In a country where the king just pardoned 7,000 prisoners on the occasion of his son's circumcision, lavish celebrations and feasts are part of the welcoming atmosphere for locals and tourists alike. A country of contrasts, from modern cities and beach resorts to desert communities unchanged for centuries, come rock the Kasbah and discover the beauty and mystique that is the Kingdom of Morocco. Make sure you visit the breathtaking Atlas Mountains; the laid back coastal town of Essaouira; and Marrakesh with its labyrinth-like souk, where the vendors will haggle with you over endless cups of mint tea and puffs of smoke from traditional hookas. Worried about the language barrier? Don't be -- although Arabic is the official language, most people in service industries speak French and at least some English.
Royal Air Maroc (www.royalairmaroc.com/ENG) flies direct regularly from New York to Casablanca and then onwards to other cities in Morocco, including Agadir, Fes, Rabat and Marrakesh. Airfare during May and June is relatively inexpensive so if you wanted to tour Morocco independently, a round-trip flight to most Moroccan destinations would cost you between $555 and $590 plus taxes of approximately $160.
Even during the summer, the price stays low. If you don't mind flying via Europe. Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) has a number of options, including round-trip flights from New York to Casablanca on Alitalia for $595 plus taxes or $665 plus taxes on Delta (valid until August 1, 2005).
For great deals on Moroccan hotels from two stars to five stars, visit www.cheapaccommodation.com. Examples include the five-star Kenzi Farah Hotel in Marrakesh for $81 per room (garden view) per night, including breakfast or for $117 per room, try the five-star Medina and Spa Marrakech which includes breakfast and dinner with a garden view room. Prices are valid until May 23, 2005.
For a short sojourn in Morocco, Gate1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has a six-day Marrakesh getaway with a starting price of $989 per person plus taxes from New York. This rate is valid from departures from September 7 to 26, or for $70 more, travel between now and May 26 or September 27 to October 24. Price includes round-trip airfare, four nights accommodation at the four-star Atlas Hotel, breakfast and dinner daily.
They also have an eight-day "Crown of Morocco" tour that takes in the three spectacular cities of Fes, Marrakesh and Casablanca. Starting at $1,099 per person plus taxes from New York, it includes round-trip airfare, six buffet breakfasts, five dinners, airport transfers, sightseeing per itinerary in an air-conditioned bus, an English-speaking escort/manager and all entrance fees. This price is applicable for departures on September 3 and 24. Add $100 for October ad November departures and $200 for the departure on May 7, 2005.
Heritage Tours (tel. 800/378-4555; www.heritagetoursonline.com) is featuring a special twelve-day / ten-night "Rhythm of the Souks" tour that coincides with the Ninth annual Fes Festival of World Sacred Music from June 3 to 14, 2005. The land-only price for this tour for two to three passengers is $1,690 per person, or $200 less for four to five people and $400 less for six or more participants. This price includes ten nights' accommodation (double occupancy) in Morocco's finest hotels, deluxe or buffet breakfasts daily, private air-conditioned sedan (two or three passenger) or minivan (four or more passengers) with driver and fuel, all airport transfers, hotel service charges and taxes, expert private qualified guide, all admissions to sites and admission to the Fes Festival concerts and events including opening night. The total cost for international (New York to Casablanca) and domestic (Fes to Marrakech to Casablanca) flights on Royal Air Maroc is $590 per person plus air taxes. A 3% service fee is applicable for payments by credit card.
Gateway to Morocco (tel. 866/410-1300; www.gateway2morocco.com) has a number of interesting and often unique tour opportunities with everything from camel expeditions to Jewish Heritage tours. Their seven-day "Oases, Dunes and Desert Tour" is an adventure into some pretty rough terrain and stunning desert landscapes in four-wheel drive vehicles. With a starting price of $1,577 per person plus approximately $70 in taxes (in June, July and August 2005), the package includes round-trip airfare from New York, accommodation in three-star hotels for five-nights, two meals per day, transfers and all sightseeing in a private vehicle. A minimum of four participants is required.
For more information about Morocco (in no less than six languages), visit www.tourisme-marocain.com/english/indexen.htm.
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