Rock the Casbah: Morocco

Right out of the movies: The dunes of Ouarzazate.Photo: Corbis

Clambering around casbahs in the desert, haggling in narrow medieval alleyways, riding Arabian horses through remote mountain villages, and speeding on desolate sandy roads. On a road trip from Marrakech to Fez, you can live this Lawrence of Arabia–meets–Thelma & Louise fantasy without taking more than a week off from work. Start with a night in a Marrakech riad, an exquisitely appointed mansion turned inn in the medina. At dusk, stroll the Place Djemma al Fna, packed with street performers and food vendors – and don’t even think of missing the souk, one of Morocco’s largest and liveliest. In the morning, rent a car and set out for Fez. Spend a night in Ouirgane, a mountain hamlet known for its luxury hotel La Roseraie, complete with a Moroccan-style spa, and for the neighboring Berber villages (get a guide to lead you – on the back of an impeccably groomed Arabian). After crossing the dizzying passes in the High Atlas mountains, stop to explore Ait Ben Haddou, a massive old abandoned casbah, and spend the night in Ouarzazate (site of stunning dunes featured in many movies). Next, the daylong drive to Fez (stop for lunch in Midelt). The journey takes you through rolling green farmland dotted with sheep and wild Barbary apes – and back to jet-set style at the Riad Maison Bleue, in Fez’s medina. Now, you could hire a car to see the city’s gardens or get lost in its winding medieval souks – or you could collapse into your brocade-bedecked, Technicolor suite and ring for a platter of pastries and mint tea.

Marrakech: Villa des Orangers (011-212-44-384638; from $260). Ouirgane: La Roseraie (011-212-44-439128; from $206). Ouarzazate: Le Berbere Palace (011-212-44-883105; from $168). Fez: Riad Maison Bleue (011-212-55-741873; from $260). Erfoud: the Riad Salam (011-212-55-576665; from $45).

Many hotels have hammams, traditional bathing rooms with scrub-and-rub pros to wash you down with powdered herbal soaps.

Spend a night in Erfoud, a Saharan oasis town, and wake up at 4 a.m. for a bumpy two-hour ride to watch the sunrise over the Merzouga dunes.

Web Guide

General Information
Tourism in Morocco
Adventures of Morocco
Travel Intelligence: Morocco
Lonely Planet: Morocco

Villa des Orangers
Le Berbere Palace (not official site)
Morocco Hotels (agency)

Tours & Agencies
Golfing in Marrakesh
Adventure Tours
CLM Leisure Ltd.

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Rock the Casbah: Morocco