A land of spice-scented mystery and medieval kasbahs, Morocco puts your senses on high alert. The country is a magic carpet ride of extremes, from the searing Sahara to the snow-dusted High Atlas Mountains; from Marrakech's thronging medinas to petal-strewn serenity in a Fez riad. It's a place where spirituality rises with the first adhan (call to prayer), where cities are urban labyrinths and where runaway donkeys rule the souks. Bring a sense of adventure, a talent for haggling and patience for the long, bumpy but thrilling ride.
Ancient and modern collide in the tree-fringed boulevards of the European-flavored capital, Rabat. Trace the Atlantic coast north to Tangier for colorful street life and glimpses of Spain. Head south to bustling Art Deco port and silver-screen legend Casablanca. The symmetry of Hassan II, the largest mosque outside Mecca, is breathtaking. Inland, the imperial cities of Marrakech and Fez whisk you back to the Middle Ages, where donkey carts rattle down the streets of walled medinas.
With snow, the Sahara and everything in between, it's no wonder Morocco is synonymous with outdoor adventure. Hike the color-changing peaks, mudbuilt kasbahs and time-locked Berber villages of the High Atlas Mountains. An old caravan route leads to the enigmatic fortified city Aït Benhaddou, of Lawrence of Arabia fame, which glows red at dusk. In winter, take to the slopes of Oukaïmeden, Africa's highest ski resort (2,600m). Ride the rippling dunes of Saharan Morocco by 4x4 or camel hump.
Spain is sometimes glimpsed from the coves along the northern Mediterranean coast, backed by the snow-capped Rif Mountains. Pummelled by Atlantic surf, the west coast takes you to Casablanca's cafe-lined Corniche and Agadir's ever-popular sweep of golden sand. Today there are more wave-crazy surfers than hippies in Taghazout and whitewashed Essaouira. In the latter, ride a camel along the beach as the setting sun silhouettes Borj el-Berod, the sinking ruins said to have inspired Jimi Hendrix's Castles Made of Sand.
Eating and Drinking
Deep in the labyrinthine medinas of Fez and Marrakech, rose-petal-strewn riads serve a Moroccan diffa (feast) by candlelight. Savory tagines, slow-roasted Mechoui lamb and saffron-infused couscous are menu regulars. Tuck into French cuisine in elegant colonial surrounds in Rabat and Atlantic-fresh seafood in coastal Agadir and Casablanca. Doughy tagella bread is baked in the hot sands of the Sahara. In souks across the country it's polite to accept (and slurp) mint tea, poured from a great height into tinkling glasses.