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You'd think that a desert country like Morocco would have enough sand for everyone. But at least a few parties feel the need to steal sand from Morocco's Atlantic beaches. Yes, steal it—by literally bulldozing dunes, trucking the sand away to make cement, and leaving behind ugly lunar landscapes.
Coastal Care, a U.S.–based environmental organization that advocates for the world's beaches, has found destructive sand mining operations in over 30 countries, as far afield as Cambodia, Jamaica, and Australia. But its co-founder, Olaf Guerrand-Hermès, believes that the situation is worst in Morocco, where hundreds of miles have been mined for decades, particularly along the stretch of Atlantic coast between Tangier and Casablanca. Outside the small seaside towns of Larache and Kenitra, for instance, dunes have been completely bulldozed. According to Guerrand-Hermès, who has a home in the area, the sand-mining business is run by a syndicate second in size only to Morocco's drug mafia. The Moroccan government has designated Larache as a target for major resort development, but the large-scale removal of sand makes the beaches unsuitable for tourism. It also ruins turtle and seabird nesting areas and exacerbates erosion problems by removing nature's defenses against storms.
If you go: The northern Moroccan coast—a stretch Budget Travel has called the "next French Riviera"—is still being discovered by visitors. Asilah is known for its restored whitewashed walls and narrow streets; less-polished Larache has a bustling medina and still-intact beaches. Stay at the Hotel Al-Khaima, just outside Asilah and directly across from a gorgeous stretch of sand.