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Reviews of Holidays and Hotels in Morocco - Five Great Routes To Relish

The Sunday Times (colour magazine), 30 December 2001

Five great routes to relish

Engine throbbing, but nowhere to go? Simon Hacker has a highway to heaven on every continent

[This page edited to display only the route related to Morocco]

Driving in Morocco is gripping - the most gripped bit being the horn - but it is worth it for one of the world's most dramatic drives: the 170-mile Berber trade route from Marrakesh to Agadir. Once you've hit the S501, it's a doddle - just stick to the strip of tarmac and avoid the rocky side bits. The out-of-town speed limit is 62mph, and that's beaten only by hash-crazed, tailsliding cabbies. Watch out, too, for dodgy-looking "official" road blocks: no matter how endearing, there are only so many jewel-encrusted daggers a tourist needs.

After you've soaked up the souk in Asni, it's a wiggly 6,800ft climb to the Tizi-n-Test pass. The road is narrow and the view south to the Anti Atlas Mountains dramatic.If you have a giddy aunt, spare her the postcard.

Highlights: don't miss Tin Mal, a vast, fortified mosque founded in 1153. Down on the fertile plain, the last stop before Agadir is the enchanting, ochre-walled city of Taroudant. Market days here are Thursday and Saturday. Be warned, though: these narrow streets are no place for shiny hire cars, so park up.

From Taroudant, you'll drive through the Souss Valley, a lush patchwork of fig, almond and orange plantations. Locusts have been known to strike here, so keep your windows up.

Agadir itself was flattened by an earthquake in 1961, and the rebuilt city is a bit like Eastbourne, though flocks of flamingos give it the edge.

Pit stops: Winston Churchill's favourite in Marrakesh was La Mamounia . A luxury riad will be a bit cheaper: Dar Nadir has log fires, mosaic tiling and an exquisite hidden courtyard.

What to drive: look-at-me wheels will make the locals stare even more. Given the narrow roads, wise wayfarers bag a Renault Clio or Fiat Punto.

On the CD: you could try the top female singer Najat Aatabu's Voice of the Atlas. Contemporary chill-out is good too: the last thing you want to do on the precipices is rock.

Packages: Best of Morocco has four nights (three in Marrakesh, one in Taroudannt) from £pp, including flights and three days' hire of a Fiat Uno.