18 Jun Glamping in the Sahara Desert
The car was at a 45 degree angle. I was holding the roof handle with one hand and my sister in the other who was sliding towards the door that inched closer to the sand.
Our car was at tipping point; a knife’s edge from completely toppling over onto it’s side.
“Uh Oh” Rachid said to us.
Rachid was our driver and had mentioned he was a little ‘rusty’ when it came to tackling the dunes in the 4WD, because it had been a while since he drove through here.
“At least the fall would be soft” my sister whispered, as her eyes met the sand.
As the three of us sat in complete stillness, unable to move in case any flutter of movement influenced the actions of the 4WD, we watched two Berber men, dressed like Aladdin, appeared over the dunes and run towards us.
Words of Arabic were passionately exchanged with Rachid before one of the Berber men replaced Rachid, and attempted to free of us of the second bogging we had gotten ourselves into.
The 4WD slid back and forth, wheels racing, Arabic shouting. Finally we were free. Rachid hopped into the passenger seat and Aladdin continued to drive us over the dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco; bodies bouncing, heads narrowly missing the roof, towards camp.
It was only when we reached camp, our bodies filled with relief. The Aladdin’s seemed to multiple, and before us there were about 10 Berber men warmly greeting us.
Berber are Arabic nomadic tribes who reside in the North African desert.
They led us to our tent along a path of mismatched Moroccan rugs, lined by lanterns, which connected eight white luxurious canvas tents.
Our tent was bigger than my bedroom. Other than our beds, it contained table and chairs, and an en suite bathroom equipped with hot shower, basin and toilet.
Past the tents was an open lounge room comprising of an assortment of Moroccan cushions, which we later learned were set up for star gazing.
Opposite the open lounge room was a main tent that acted as the ‘restaurant’ where breakfast, lunch and dinner were served at a time of your liking. Outside the restaurant was an open fire pit, a couple of Moroccan drums and more cushions.
The camp is set in a beautiful spot between sand dunes and gives the impression of being alone in the vast African desert while enjoying the comforts of a nomad royalty. We felt like we had just stepped into one of those stories from the Arabian nights.
“This was worth the 11 hour journey” my sister said as we sipped fresh lemonade and mint tea offered on our arrival. It was now 7pm and we had been in the 4WD since 8am.
Rachid had picked us up from our Riad in Marrakech. We had organised a 3 Day private tour to glamp in the Sahara Desert.
Rachid drove us towards the Atlas Mountains, where we winded our way through the Tizi n‘Tichka pass. It is a spectacular and dramatic road that presents astonishing views of the snow topped peaks of the Atlas as well as many Berber villages. We then descended into Ouarzazate and crossed the gorge to reach Agdz, where the palm grove of the Draa Valley lines. This is the longest river valley of Morocco.
Later, the trees disappear and strange rock creations of the volcanic mountains of Sahro emerge and lead the way to the desert.
We had arrived at camp just in time for sunset.
“You can watch the sunset from up there” instructed one of the Berber men.
We followed his pointed finger to a tall sand dune. Dumping our shoes at the bottom, we began ascending.
The sand was thin. It slipped through our toes like water, making it quite the challenge to climb. We settled at half way.
“Up here girls!” a Spanish man shouted from above. He was standing tall on the dune and began demonstrating the technique of climbing dunes by leaning forward and tip toeing on the spot.
We followed his instructions and made it to the top. The view was spectacular as we watched the sun set against the silence of the desert.
Dinner is served as a three course meal, featuring traditional tagines, roast meats and vegetables, followed by a campfire beneath the starry African sky. Nothing compares to the millions of stars, silence and peacefulness of the Sahara.
At dawn we rose to climb the dune again to watch the sun cast its golden light over the desert. After some breakfast, my sister and I headed off into the vastness of the dunes on a camel caravan accompanied by a camelteer.
The sturdy camel has been a mainstay of desert life over the centuries, being used to ship the precious cargos from Sub Saharan Africa to the trading ports of the Mediterranean coast.
We rode the camels and slipped into the pace of the caravan led by our Berber guide and marvelled at the awesome spectacle of the desert and the solitude a silence that comes with it.
We found an oasis where our camelteer made us mint tea under a palm tree, before returning back to the desert camp.
The afternoon was ours to enjoy with activities on offer such as sand boarding or relaxing at the many areas spread around the camp.
As evening falls, we enjoyed another traditional 3 course dinner, followed by entertainment around the campfire with music, drums, and singing from our Berber guides.
Leaving the camp, Rachid successfully drove us out of the dunes with no bogging. We cheered when we made it out and drove towards Todra Gorge, a spectacular gash in the hills that surround Tinerhir.
The region is dotted with deserted kasbahs, palmeries and mudbrick villages. The cliffs loomed above us as we approached the mouth of Todra Gorge.
Rising to 300m, the honey-colored hues of the sheer face change constantly as the sun moves across the sky. Local Berber people can often be seen moving their herds through the gorge.
Heading into the gorge we had the chance to stretch our legs on a walk to fully appreciate the beauty of the area. Rejoining Rachid, we retraced our steps out of the gorge and followed the route of Thousand Kasbahs to Ouarzazate.
We visited Ait BenHaddou, a famous Ksar before winding our way back through the Atlas Mountains towards Marrakech.
Tour: Private Tour from Marrakech
Company: Desert Luxury Camp
Cost: 4950MAD based on 2 people (approx. 495EUR).
- All vehicle transfers in 4WD with fuel and native driver English speaking
- 2 nights in luxury desert camp with ensuite private bathroom
- Breakfast, Lunch and dinners at the camp and non alcoholic beverages
- Professional Camel Guide, Camels, sand boarding and other activities
- Consultation on every aspect of preparation
- Lunches on route
- Discretionary tips and gratuity
Duration: 3 Day, 2 Nights
What to bring:
- Scarf / Sarong for protection from desert sun and dust
- Hat, Sunglasses, Light Clothing
- Cash (there are ATMs on route)