Before I went to Morocco, I talked to a lot of people who had been there before, and everyone assured me that “you’ll love it,” and “it’s so amazing and beautiful!” I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed and out of all my trips, this is one location that I do not want to go back to. Maybe it was the food poisoning that stuck our entire travel family for the last 6 days of our 10 day trip (post on that coming later), but I really made an effort to go out and see things despite feeling like death, and I wasn’t too impressed. That being said, my absolute favorite part of the trip was our camel trek into the Western Sahara, and an overnight stay in some nomad tents.
The culmination of our 4 day guided tour was in the town of Merzouga, a small desert camp about 10 miles from the Moroccan-Algerian border. We stayed in a riad where the desert began right outside our back door, and the resident camels were relaxing behind the pool. Our adventure began by hopping on the back of a camel and heading out into the dunes of the Western Sahara, bumping along for over an hour until we reached the nomad tents. While it wasn’t the most comfortable ride I’ve ever taken, the unique experience and surprising height of the camel made up for the sore butt I had when we finished. The sand in the Western Sahara is vibrantly orange, and the dunes rising up around you really make it seem like you are in a weird, Martian landscape rather than still on Earth. I don’t know if it’s bad luck to take some sand like in Hawaii, where they tell you that the locals believe you’re cursed if you take some of the volcanic rock, but Stacy and I were rebels and did it anyways! Definitely a very cool souvenir.
Our guide stopped the camel caravan at the top of a sand dune effort we reached the nomad camp so we could enjoy the sunset and then try our hand at sand boarding. I had watched videos beforehand of people falling and eating it while sand boarding so I didn’t stand up, but rather sat and rode the board down the dunes. Stacy, Cory, and Todd all stood and seemed to have an easy time of it but I decided to play it safe. Once we had all taken a turn, we walked down the dunes to the nomad camp to settle in and get ready for dinner.
The nomad tents were actually very comfortable, but we were worried at the start that it would be very hot while we slept. They are made with such heavy canvas and have heavy carpets hung in the doorway that it trapped most of the heat from the day inside. There were 4 beds, very basic, with several blankets, and a toilet and sink outside. We sat around a table and enjoyed some tea while we waited for the guides to make dinner, a traditional Moroccan meal of salad and then chicken tajine, followed by fruit for dessert. Some of the group stayed outside after dinner for some dancing and playing Moroccan instruments but I was so tired that I went straight to bed. We kept the tent flap open throughout the night so it helped a little in cooling the inside of our sleeping quarters, but since I sleep very warm, I was very hot all night. I would have rather slept outside under the stars.
The guides woke us early in the morning, about 4:30, with some clapping and yelling outside the tents. We washed up and they sent us walking up the sand dunes to watch the sunrise while they readied the camels. It was nice and cool so early in the morning, and we reached the top of the nearest sand dune in time to see a beautiful sunrise over the mountains of Algeria in the distance. Our guides walked the camels up to us and from there we hopped on and began the hour long trek back to the village.
Overall the camel trek was an amazing. Never did I think I’d have an opportunity to visit the Sahara desert, and to stay in authentic nomad tents and enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine was an unforgettable experience. Our guide who arranged everything and was with us every step of the way on our 4 day adventure was Hassan, and I highly recommend him!! He has his own touring company now, Morocco Bahddou Tours, so check him out here!