It used to be necessary to transit through Casablanca — an undistinguished city alluring only in the minds of Bogie and Bergman fans — in order to connect to Marrakech and Fes, but those cities are increasingly accessible from major European gateways. And in November 2018, a high-speed rail line opened, reducing the journey between Tangier and Casablanca from five hours to about two. Most Moroccans see themselves as quite separate from the Middle East and practice moderate, tolerant forms of Islam. Berbers, the indigenous inhabitants of the country, regard Arabs as colonists as much as they do the French. The geographic diversity of Morocco might also come as a surprise, considering it encompasses sandy beaches, lush palm and olive groves, snowy alpine mountains and the sand sea of the Sahara. Marrakech sees millions of tourists each year, but much of Morocco remains unspoiled. When we visited the old ksar of Ait Semgane, for example, we felt like the first travelers to see the ruins.

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