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Honeymooning in Morocco
Perfect Honeymoons (Cadogan Country Guides)

Mysterious Morocco has always been a lodestone for the romantic traveller. Just a short ferry ride from Spain, and in full view of Gibraltar, it yet seems a whole world away. This haunting otherness has fuelled generations of artists, writers and film-makers. Whether it is Hollywood's version of Casablanca, Bertolucci's vision of the Moroccan Sahara in The Sheltering Sky, Orson Welles' Othello or the most recent North African classic, The English Patient, all have attempted to distill some of the particular magic of the country onto celluloid. For here lies a whole continent of vivid landscapes, lit by clear desert light and enlivened by the distinctive music, cooking, dress, architecture and religion of Morocco.

There are medieval walled cities like Fez, with their labyrinthine streets drawing visitors into a maze of covered markets at the centre. Here carpet-weavers, leather-tanners, wood-turners and potters pursue the unchanged pattern of their millenial crafts. Proud minarets proclaim the mystery of faith at the holy hours of dawn, noon and dusk. Houses offer blank, fortress-like walls to the outsider and preserve all their secrets within: courtyard gardens shaded by fragrant orange trees, mosaic fountains and elaborately decorated suites of rooms for guests.

Above the pounding surf of the Atlantic coast stand a succession of charming towns with bustling fishing ports, tower-girt walls and cascades of white-washed houses. Here you can swim on the wide sands of such bustling resorts as Agadir, choose the quieter beauty of Essaouira or Asilah, or stop of in quiet coves known only to shepherds, seamen or surfers.

Having passed through the majestic forests and snow-capped summits of the Atlas Mountains in the south, you reach the dramatic contrasts of the desert. The mountains lie stripped of all flora, nakedly revealing every twist of their mineral and fossil-rich rocks. In surreal contrast vivid oasis valleys, bright gashes of emerald green flecked with the reflections of running water, run south through the barren hills. Their mud-built settlements - Erfoud, Rissani and Zagora - now boasting splendid hotels, were once stations on the fabulous Saharan gold routes. For sand dunes make for Erfoud and the famous sand desert of Merzouga. You can explore at the slow rate of a camel, stopping for the night in superbly appointed bivouacs, sleeping in traditional black tents lined with thick carpets. You can travel by landrover with a local guide, take to the wheel of your own hired car or merely hole up in the pampered cocoon of one of Morocco's famous luxury hotels. Best of all, design your own itinerary taking in a little of everything from nights beneath the stars to beguiling, exclusive and opulent pool-side luxury.

Flying Time
To Casablanca
London: 3 hours
NY: via London or Paris

The most fashionable season is April/May, while January and February see rain almost everywhere.

Check that your tetanus, polio and typhoid vaccinations are in date. You can talk to your doctor about protection against hepatitis and malaria (usually unnecessary). Drink bottled water, peel fruit and take medecines for upset stomachs.

Moroccan dirhams (currently around 15 to the 1) can only be bought in Morocco at banks and in larger hotels. Traveller's cheques, credit cards and Eurocheques are accepted by all the larger hotels, restaurants and shops.

At the beach or by the pool wear as little as you like, but respect local custom and don something longer than shorts and a T-shirt when exploring the traditional quarters of the old cities.

The official language of Morocco is Arabic, though French is widely spoken. English is spoken by staff in all the large hotels.

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