Beaches of Tangier to Moroccan Interior

Entry #1 in the 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest. With its soft Mediterranean beaches, lush patchwork of farmland, sky-scraping mountains and vast desert, Morocco’s mix of climates, geographies and cultures are guaranteed to leave you with lifelong memories.

Days 1-2: After arriving at Tangier International Airport, you step into the sun and are immediately greeted by the warm 25º breezes coming off the Mediterranean Sea. Any of the cab drivers waiting outside would be happy to take you to a good beachside hotel, where you can expect to pay no more than $25/night. Spend a day or two in Tangier and start your summer vacation off right—at the beach! This ancient city has historically been one of the wildest in the country and was frequented by the beat poets and other intellectuals drawn by its exotic and vibrant atmosphere.

Days 3-4: When you’ve gotten your tan and limbered up for adventure, hop a train from Tangier to Fés ($5). Though some may prefer to take a bus or a taxi to Fés, there’s really nothing quite like the train. You may be surprised by the variety of people in your cabin and their eagerness to communicate with you, regardless of language barriers! When you arrive at the train station, hop in a taxi to Pension Hotel Dalila ($15/night) and enjoy the sight of the medieval walled-in city as you crest the bordering hills. Nestled among variegated rooftops is your hotel, a comfortable and friendly lodging, which will be your base camp for the next few days. The hotel sits at one entrance to the medina—a sprawling medieval labyrinth of nearly 10,000 streets and alleys packed with stores selling exotic wares, certain to be treasured souvenirs. The hotel will offer you a tour, but politely decline and wander in on your own. Get lost! Discover the amazing intricacies of the network of shops, and when you get tired, toss a couple of Dirham (the local currency) to one of the young boys in the medina and he’ll lead you out. You’ll be surprised at how many languages many Moroccans can speak, even when they’re eight years old. Be sure before you head back to the hotel to see the leather-tanners in action. Once again, ask a boy to lead you there and buy him candy or give him a few Dirham for his trouble.

Day 5: From Fés, hop in a taxi and negotiate a price for the whole day ($30 for up to four passengers). With business out of the way, ask to be taken to Vollubolis, the ruins of a Roman stronghold, which date back to 300 BC. Among the ages-old columns and mosaics, you can imagine yourself as an archeologist wandering among what are virtually unexcavated ruins. Look around yourself or hire a local to give you a tour. When you’re done, hop back in the taxi and head back to spend your final night at Pension Dalila.

Day 6: Now it’s time for some real adventure. From the Pension Dalila, you can arrange a $200, 4-day tour of the Moroccan interior, with everything but food included in the price. The first day, you’ll depart from Fés in a chartered taxi headed for Erg Chebi and one truly memorable travel experience. Passing first through the greenery of the northern portion of the country, and then over the towering Atlas Mountains, you’ll hardly believe the instantaneous transition to desert. With the Atlas Mountains raking the moisture out of incoming clouds, the area is about as dry and desolate as any other place on Earth and at the heart of it is the world’s grandest desert, the Sahara. The enormity of the Sahara is unimaginable, even as you catch sight of the first dunes on the horizon.

Your taxi will eventually leave the road and hurtle towards the dunes and a beautiful lodge that sits isolated at the edge of the sand. You arrive just as the afternoon is winding to a close and enjoy a little bit of local music before putting on your head wrap and hopping on a camel. While the sun sets over the sensuous sandy curves, your Berber guide will lead you and the members of your caravan to an encampment among the dunes. These tents are not the Ritz, and it may be just as sandy inside as it is outside, but when you see the full moon rising over the towering dunes that surround the campsite, you’ll know it was worth it. That night you eat a delicious local stew with either chicken or lamb (this meal in complementary).

Day 7: You wake up naturally to find the first rays of dawn softly illuminating the roof of your tent. The best place to see the sun rise is from the peak of one of the tallest dunes, but if you can’t make it the 1000+ feet to the top, just collapse and let the smooth, cool sand envelope your arms while you’re treated to one of nature’s greatest sunrises. After the camel ride back to the hotel, bid farewell to your guide and hop in the taxi for the ride to the Toudra and Dadés Gorges, impressive canyons of brown sandstone. Take a hike or relax in the comfort of your hotel.

Day 8: You’re back in the taxi for the prettiest leg of the ride. You’ll see the stark landscape punctuated by the bands of green palm trees and ferns that grow beside the sporadically placed rivers. The Kasbahs, or fortresses, of ancient tribal leaders dot the hills. By the time you arrive in Oazazet, Morocco’s Hollywood, you’ve adjusted to the desert landscape. Oazazet was used as a filming location for countless movies for its natural beauty. Once you’re there you can enjoy the beautiful views of the jagged mountains beyond the city, tour the city’s Kasbah or lounge beside the hotel pool.

Day 9: Today ends your journey through the interior, but the adventure is far from over. The tour ends in Marrakech, perhaps Morocco’s most popular tourist destination. In the center of town, you can find snake charmers and carnival games. Fresh orange juice stands compete for your business by giving out free samples and shops sell souvenirs. During the day, take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city ($3), watch the snake charmers play with deadly cobras or enjoy

freshly squeezed juice ($0.50).

Day 10: From Marrakech, hop in a taxi to Asilah, a beautiful, Mediterranean beach town ($10). The white architecture with pastel blue and green designs is housed within the fortified walls of an old castle and has some beautiful, sun-drenched beaches. Today is perfect for evening out that farmer’s tan you got in the gorges and deserts. Kick back, enjoy the view and digest the experiences you’ve had over the past 10 days. At the end of the day, hop a train back to Tangier.

***Robert Ward

I took this trip last summer, and I haven’t found anything that can come close to competing with it. I have pictures if you’re interested in them as well.

Readers can comment on this vacation itinerary – your comments do make a difference in determining the winner!

Filed Under: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

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Comments (8)

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  1. Robert Ward says:

    Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the trip!

    -Berber guide leading you into the desert on camelback.

    -Leather tanners at work in Fés.

    -The ancient ruins of Vollubolis.

    -The High Atlas Mountains tower over the southern deserts.

    -The beautiful white streets of Asilah

  2. Emily Harvey says:

    Your vivid descriptions and enthusiasm for the natural beauty and culture of Morrocco make feel like I’m already there – but since I’m not, you’ve convinced me to go! Great pictures!

  3. Holly Thurow-Riahi says:

    I was in Morocco this summer. My trip was filled court appearances and filing papers. I was there getting married and the process was difficult. I look forward to returning with my husband so he can show the Morocco you got to see.

  4. James Trotta says:

    I love the first picture:

    I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Thank you very much for sharing! You’re really getting our contest off to a strong start!

  5. Diette Peyroux says:

    I visited Tangiers many years ago but did not venture into the interior of Morocco. After reading this wonderful trip description, I hope that I can travel there once again to follow the featured itinerary.

  6. Sarah J says:

    damn you! I’ve read all the books but haven’t gotten there yet… argh.

    and by the way, how do you plan to get a beer to Philly? good luck!

    one question: how come you didn’t create links to the sites with pictures?

  7. Sharon says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your travel plan. I’ve not experienced much of Africa, other than Casablanca. The visualization you provided adds even more appeal to what is obviously a fascinating country to visit.

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