Djemaa el-Fna Street Theatre
Circuses can’t compare to the madcap, Unesco-acclaimed halqa (street theatre) in Marrakesh’s main square. By day, ‘La Place’ draws crowds with astrologers, snake-charmers, acrobats, and dentists with jars of pulled teeth. Around sunset, 100 restaurant stalls kick off the world’s most raucous grilling competition. ‘I teach Jamie Oliver everything he knows!’ brags a chef. ‘We’re number one…literally!’ jokes the cook at stall number one. After dinner, Djemaa music jam sessions get underway – audience participation is always encouraged, and spare change ensures encores.
The Fez medina (Click here) is the maze to end all mazes. Don’t be surprised if you get so lost you end up paying a small boy to take you back to familiar ground. But don’t be afraid, because getting lost is half the point: blindly follow alleys into hidden squares and souqs, with the constant thrill of discovery. Treat it as an adventure, follow the flow of people to take you back to main thoroughfares, and experience the excitement of never quite knowing what’s around the next corner.
Camel Trek in the Sahara
When you pictured dashing into the sunset on your trusty steed, you probably didn’t imagine there’d be quite so much lurching involved. Don’t worry: no one is exactly graceful clambering onto a saddled hump, and the side-to-side sway of a dromedary in motion only comes naturally to Saharawis, belly dancers, and genies. The rest of us novices cling on comically, knock-kneed and white-knuckled, until safely over the first dune. But as rose-gold sands of Erg Chebbi rise to meet fading violet-blue Saharan skies, grips on the reins go slack with wonder – and by moonrise, Timbuktu seems totally doable.
Drâa Valley Kasbah Trail
Roads now allow safe, speedy passage through the final stretches of ancient caravan routes from Mali to Marrakesh, but beyond the rocky gorges glimpsed through car windows lies the Drâa Valley of desert traders dreams. The palms and cool mud-brick castles of Tamegroute, Zagora, Timidarte, and Agdz must once have seemed like mirages after two months in the Sahara. Fortifications that housed gold-laden caravans are now open to overnight guests, who wake to fresh boufeggou dates, bread baked in rooftop ovens, and this realization: speed is overrated.
The Anti Atlas’ main town, Tafraoute has a jumble of pink houses and market streets with extraordinary surroundings. The Ameln Valley is dotted with palmeraies (palm groves) and Berber villages, and the looming mountains stage a twice-daily, ochre-and-amber light show. With a relatively undeveloped tourist industry despite the region’s many charms, it’s a wonderful base for activities including mountain biking and seeking out prehistoric rock carvings. As if the granite cliffs and oases weren’t scenic enough, a Belgian artist applied his paintbrush to some local boulders – with surreal results
Anti Atlas Trekking
A sunburned granite range leading to the Sahara, the Anti Atlas remains unexplored compared with the High Atlas. The star attraction for trekkers is the quartz massif of Jebel L’Kest, the ‘amethyst mountain’, which you can walk to through the lush Ameln Valley. More farming villages and crumbling kasbahs are found around Jebel Aklim, another of the excellent trekking possibilities in this area of blue skies and Berber shepherds. The landscape has enough variety, from palm-filled gorges to brooding, volcanic Jebel Siroua, to justify multiple treks