The Atlas Mountains run thru the center of Morocco, dividing the coastal region from the Sahara. There is a wonderful route from Fez to Marrakech that runs along the southern edge of the lower Atlas Mountains as it merges into the Sahara. The road traverses a high Alpine region before dropping into semi desert spotted with lush oases. Some, such as Erfoud and Ouarzazate, are sizeable and very picturesque towns today. Ouarzazate is the center of a large film industry taking advantage of the area’s high mountains, sandy deserts and picturesque Kasbahs. The nearby Ait Benhadddou is an exceptionally beautiful fortified city made up of six Kasbah (forts) and nearly 50 individual kfir (palace/forts). Its red clay construction and architecture are iconic. Erfoud, renowned for its dates, is the gateway to rolling red sands of the Sahara, the world’s largest desert, stretching from Morocco right across the northern third of Africa. Though it is the hottest place on earth, on a cloudless night, temperatures drop as low as 41 °F and the sky is filled with millions of bright stars. To walk across the shifting dunes by camel, eat under the stars accompanied by the a Tuareg band and then sleep in a magnificent desert tent is an experience to long remember. Other areas of interest are the massive Todra Gorge with its amazing rock formations near Tinghir and the Valley of Roses, closer to Ouarzazate. For total luxury and pampering, stay at Dar Ahlam, a traditional Kasbah built in the shade of hundred year old palm trees. You will feel like royalty as your write your own Arabian Nights, exploring date and rose harvests, smelling the scent of almond trees and dining in a different spot each night on recipes capitalizing on the Berber and Arab cuisines of the area.

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Marcia Gordon