Going Our Way: A 10th anniversary getaway to Morocco

By K.C. Summers
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 1, 2010; 1:14 PM

Who: Cynthia and Todd Thurlow, 38 and 40, respectively, of Ashburn

Where: Morocco

Why: 10th anniversary getaway

When: September 2011 for seven to nine days

Budget: $10,000

"We're celebrating 10 years together and wanted to see a part of the world that we have yet to visit. We are hopeful that Morocco will combine our passion for travel with a certain degree of romance and historical importance."

"You're wandering down a long, dark alley, and you start to wonder what you're doing there. Then you open a door and you're in a magical place exploding with color, tiles, gardens, a fountain."

Tour operator Christine Elbert is on the phone from Morocco, talking about riads, former private homes or small palaces that have been turned into guesthouses. Built around a central courtyard, they're furnished with traditional handmade furniture and textiles; some have terraces, gardens, swimming pools and private hammams (bath and spa).

You don't have to stay in a riad to have a great time in Morocco, but it adds romance and authenticity to the experience - which is what Cynthia and Todd Thurlow of Ashburn are looking for in their 10th-anniversary trip to the North African country next fall. Restored casbahs and desert resorts offer additional distinctive lodging options for the Thurlows, who want to combine luxury accommodations with local experiences and active pursuits. On their to-do list: museums, shopping, dining, hiking in the High Atlas Mountains, and perhaps a cooking class.

The first decision: Travel independently, or go with an escorted tour?

If you're up for adventure, Morocco is doable on your own, although you may spend more of your valuable vacation time than you'd like lost in the winding alleys of the medinas, or walled cities. Hire a local guide in each city, both to show you around and to help fend off touts. The Moroccan National Tourist Office Web site, www.visitmorocco.com, has a comprehensive list of government-certified guides organized by city.

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