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I have been fortunate enough to have visited Morocco (Al Maghreb) three times and it is a destination that entices and astounds. The beauty of this country lies in its diversity, its ancient traditions and the sheer allure of the landscape, people and cultureÂ?oh and the delicious gastronomic delights that await. For photography buffs, Morocco is a visual feast of color, energy and surreal landscapes, so make sure your memory card is at least one gigabyte or more! There is a lot to see and do here, from the beaches of the Atlantic coastline to the souks (markets) of Fez, the Jewish quarter of Marrakech to the desert oases of the Atlas Mountains -- each more spectacular than the next.

One little known fact about Morocco is that is considered home to one of the world's top ten surf breaks. Join Access Trips (tel. 888/580-8747; www.accesstrips.com) for the ultimate Morocco surf vacation and you'll enjoy deserted breaks, expert surfing lessons, accommodations in a stylish beach house, gourmet food (cooked by a private chef), a Sahara overnight excursion, and visits to vibrant souks and other cultural spots. With a diverse range of breaks (from easy beach breaks ideal for beginners to powerful point breaks that challenge experts), a Morocco surf vacation is open to surfers of all abilities. Access Trips' eight-day Surfing Safari is priced at $895 per person based on double occupancy and this land only adventure includes seven nights' accommodations, six days of surfing, daily level-specific coaching (with a maximum instructor-to-student ratio of one to five), surfboard rental, optional evening surf classes, all transportation including airport transfers, all meals, overnight surf excursion to the Sahara Desert (if surf conditions permit) and an excursion to the Atlas Mountains. Single supplement is only $89. There are regular departure dates from Agadir from September 3, 2006 to June 3, 2007.

At the other end of the spectrum is Cuisine International's Dar Liqama Cooking School (tel. 214/373-1161; www.cuisineinternational.com/index2.html?/morocco) located just outside Marrakech. If you are interested in learning the secrets behind one of the richest culinary traditions in the world, its residential cooking course looks delicious. The school itself is a majestic Moroccan palace. Set against the backdrop of the picturesque Atlas and Jbel Ette Mountains, the villa is designed in a traditional Moroccan architectural style with luxurious accommodations. Amenities include a roof terrace, swimming pools, a Hammam (Turkish steam bath), an exercise spa, tennis courts, fountains, a beautiful palm treed garden and a customized kitchen where the classes take place. Guests can participate in eight to nine hands-on cooking lessons during the week, and enjoy a variety of other cultural and sightseeing activities including a guided shopping tour of the souk in the Medina, a day trek in the Atlas mountains to see the historic Berber villages, camel-riding in the Palmeraie, a tour of the major historical attractions of Marrakech, relaxation time at the villa to enjoy the Hammam and daily mint tea time with Moroccan pastries and local musicians. Classes will include recipes for Moroccan salads made with organic produce, Lamb Tagine with prunes, Chachouka, Chick pea soup, Pilpil Shrimp, Couscous aux sept legumes, Kebabs, lemon chicken, briaouts (triangle pastries) and more. The course includes seven nights' accommodations, all meals with wine at the Villa, cooking school tuition, excursions (without food) and transfers to and from Marrakech airport. Prices start at $2,395 in a Superior room, or $1,995 for a non-cooking guest. Courses run during the months of February, March, October and November and dates for the remainder of 2006 are October 7-14, October 14- 21, October 28-November 4, November 4-11and November 11-18.

Journey Beyond Travel (tel. + 1/765-387-4404; www.journeybeyondtravel.com) has recently reduced the price of its 12-day land-only Morocco tour. The trip includes a maximum of eight people, private air-conditioned transportation, 11 nights' accommodations at three-star hotels (riads), gite, a desert camp and a home stay, breakfasts daily, some lunches and most dinners, a qualified U.S. guide with ten years experience in Morocco, a Moroccan guide, excursions to historical monuments and sites, a Moroccan cooking class with Chef Lahcen, camel rides, plus daily Moroccan Arabic lessons. Visit Marrakech, Imlil and Armed, nestled in the High Atlas Mountains, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate, Kelaa El Megouna, the Dades Gorge, the Todra Gorge, a camel trek into the Sahara Desert from Erfoud, Merzouga the Ziz Valley, Azrou, Ifrane, Meknes, the holy town of Moulay Idriss, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, (another World Heritage site) and Fez. This trip is currently priced at $1,679 per person (regular price in $1,979) and departs from Marrakech on September 3 and 24, October 15, November 5 and 26, 2006.

Gateway 2 Morocco (tel. 866/410-1300; www.gateway2morocco.com) features a wide selection of Moroccan tours from desert safaris to golf trips. Its seven-day "Oasis, Dunes & Desert" tour visits Marrakech (the Saadian tombs, the Koutoubia Mosque, the Bahia Palace the Menara Garden, the souks and Djema El Fna), Ouarzazate, Taddert, the Tiz-in-Tichka pass, the Telouat Kasbah, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, Tifoultout and Taourirt Kasbahs, Zagora, Agdz, the Draa valley, Tensikht, Tinfou Tamegroute, Erfoud, Tazzarine, Alnif, Rissani, Merzouga, Tineghir and Tinejdad. The trip includes round-trip airfare (non-stop flight) with Royal Air Maroc from New York, airport transfers, six nights' accommodations in double occupancy rooms on half board basis (two in Marrakech, one in Zagoira, one in Erfoud and two in Ouarzazate), ground transportation in deluxe air-conditioned minivan and by Land Rover with a driver throughout the tour, entrance fees to all monuments and government certified tour guides. The tour departs every Saturday from New York with a $250 supplement for December departures. Rates start at $1,675 staying in three-star hotels and $1,825 in four-star hotels. Single supplement is $300.

Odysseys Unlimited (tel. 888/370-6765; www.odysseysunlimited.com) has a 13-day "Moroccan Discovery from the Imperial Cities to the Sahara" tour that takes in five UNESCO World Heritage sites, the imperial cities of Rabat, Meknes, Fez, Marrakech, the sacred town of Moulay Idriss, the ancient ruins of Volubilis, the scenic "Route of a Thousand Kasbahs", a Sahara camel ride, Todra Gorges, Zagora, "Gate of the Desert", Kasbahs of Ait ben-Haddou, a home visit with a Berber family and Casablanca. The trip includes round-trip airfare, 12 nights' accommodations in deluxe and first class hotels, 28 meals (12 breakfasts, four lunches, 12 dinners), extensive sightseeing, services of an Odysseys tour director, private motorcoach transportation, gratuities and a $100 frequent traveler credit towards your next Odysseys Unlimited tour. The tour is priced from $2,795 from New York, $2,995 from Boston or Washington, D.C. or $3,095 from Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia or Tampa for a November 28, 2006 departure and slightly more for October 3 or November 7, 2006 trips.

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