For westerners, Morocco holds an immediate and enduring fascination. Though just an hour's ride on the ferry from Spain, it seems at once very far from Europe, with a culture Islamic and deeply traditional that is almost wholly unfamiliar. Throughout the country, despite the years of French and Spanish colonial rule and the presence of modern and cosmopolitan cities like Rabat or Casablanca , a more distant past constantly makes its presence felt. Fes, perhaps the most beautiful of all Arab cities, maintains a life still rooted in medieval time, when a Moroccan empire stretched from Senegal to northern Spain; while in the mountains of the Atlas and the Rif, it is still possible to draw up tribal maps of the Berber population. As a backdrop to all this, the country's physical make-up is also extraordinary: from a Mediterranean coast, through four mountain ranges, to the empty sand and scrub of the Sahara.
All of which makes travel in Morocco an intense and rewarding -if not always easy -experience. Certainly, there can be problems in coming to terms with your privileged position as tourist in a nation that, for the most part, would regard such activities as those of another world. And the northern Morocco cities especially have a reputation for hustlers: self appointed guides whose eagerness to offers their services -and whose attitude to tourists as being a justifiable source of income (and to women as something much worse) -can be hard to ideal with. If you find this to be too much of a struggle, then it would probably be better to keep to low-key resorts like Essaouira or Asilah, or to the more cosmopolitan holiday destination of Agadir, built very much in the image of its Spanish counterparts, or even a packaged sightseeing tour.
But you'd miss a lot that way. Morocco is at its best well away from such trappings. A week's hiking in the Atlas; a journey through the southern oases or into the pre-Sahara; or leisured strolls around Tangier, Fes or Marrakesh -once you adapt to a different way of life, all your time will be well spend. And it is difficult for any traveller to go for long without running into Morocco's equally powerful tradition of hospitality, generosity and openness. This is a country people return to again and again.