Morocco carries with its name a tradition of deep-seated mystery that beckons curious travelers (such as myself) to knock at its desert doors. With a vast landscape comprised of sandy beaches, snow-topped mountains, dusty plains, and sandy dunes, the northeast African country is home to Arabs and Berbers who roam the streets in loose-fitting robes and slippers. Nomadic camels and adorable donkeys dot the terrain, providing ideal photo opportunities. And if you’re in the market for a carpet, lantern, or colorful silk sarong, this is the destination for you.
A Few Tips on Getting There
Flying from the United States to Morocco can be a costly and lengthy endeavor. You can break up the trip while saving up to 50% on airfare by flying first into Lisbon, Portugal on SATA Airlines. Spend a few days exploring the laid-back waterfront European city, and then proceed to Morocco.
Airfare from Lisbon to Marrakech on Royal Air Maroc costs as little as $250 per person with one short layover. Eat breakfast in Portugal and lunch in Africa like the true global jetsetter you are.
All told, you can travel from Boston to Lisbon to Marrakech and back for close to $1,000. I know because I’ve done it myself!
A Few More Tips on Getting Around
Once you arrive in Morocco, hire a guide and driver so that you can sit back and relax. There are many reputable companies that offer custom travel itineraries for less than you might expect; my fiancée and I hired Morocco Adventures. Youssef, our English-speaking guide, picked us up at the airport and drove us across the country, stopping at our request for bathroom and lunch breaks.
In addition to airport transfer, our personalized tour included all meals, hotel stays, attractions, and excursions, including a camel trek. Unless you specify otherwise, the management will select all of the restaurants and hotels based upon your price point and preferences. We chose four-star hotels, which brought the total cost to just over $1,200 ($600 per person).
And Now for the Camels
You’ll want to spend a day or two relaxing on the beautiful sandy beaches of Agadir before proceeding east through the mountains towards the Sahara Desert. You’ll find some fabulous resort hotels there where you’ll be able to lounge in the lap of luxury, cocktail in hand. Staying at one will drive up the cost of your tour, but it’s worth the splurge. Try Hotel Riu Palace Tikida Agadir.
You should also plan to visit Ait Benhaddou along the way; it’s where both Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.
We rendezvoused with our camel trekking guide in the town of Merzouga. There, a score of hotels meet the terra cotta hills of sand that constitute the Erg Chebbi; after many hours in the car, the site felt to me like a welcome oasis. As part of the trek, we spent one night sleeping in a tent camp; be sure to book an additional night at one of the hotels to take full advantage of the tranquil environment. Try Riad Nezha or Nasser Palace. The latter is four kilometers from the dunes but features a luxurious hammam and spa.
Our furry couriers slowly maneuvered their way through the dunes, providing us with a front row seat to the most magical sunset we’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe how peaceful the experience was. At camp we enjoyed tea under the stars and feasted in a carpeted tent. The night concluded with a campfire, and the guides entertained with traditional song and dance. As we retired to our private carpeted tent and snuggled into bed, we realized that there’s nowhere on Earth quite like Morocco.
All photos are courtesy of the author.