The first reaction of most visitors to the flood of new impressions is to draw a long, deep breath and sigh; the odours of mint and blossom mingling with the acrid smell of the tanners' yard, the unearthly wail of the Muezzin and muleteers "balek! balek!", the subtle intricacies of an art that had reached its apogee and a daily rhythm that seems barely to have changed since the coming of islam.
For some, it begins with a glimpse of the cloud-veiled Rif, the first of three giant ranges that slice sideways across the mountain and culminate in the High Atlas, a wonderfully impressive barricade of snow-clad peaks that tower above a mystic city, dark ravines and hidden valleys. Beyond the oases of extraordinary fertility, planted with pomegranite and palm and the only bulwarks against the advances of the sterile desert. Here the air is luminous, the silence almost deafening and one understands instinctively the burning desire for purity which has fueled every Moroccan dynasty.
The Almohads, Merinids and Almoravids came from the dunes but their genius erupted further north in a spectacular flowering of mosques, minarets and palaces that is everyones vision of life in the Orient. The monuments of Fes and Marrakech defy heaven in their own opulence but, at the heart of even the most sumptuous, there is the modest, desert dream of a life of quiet contemplation passed amid ripening fruit and the gurgling of fountains.
For some, the countries main appeal lies in the quality of its beaches. Morocco has always been a crossroads, the place where the East collides with the West and Africa shakes hands with Europe across the narrow straits of Gibraltar. It also marks the merger of the Mediterranean with the Atlantic and this gives Morocco two strikingly different coasts.
You may like to combine a few days on one of the beaches together with exploring the kasbahs and oases of the pre-Sahara where the only waves are those shaped by the receding dunes. You could disappear into the medieval world of Morocco's ancient cities and souks or go skiing in Oukaimeden or trekking on foot or on horseback in the high Atlas or play golf on some of the finest courses in the world.
Moroccans are friendly, polite, competitive and intensely curious about the outside world. Islam is a thriving faith but Morocco's version is also extremely moderate, open minded and tolerant. You can go a long way into the heart of their culture just by feeling independent enough to accept their hospitality which pours forth from rich and poor alike whether in the city or the countryside. Such gestures of friendship are what transforms a good holiday into a great experience, for then you are no longer just visiting but really living.