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Leave Winter Behind

MARRAKESH TO FEZ

WHY The road that runs 430 miles along the southern flank of the High Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh to Fez travels through some of the most photogenic desert in the world. The stunning panorama of mountain passes, rolling sand dunes, and nomadic Berber camps has lured cinematographers for everything from Lawrence of Arabia to Jewel of the Nile. Four days gives you time to explore area highlights, including the stretch from Ouarzazate to Tineghir called the Road of the Thousand Casbahs, after the crumbling forts and citadels along the way, built through centuries of tribal warfare. But don't let your eyes wander from the road for too long: dangers include aggressive drivers, narrow passes, and precipitous drop-offs, as well as wandering pedestrians and livestock. Make sure to rent a four-wheel drive. ITINERARY P31 from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate, P32 to Er Rachidia, P21 to Azrou, P24 to Fez. HEAT FACTOR The average daily temperature in December is 66 degrees, but desert nights can be a cool 45. Must-See At Boulmane du Dadès, on P32, turn left and ascend the fertile valley of the Dadès River, which winds down a red-limestone gorge from the heights of the Atlas Mountains. Beyond Ait Oudinar, the valley becomes more rugged, with switchbacks and spectacular vistas of the barren gray-brown mountains. PIT STOP Many of Fez's small Andalusian palaces now offer classic "palace dinners" of couscous and b'steeya (a sweet pastry of chicken, almonds, and spices), accompanied by belly dancers and other traditional entertainment. At La Maison Bleue (2 Place de L'Istiqlal, Fez; 212-55/636-052; www.maisonbleue.com; dinner for two $95; doubles from $265), the descendants of a once celebrated astrologer, Fe Mohammed el-Abbade, welcome guests to his 1915 palace. Where to Stay Ever since its opening in 1923, celebrities have flocked to the famous Hotel La Mamounia (Ave. Bab Jdid, Marrakesh; 212-44/444-409; www.mamounia.com; doubles from $285), in the heart of the city. The new celebrity favorite is Amanjena (Rte. de Ouarzazate, Marrakesh; 212-44/403-353; www.amanresorts.com; doubles from $800), with its modern Moroccan design and impeccable service. The 17th-century Kasbah Ben Moro (24 miles east of Ouarzazate; 212-44/852-116; doubles from $60), in the oasis of Skoura, looks out over groves of date palms to the fortress complex of Casbah Amerhidil. ON-LINE INFO www.tourism-in-morocco.com; www.morocco.com.

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