If you stay a week in Marrakech and you have an adventurous soul, you need to do this excursion.
Even though Marrakech is pretty far from the desert (7 hours road trip towards the closest entrance), many tour operators offer a good pack to spend a night in the desert.
Here is how it goes:
– They will come pick you up at your hotel at 7am.
– Then you will start the 7 hours road trip.
– A stop every 2 hours maximum is planned.
– You will cross the gorgeous Atlas mountains and stop 3 times at least on main spots for pictures.
– You will also be able to buy some snacks on the way and other random souvenirs.
– First long stop at Ksar Aït Ben Habbou, where thanks to a guide you will be able to discover and antic city and its Kashba (castle) used these past years for many movies and series such as Gladiator or Game of Throne.
You will also be able to discover how artist there paint with a mix of green tea, safran and sugar and then “heat” it to reveal the colors and make them more intense.
– Lunch at Ourzazate: Morrocco’s Holywood. You will be able to visit next to the restaurant a museum where the decors, rooms and accessories are still used nowadays for movies all over the world.
– Finally you will arrive just on time at Zagora: the first entrance to the Sahara desert from Marrakech. From there, forget the truck! That’s thanks to a camel ride that you will get to the camp. The berber nomads lead the way and you can let yourself to admire the gorgeous scenery of the sun slowly disappearing behind these mystic sand dunes – which hopefully will help you to forgot how uncomfortable a camel back can be.
– After 30 to 45 minutes dandling on the top of these surprisingly calm and consilient animals (+ 5 minutes to get back the normal use of your legs and other parts of your body), you will arrive to a pretty fancy tent shared with 3 other people.
– It is now time for the traditional welcoming berber tea and you will get few minutes to rest and talk with your nomad hosts.
– Shortly after follows the diner: traditional berber soup and tajine (vegetarian or chicken) and for desert we got fresh pomegranates.
– Once everybody is full and relaxed, we all get together around a bonfire and enjoy some traditional (and less traditional) berber songs. If you feel to sing the nomads will be happy to learn some new songs and share their bongos (and empty jug) to allow you to show the rhythm and eventually dance around the fire. As the nomads call it, it’s “Sahara nightclub”.
– By the time you get tired of playing around, you will naturally let your head go back and discover the beauty of “Sahara TV”. The night is dark, the starts are bright and moment magic and surprisingly confortable thanks to these traditional berber carpet on the sand.
– Morning arrives soon, and with it, the special berber breakfast composed of bread, fresh butter, raw honey, coffee, tea and camel milk! Forget about the usual and boring flowers on buffet’s tables. Here the real beauty in the silence of a fresh morning and enchanting shadows of the sun finding very slowly its way towards the sky.
– In order to not miss a second of it, you will quickly pack again and get back to camel to ride it like a local as the sun rises behind the dunes. By the time you reach the truck, the heat in back and memory of the incredible softness of the sand is burned in your mind.
– Next stop dates picking and shopping. You will have passed many dates farms in the way to the desert, so trust me, you will be very happy to treat yourself with some Moroccan golden rich melting int he mouth fruits.
– Lunch will come soon with a stop in a restaurant and argan oil shop certified organic by european and american labels. The best place to buy it if you are not expert in argan oil because the production farms are in the Atlas mountains and you can buy it there directly from the producers.
Argan oil is considered like the arabic gold. It is a world famous oil used for its amazing properties to protect and repair the skin and hair. Once roasted, it can also be used as a very healthy and flavorful cooking oil. If you think that peanut butter is the best thing in the world, wait to try the Amlou: an arabic equivalent made out of argan oil, almonds and honey!
– After many other stops for picture, snacks or rest, you will finally get to the main square around 6 to 7pm; probably exhausted, but with you head full of stars, your pockets full of dates and you shoes full of sand!
It is truly an unforgettable experience – and not only because you will also get to see a camel chewing.
It is worth every dirham: 450 exactly, if you negotiate well like always. It includes everything except the lunches, the shopping, snacks and water along the road, and the entrances to the museums (45 dirhams total for the sites/museums).
However if you want to get this price, you might have to walk around Marrakech streets and negotiate there because your hotels and riads will have a set price much higher and often non negotiable.
Good luck and have fun !