1912, there were also many conflicts between the French and the Berbers, which ended in finally in 1921. Nevertheless Khénifra remained a besieged garrison town. In the early 1970s, Khénifra had only about 13,000 inhabitants; in 2010 this number was extrapolated to 80,263.
Nowadays, Khénifra is a commercial and trading centre, and market town for agricultural products and for sheep breeding centre. The city contains a small Medina with a market area. Located on the left (east) side of the river, there is a contemporary business and residential district with elongated blocks of flats, which are uniformly painted in the typical reddish tone.
Khenifra is part of the tourism region ‘Atlas and Valleys‘ of Morocco.