"Bandits," she said when I told her I was planning on driving around Morocco. "Watch out for bandits." I hadn't read anything in the travel books or on the Internet about Moroccan bandits, and her warning startled me. She's a friend and an experienced traveler who'd been to Morocco a few years ago and even published a story on her journey.
But I dismissed her warning. She had, after all, confessed that her lodging had been at a lavish resort on the coastabout as intimate a cultural experience as eating Chef Boyardee in Rome's Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Her exposure to "real" Morocco was a four-hour bus tour of Marrakech.
Unfortunately, my friend's tinted-windowed wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am back-to-the-resort as-fast-as-you-can view of Morocco is all too common among American visitors. Conversely, I wanted to experience this land in its rawest form, from mountains to desert and ocean. I wanted to be hurtled by a wave in the shadow of a Roman ruin, roll down the side of a sand dune in the Sahara, or claw my way up the side of a scrubby ravine in the thin air of the High Atlas. More importantly, I wanted to meet real Moroccans, not the Western-educated types who went to Swiss hotel schools. So after landing in Casablanca, I rented a Pugeot 405, filled up the tank at five bucks a gallon, and headed straight for the Atlas Mountains, bandits be damned.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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