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Planning Morocco itinerary - any advice?

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I'm working on an itinerary that is basically:

Arrive Marrakesh - half day tour in afternoon

Either one or two more free days in Marrakesh -- to see the basics (we're not shoppers) do you think one free day is enough or would two be better?

Leave for 4 day/3 night trip through Ouarzazate
Spend 1 night outside O.
Travel to Merzouga (see Todra Gorge, Dades Gorge)- spend night in Merzouga.
Free day around Merz. to tour around with driver then go via camels to tent in desert
for the night.
Return by camel to Merzouga, shower, then leave for Fez.

Spend that night plus either one or two more in Fez.

Optionally, we may do a day trip from Fez to Meknes & Volubilis. Am questioning that -- will we be so tired of spending time in the car that we'll just want to focus on Fez? Does anyone have an opinion on whether they are not to be missed? Not to sound jaded but after seeing the Roman city-ruins Ephesus & Jerash I don't feel totally compelled to see Volubilis -- but if it's very special, please give me that opinion.

With limited time it seems like Essaouria will be left out - altho' it could be done as a day trip from Marrakesh if it is a must. I'm sensing that it is so "different" from Morocco in general, that it maybe is not a total loss to miss it -- again, please let me know if that's a mistake.

And any favorite riads in Fez or Marrakesh? It's boggling my brain trying to decide -- there are so many great choices. And the reviews on tripadvisor seem to be full of one-timers so I'm not certain how much to trust their ratings. I'm probably going with Riad Mabrouka in Fez but Marrakesh is wide open. Possibly Riad Les Cigognes, Elizabeth, Meriem, Noir d'Ivoire, Al Moussika??? Any of those get a thumbs up here? Or any others?

Thanks for any help anyone can provide.

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