The North African country of Morocco has a captivating blend of ancient history and vibrant modernity, and offers a diversity of experiences for travelers. Nature lovers can explore the country’s range of landscapes, from the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert. Those interested in culture won’t want to miss the bustling souks in Marrakech, history-filled streets of Fes, or coastal cities like Casablanca and Essaouira. And of course, there’s the food: spice filled tajines, fresh juices, olives, and so much more.


Peter Bohler


Planning your trip

Whether it’s your first time to Morocco or you’ve been many times, use these resources and guides to plan your next trip to Marrakech, Fes, Casablanca, and beyond.

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Derb Cherkaoui
There are times when only a bowl of pasta will do, and those are the times to head straight for Pepe Nero, with its romantic orange-tree courtyard for alfresco eats and warren of more-intimate dining rooms. Note, the latter can sometimes feel a bit cut off from the main hub, so it’s arguably a better summer jaunt, but you can’t knock the food. Chef Khalid Robazza Essafa makes all his own pasta. The roast veal agnolotti (stuffed pasta squares similar to ravioli) is sensational, as is the lasagna and the eggplant Parmesan. The king prawn risotto has earned Essafa a devoted, local fan base, although out-of-towners have been known to rave about his tandem Moroccan menu, too.
Nouawal, Fès, Morocco
To come to Fes and skip the Jewish Quarter is to miss out on a massive chunk of the city’s history and identity. After the Sephardic expulsion from Andalusia in 1438, a walled Jewish quarter was established in Fes. It was named the Mellah, meaning “salt marsh” in Arabic. The Jewish community was protected and accepted to the point where a Jew was appointed to be a vizier, or government minister, in 1465. The appointment unfortunately stirred up a wave of anti-Jewish protests and, on May 14, 1465, a massacre of nearly all of the Mellah’s inhabitants. When the next influx of exiles from Spain arrived in 1492, they bought with them an injection of wealth and creativity that allowed the community to prosper until the 16th century. Sadly, the next few centuries saw a steady decline in population: Only 2,500 Jews are said to remain in Morocco, some 150 or less in Fes. This rather handsome neighborhood with its enclosed hanging balconies reveals fascinating history to those willing to look. Don’t miss the atmospheric cemetery, the 17th-century Ibn Danan Synagogue (which can be accessed if you ask the guard nicely and reward him with a few dirhams), and the daily markets. You’ll also find the best goldsmiths and jewelers in Fes here.
61، Rue Sidi el Yamani, Marrakech 44000, Morocco
In the heart of the medina, not far from the entry to the souks and the main square, two French brothers have transformed a historic riad into an intimate, contemporary Moroccan hideaway. Opening onto two internal courtyards—one of which has a swimming pool—are seven rooms and suites, each named for a local spice (think saffron, nutmeg, and turmeric) and decorated in jewel tones like deep orange and royal purple. All have standard conveniences like hair dryers, toiletries, and air-conditioning as well as complimentary Wi-Fi.

The hotel’s public spaces are separated into a garden section, featuring trickling fountains and lots of flowers, and an oasis section, which houses the pool and a traditional steam hammam. The riad also enjoys a higher position than its neighboring buildings, resulting in particularly great views from the rooftop terrace. Here, you can take in the Atlas Mountains from the plush lounge chairs (each topped with a straw hat for extra sun protection), the fireplace, or the romantic dining tables, where you can enjoy cocktails or a candlelit dinner. Adding to its private home feel, Riad l’Orangeraie provides guests with a local cell phone to use while in town. The hotel is also available to rent out in its entirety for the ultimate house party.
Douar Abiad, Palmeraie, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
In the Palmerie neighborhood outside of town, ethno-botanist Gary Martin and his wife, interior designer Meryanne Loum-Martin, have created a fairytale oasis—whose name translates to “big garden”—with five houses, five pools, and beautiful green spaces spread over nine lush acres. Set in three different villas, the 24 uniquely designed, boho-chic rooms range from the Small (which can be tight and somewhat dark) to the more spacious Standard, Large, Garden, and Pavilion options, which feature plenty of light and perks like fireplaces, terraces, king beds, and artisan details.

When not lounging around one of the pools, guests can play a set on the clay tennis courts, wander around the botanical gardens, take a Moroccan cooking class with Chef Bahija, or explore the surrounding area by bike, vintage sidecar, or camel. Kids are more than welcome here and can look forward to such programming as calligraphy and magic classes, while adults can expect in-room massages and outdoor yoga classes. Breakfast is included in the room rate and, like all meals, can be enjoyed in various spaces around the hotel. Dinner is particularly magical when served underneath countless glowing lanterns.
Avenu Jnane El Harti - Quartier de l'Hivernage, Rue Ibn Oudari, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
For those who can’t decide between staying in a historic, riad-style inn in Marrakech’s old town or a larger resort in modern Ville Nouvelle, this boutique charmer provides the perfect compromise. Located in the leafy, upscale Hivernage neighborhood (a short taxi ride from both the medina and the French quarter), Dar Rhizlane occupies an Art Deco-era villa, where 20 rooms share space with intimate lounges, a fireplace-equipped library bar, and a verandah with views of the gardens and fountains. Named after exotic scents, guestrooms feature handpicked furnishings, traditional tilework, ornate bathrooms, and flattering mood lighting as well as a fireplace and some type of outdoor space. Also on-site is a pool ringed with loungers (open year-round and heated in the winter) and a small spa with a hammam (located in the main villa).

In addition to overnight guests, the hotel draws a regular crowd for its cuisine. Le Minzeh serves light fare on a raised platform overlooking the pool; Le Jardin offers seasonal, Mediterranean-inspired dishes along with garden views; and the gourmet Le Mimouna—considered one of the best restaurants in town—features a Moroccan-French menu and glam setting. Also available are cooking classes, which start with a stroll through a local market, as well as services like in-room dining, on-site parking, and a 24-hour reception, which bring some of those “big hotel” touches to what otherwise feels like a wealthy friend’s estate.
Stocking Island, The Bahamas
You haven’t truly seen The Bahamas if you haven’t done a day trip to one of their many unspoiled islands. When in Exuma, a short water taxi ride, which will cost you only $12, will bring you to an island off the port of Georgetown. It’s pristine waters and beaches will surely spoil you- the Exuma Cays has one of the clearest waters I’ve seen in the world! Be sure to be on the lookout for Stingrays next to the Chat ‘N’ Chill Bar. Feeling adventurous? Walk across waist-deep water to bring you to the other side of the island, where the waves crash over the coral. Go beyond that and take one of the the hidden walking trails that will lead you to the end of the island. Just make sure to not get lost on your own, some of the paths do seem endless like it will lead to nowhere. However far you get, remember to go back as the island tends to elude your sense of time. Your water taxi awaits!
Staniard Creek, Andros Island
Near the northern end of Andros Island, about 15 minutes by air from Nassau, remote Kamalame Cay is worth the effort it takes to get there. The 96-acre private island features 34 rustic-chic rooms and suites, all within steps of a white-sand beach, as well as a central Great House where guests come together to sip wine before dinner and share stories afterward (of course, many opt for a secluded, candlelit meal set up somewhere along the three miles of shoreline). A range of seaside activities keep everyone from the kids to newlyweds to the occasional celebrity happy. There’s a freshwater swimming pool, an over-water spa, world-class fishing off the coast, and entertainment by local “rake-and-scrape” bands. And for those who live in fear of being unplugged, relax. Kamalame Cay offers hotspots around the island for full cell service (if you want it) and Wi-Fi in the reception area.
One S Ocean Rd, Nassau, The Bahamas
Since its opening along a dazzling stretch of sand known as Cabbage Beach in 1962, The Ocean Club on Paradise Island has been the preferred stay of old-money patriarchs and traditionalists. Though much at the serenely posh resort has remained unchanged, the 105-room property has been modernized to meet today’s standards with spa-sized marble bathrooms, sweeping WiFi, and a restaurant run by star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. But it’s the feeling of a privileged, unhurried yesterday that continues to draw an appreciative upper-crust crowd. An on-site tennis pro provides tips for improving your backhand, Versailles-inspired gardens complete with a 12th-century Augustinian cloister offer moments of quiet contemplation, and rounds of golf end with martinis at the resort’s bar. These details, plus knowing that a personal butler and afternoon champagne and strawberries are included in the price, keep guests returning year after year.
Nassau, The Bahamas
Music producer turned hotelier Chris Blackwell has made a name for himself converting Caribbean properties (Pink Sands on Harbour Island, GoldenEye in Jamaica) into jetset destinations with studios where his rock-and-roll friends can kick back while recording their next album, but it all began at Compass Point. Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton have all stayed in some of the resort’s 18 rainbow-hued stand-alone huts, which are inspired by the colors of Bahama’s Junkanoo carnival and are simply furnished to encourage engagement with the outdoors; though the interiors are air-conditioned, most have sea-view balconies that are sighted to catch ocean breezes. In keeping with the theme, each comes with a surround-sound system and a library of CDs by artists who have recorded at Compass Point, but you’re just as likely to keep them off, preferring instead to listen to the waves that crash on the hotel’s small beach.
Rutas al desierto de Marruecos – Excursiones al desierto desde Marrakech & Viajes al desierto del Sáhara en 4×4 con recorridos de 2, 3, 4, 5 y 6 días Ofrecemos una amplia gama de rutas al desierto desde Marrakech, Fez, Tanger y Casablanca al sahara de (Erg Chebbi) Merzouga O Erg chegaga en 4×4 y con paseo en camello a través de las espectaculares montañas del Alto Atlas, un espacio majestuoso de barrancos y un lugar virgen en el mundo moderno. Visita de las famosas Kashahs del sur como Kasbah telouat y kasbah ait ben haddou y pueblos bereberes. El desierto del sahara es un lugar mágico de tranquilidad, cielos claros, estrellas brillantes, colores intensos, grandes dunas y experiencias mágicas. Nuestras excursiones en camello en el desierto son escapadas para disfrutar de la serenidad del silencio y la luz, que sólo el desierto puede proporcionar. Pasamos la noche en jaimas nómadas con cenas deliciosas servidas debajo de un increíble manto de estrellas.
3 Derb Bechara، Fes, Morocco
Hidden behind unassuming doors, this 17th-century palace provides respite from the frenetic bustle of the medina without sacrificing sense of place. The property hits all the right Moroccan style notes: there’s plenty of arabesque-patterned tiling and a lush courtyard complete with tinkling fountain and fragrant citrus trees. But the classic interiors also have contemporary flair—see the chrome lamps, cement-hued tadelakt baths, and leather furnishings in the eight guest rooms, or the panoramic rooftop and on-site restaurant, which not only serves local Fassi fare but also offers free cooking classes that begin with a trip to the market. For an alternate take on tradition, guests head to the hotel’s candlelit Carrara marble hammam, which uses indigenous ingredients like ghassoul clay from the Atlas Mountains, black-olive soap, and argan oil for its soothing pamper sessions.
5 Derb Zerbtana, Fès 30100, Morocco
It’s easy to get lost given the dizzying number of courtyards, patios, and terraces at Riad Fes, a lavish stay in the heart of the medina that feels like a desert mirage thanks to its opulent zellige tilework, towering plaster columns, wrought-iron filigrees, and antique wooden doors. Individually appointed guest rooms follow suit with embroidered linens atop four-poster beds, stained-glass details, and richly patterned textiles. The hotel’s subdued L’Ambre restaurant offers a mellow counterpoint to the grandeur with clean lines and hushed color schemes that allow refined Moroccan dishes to take center stage—think roasted lamb with onion jam and caramelized carrots, quail pastilla, and spiced-fruit tagine with mango ice cream. The riad also has a chic pool overlooking a verdant vertical garden; equally serene is the spa, which provides gentle relaxation with its soothing hammam and menu of aromatic scrubs, wraps, and massages.
Derb Ziat, Fes, Morocco
With its carved arches, intricate tilework, and marble swaths, the scenic Palais Faraj feels like it’s from another time. Each room in the former palace is like a treasure chest of colorful rugs, stained glass details, and vibrant objets d’art; perhaps none are more enchanting than the library, with its arabesque and geometric patterns, though the lovely grounds, which are dotted with palm trees, rose bushes, and manicured hedges, are a close second thanks to their breathtaking views over the labyrinthine medina. Panoramic vistas also unfold from the hotel’s two restaurants, which serve Fassi specialties such as pigeon pastillas—try making them for yourself during an on-site cooking class. Other highlights include a spa with a traditional hammam and a courtyard pool for afternoon dips. As for the guest rooms, the hotel’s 25 suites are cloaked in the same elaborate tiling and carvings but stocked with mod cons like free minibars and Nespresso machines.
Car Parking Ain Azliten, 24 Derb el Miter, Talaa El Kebira, Fes 30110, Morocco
Though less decadent than some of the medina’s more storied hotels, Riad Ahlam offers charm in spades at budget-friendly rates. With its trickling fountain and potted citrus trees, an elegant central courtyard is the setting for highly Instagrammable daily breakfasts brimming with homemade pastries and breads, fresh fruit and juices, sweet jams, and aromatic coffee; lunch and dinner highlight typical Fassi fare such as spiced tagines and vegetable couscous. Guests seeking pampering can indulge in a massage on-site, then retreat to one of eight rooms featuring colorful local textiles, traditional Moroccan lamps and lanterns, and brightly hued bathrooms with mosaic-tiled showers and shiny copper sinks. There’s also a scenic rooftop terrace, a prime perch for a cup of mint tea with a view.
The real foragers aren’t in San Francisco or Copenhagen. They’re tromping through Morocco’s mushroom-gilded forests.
21 Derb Ourbia Makhfiya، Fes 30000, Morocco
Once a grand harem, this luxurious riad in the medina’s Andalusian Quarter is as enigmatic as its past. Interiors are peppered with worldly artifacts and contemporary furnishings, but all blend harmoniously with traditional handwoven rugs, bejmat tiles, and ornate lanterns. Seven lavishly chic suites are equally full of character: vintage Moroccan wedding shawls and antique Berber wardrobes offset modern amenities like high-end organic toiletries, walk-in rain showers and sunken stone tubs, and terraces wreathed in rose bushes and lush greenery. No less romantic is the hammam, complete with vaulted ceilings and graceful columns. There are also plenty of charming corners to settle into with a mint tea and homemade pastries, be it in the serene library courtyard, the umbrella-dotted rooftop lounge, or the hotel’s elegant crystal-chandeliered restaurant.
Riad Alya 8 Bis Derb Guebbas, Quartier, Fes 30000, Morocco
An oasis from the manic bustle of the medina, Riad Alya feels like a secret hideaway, one that teems with the icons of Moroccan architecture—think zellige mosaics, arabesques, and stately arches. The jewel box–like central courtyard continues the theme with intricate plaster and wood carvings, a babbling fountain, and wrought iron screens on the windows; fragrant orange trees sprout from the tilework and mingle with the scent of the mint tea that appears on a constant rotation throughout the day. It’s a tranquil place to while away the time before hitting the labyrinthine alleys outside, as is the rooftop terrace, which offers commanding views of the city and distant mountains. If the streets seem more chaotic than comforting, guests can recreate local flavors by way of a two-hour cooking class in the former residence’s kitchen.
23 Arsat Bennis Douh، Fes, Morocco
You’ll feel like royalty from the moment you touch down at the 19th-century Palais Sheherazade, a traditional Moroccan palace with zellige tiling, sculpted plaster, and stained glass. A massive courtyard patio lies at the hotel’s heart, with a pool bordered by 100-year-old palm trees, Andalusian-style greenery, and elegant black-and-white seating from the adjacent restaurant, where you can sip mint tea from etched-glass cups as the scent of jasmine wafts through the air. The 24 chandeliered suites are regal in size and decor, bedecked in sumptuous textiles, handpainted cedarwood ceilings, and gleaming copper sink basins. But the true star here is the Anne Sémonin spa, a palace unto itself with an array of decadent rooms, an Aquatonic pool, and a traditional hammam.
Dar Tazi, Fes, Morocco
To immerse yourself in the life of a Moroccan housewife, take a stroll through the fresh-produce market of R’cif, which winds through the lower part of the Fes medina. Plan to arrive by 10 a.m. when the market really gets going (by 11:30 a.m., it’s packed). In addition to browsing stalls of plump fruit and vegetables from farms in the Middle Atlas, you can snack here, too: hot trid—a gossamer-thin pastry baked over a rounded clay pot or “egg”—and irresistible meloui (multiple layers of dough that become soft and flaky as they are cooked) stuffed with spiced onions. Don’t miss seeing the infamously grumpy camel butcher whose signage is a real camel’s head hanging from a hook. Around lunchtime, mastermind your way deep into the souks to find the Achabine area, where the city’s best street food vendors ply their trade. The dishes served up here built this city and continue to do so every lunchtime: comforting bessara (split-pea or broad-bean soup) and harira (a Moroccan staple of chickpeas, lentils, and lamb broth); sardines doused in charmoula and deep-fried until crunchy; hard-boiled eggs dipped in cumin. Come in the evening if you crave bite-sized brochettes of tender lamb and spiced liver.
Nassau, The Bahamas
Down the beach from the wildness and noise from the Atlantis hotels and expensive food that is eh - is a serene slice of yoga heaven at Sivananda Ashram. The daily routine starts early in the morning and modest attire is required within the ashram but you have plenty of free time to spend on the beach in quiet ashram area. Rooms are Simple but clean. There are 2 vegetarian meals a day. When you leave this yoga vacation you will be relaxed, revitalized and rejuvenated.
Rue Bou Ksissat
Preserving food in salt is a centuries old method that crosses cultures. In Morocco, they salt preserve all sorts of vegetables as well as lemons. Every market you go to, you see containers and jars packed with all sorts of preserved veggies. Chicken tajine with preserved lemons and olives is a classic Moroccan dish which I loved eating and wanted to be able to make home home but I needed the preserved lemons. The cook, at the riad that we staying at in Fes, gave shared her recipe which is very simple. • 6 large organic lemons (Since you’ll be eating the rind, get organic lemons if you can. If not, wash the lemons well.) • 1/4 – 1/3 cup sea salt • Mason jar or any jar with a tight lid 1. Slice the lemons as if to quarter them but leave the base intact. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt on the flesh of the lemons and then reshape the fruit. 2. Pack the lemons into the jar, pressing down on each one to squash them. Sprinkle salt on top of each lemon as you go along. Add enough fresh pressed lemon juice to cover the lemons. I add a couple of dried chilies to the jar to add some “bite” to the lemons but you can add any dried herbs you like. Every few days, shake the jar to redistribute the salt. The lemons will be ready after one month. To use, remove and discard the pulp and gently rinse the rind under running water before slicing and adding to the dish. I’ve been using thinly sliced strips on top of grilled seafood and diced bits sprinkled in salads. Delicious!
Diabat, Morocco
I couldn’t get it out of my mind…like the time I heard that the Russian Cat Circus was performing in my city…I HAD to go and see those crazy Russian housecats perform tricks! Once I had heard that goats in Morocco climbed high up in trees, I was obsessed with the goats. My brain was focused on figuring out how and why they climbed the trees. Sure, mountain goats are definitely nimble, but climbing a mountain and climbing a tree seems totally different to me. How do they get up the treetrunk to the first branches - and beyond? Fast forward 1 week and I’m in a Grand Taxi leaving Essaouira early in the morning with a taxi driver who has told me he can take me to the fabled Moroccan goats that climb trees. This was no scam, in Morocco goats actually do climb trees - high up in the branches of Argan trees. Normally found in Southern Morocco, I was lucky enough to see them with my own eyes just outside of Essaouira. Argan trees are a thorny evergreen variety that grow in drought-ridden areas and are quite hearty. The Argan trees have fruits on them that the goats like to eat – actually, I think the goats are driven up into the trees in order to find food to graze on since it is so dry in these areas, the true definition of adaptation! If you want to see how goats climb trees, then go to southern Morocco and ask the locals to help you find them. Or just look closely at the Argan trees - you may just get lucky and spot one high up in the branches feasting on fruit!
Avenue Ben Mohamed El Alaoui, N° 1 Takharbicht، Laayoune Rcif، Fes 30200, Morocco
Probably one of my favorite souvenirs from Morocco are the mini tagines I bought from a friend’s shop and a pottery factory we visited in Fes, where these mini tagines were also available in what I’ve been told are the city’s emblematic blue and white. Easy to stuff in a suitcase (wrapped for safety in a scarf you bought, perhaps?), the mini tagines are a happy reminder of the many tagine meals you’ll undoubtedly devour but are more likely to make it home safely and without taking up half of your suitcase. And they’re as functional as they are cute (isn’t everything cuter in mini-form?) as you can use them to hold sugar cubes or spices in your kitchen or maybe even knick-knacks and paperclips on your desk at work!
We met our guide Mubarek all dressed in blue as most of the people in this part of the Sahara wore. The bright blue was a stunning contrast to the orange sand dunes. I was told that they wore blue because it was a bright color that was easy to spot but it didn’t absorb as much sun and heat as black. Mubarek provided us with bright colored turbans and taught us to tie them in order to protect our faces from the sun and the sand. I also dawned my sunglasses since my eyes were already burning from the dry conditions. I had left my vanity behind somewhere on the un-air conditioned local bus ride a few days ago. I knew I looked ridiculous, but I honestly didn’t care. After all, I was about to ride a camel! Mubarek led us out to our camel train and started to explain how we were to get on and off the camels. The camels were all tied together in a long train so that we didn’t have any control of the reins and they just followed each other ensuring that we didn’t have to think and simply hold on. We rode for about an hour and got deeper and deeper into the sand dunes. You could see the fine sand blowing off the tops of the dunes, reminding me I was experiencing an ever-changing, ever-moving landscape. Technically – I wasn’t on solid ground. The camels had no fear, they would walk on the edge of a dune, just plodding away. Finally, in the distance you could see some black tents and a small bit of green grass – our home for the night. More Info:
Km5 Route d'Amizmiz، Marrakesh 40160, Morocco
It took four years to build this hotel at the base of the Atlas Mountains. French designer Jacques Garcia included black-and-white zellij tile work and other intricate Moorish details. Each of the hotel’s five guest riads (typical Moroccan houses) comes with a private garden and heated pool. At the spa, guests can choose from hydrotherapies and traditional remedies such as a facial mask that uses rhassoul clay from the mountains. The hotel’s stables house 16 Arabian purebreds, which visitors can meet on a stable tour when the steeds aren’t roaming the property. From $392. 212/(0) 52-445-9600. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Rahba Kedima, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
Argan oil is celebrated for its skin-nourishing properties. It’s also hugely expensive when bought outside Morocco, so this cosmetic wonder is pretty much a no-brainer for any Marrakesh shopping list. Inside the medina, argan products are not hard to find, but it can be hard to know which merchants are selling the real, unadulterated deal. My first suggestion, then, would be either to enlist a guide or visit a dealer you know to be legitimately government-approved. Otherwise, if you’re deep in the souk, keep an eye out for Assaisse Ouzeka, which sells legit argan products made by a women’s cooperative in the coastal town of Essaouira. Look for a slightly messy setup by the door with women demonstrating the oil-extraction process. (It’s apparently still done by hand everywhere, which strikes me as amazing.) Inside the tidy, well-lit shop, you’ll find everything from hair and skin oils to lip balm and anti-wrinkle cream. The salesgirl who helped us was very sweet and—a true rarity in the go-go souks, one sometimes feels—not too pushy. I wish I could be more specific about where the shop is, but anyone who’s been in the souks knows what a labyrinth they are!
Rahba Kedima, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
I sampled tagines from a half-dozen places in Marrakesh, including fancy restaurants, and the succulent chicken tagine at Bakshish, an unassuming and bohemian-flavored café in the souk, topped them all. It’s a nice spot to take a break from haggling with spice and leather vendors—and has Wi-Fi, too. On Rue des Banques.
Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
We set off not long before sunset, from the “new” village across the river. Passing over a modern bridge, I didn’t feel at first like this trek in Morocco was much different than any other. Then the terrain changed, I had to pay more attention to where I walked, we began to pass open doorways with lives in progress barely visible far back in the dark spaces. I saw a crude sign with faded, tape-covered photographs advertising that this was the place in which ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ had been filmed. As we climbed further, passed more houses, took in more of the stamped details in the mud walls -- I finally understood. It’s protected by UNESCO and for good reason. There are probably thousands of kasbahs and ksars in the country of Morocco but the devil is in the details at Aït Benhaddou; walls, patterns, faces of the 10 families who remain, the sound of a drum beating faintly from down a passage. Take time to come early enough in the day that you can shop and bargain with the locals who still reside on the hill inside the old ksar. Leave enough time to hike to the very summit, where the watchtower is, to view the sun setting over the entire valley. Old caravan roads snake through the landscape intertwined with the gleam of the river; it’s a serene space that feels a bit worshipful. To what I don’t know, perhaps to the confluence of nature and man’s creation. After all, nature is trying to bury Aït Benhaddou but man will not be driven away.
N9, Morocco
The distance between Ouarzazate and Marrakech is only 200km (125 miles) but the drive on the N9 through the High Atlas Mountains can take as long as four hours. The winding road, full of switch backs and featuring such scenery as to make one’s jaw drop in disbelief is not recommended for those who suffer chronic motion sickness. Like myself. So, when we woke up, the long drive ahead of us and an eagerness to see my beloved Marrakech again, I medicated and prepared myself mentally for four hours of white-knuckle-torture. By the time we arrived at this vantage point in the Tichka Pass, I was suffering more from a backache and pain in my hands than from nausea. Dramamine is truly a wonder drug! And thank god for it, there isn’t a drive I have done anywhere in the world that was as rewarding as the road from Ouarzazate to Marrakech. Car rental is possible and the Lonely Planet forums have great information on doing this yourself but I recommend having a very good, local driver. Be prepared with very warm clothing for getting out and taking pictures at the highest parts of the pass, the temperature drop is astonishing and the winds will knock you over. The view you’re rewarded with is, of course, worth it! There are also wonderful small villages scattered all along the N9 - to stop in and eat, shop and rest your body before completing the drive.
Amizmiz, Morocco
Marrakech continues to be one of my personal favorite destination. I admit, it has a lot to do with the shopping, particularly the Berber traditional pieces- each rich with their own story. And there is no better place to experience the Berber culture first hand than in the Atlas Mountains! As you wander up the mountains you pass through simple clay Berber villages, alive with children at play, adults at prayer & animals lazily soaking in the sun. The view of the snow capped mountains above you (don’t worry, you don’t go up that far!) and the dusty mountain in front of you along with the desert view below you all serve as a steadfast reminder of the nature that surrounds you. Hiking the Atlas Mountains is an active way to experience ancient Marrakech- life here has been lived in a similar way for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I recommend departing early in the morning, by 9:00 am, with a guide from Amizmiz, which is a small Berber village about 30 miles outside of Marrakech, at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains. Be sure and have your guide arrange for a back up donkey in case anyone gets tired along the way. While not technically challenging, it is a 5-6 hour round trip hike, mostly up. Also be sure and have your guide arrange for food- I particularly enjoy having a picnic under the shade of a tree at the top of one of the lower peaks. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, hat & a camera. The people of the region make for the best photos- just ask permission first!