Spending a Night in the Sahara!
"The desert is natural; when you are out there, you can get in tune with your environment" - Robyn Davidson
One of Morocco's iconic sights is the Sahara desert and it is awesome just how accessible it is from the country's two main hubs in Fes and Marrakesh. Now, when I say accessible, it is still an overnight bus journey or 9-hour drive, but once you're there it is so worth it. On a recent trip, we were fortunate to get on a Mouhou tour operating out of Merzouga and, long story short, would 10/10 recommend.
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Getting to/ from Merzouga
So the only real negative about the Erg Chebbi part of the desert is the actual getting there and back. Our route across the country left us taking the overnight Supratours bus from Fes and then the 7.30am bus to Marrakesh the next morning that, while they did the job, weren't the most ideal. The overnight bus was fairly grim and an arrival at 6am left us with nothing to do until the afternoon when the tour starts but book a hotel and shelter from the 40 degree sun. Similarly, that 7.30am but to Marrakesh meant that we had to choose whether to wake up at 4 and ride the camels back, or relax, have some breakfast and appreciate the sunrise and then take a 4x4 back to Merzouga. We chose to do the latter, which was fantastic, but another couple of hours in the desert to relax would have been awesome, shame there is no other bus. So, if you can, we'd maybe recommend looking into a driver to set your own timetable!
Camel riding into the desert
There is something especially awesome about riding a camel through the Sahara desert with the sun setting behind you. Your camel may be in a convoy with a few other tourists who have also made the trip, but it feels like a proper adventure, as though you could genuinely stride out into new lands (or, you know, Algeria...). There is a part in Paulo Coelho's bestselling book 'The Alchemist' when the main character gets on a camel and rides on-and-off through the Sahara desert to the pyramids of Egypt, and that was the image I had running through my head on the 2.5-hour ride to camp. That you got to stop and just marvel at the colours, taking pictures the whole time was just an added bonus. Just be sure to step back from the lens for a while and just appreciate where you are!
If the idea of camping in the desert conjures up poorly-made tents and a pan to use as a toilet, then you'll thankfully be mistaken! The camp is amazing! Decorative lamps, tables, nice rugs and carpets, a bonfire adorn the middle of the site, add to that a welcome tea, enough food to feed an army, and stunning tents that include locking doors and proper bed-frames, and it was honestly a genuinely nice place to stay for the night. After dinner, there was music, dancing, and just general chit chat under the stars and well, what more can you ask for? Oh, and there's coffee in the morning!
Final note as a mad-props to the guide who drove us back to Merzouga who, after realising that we had missed the bus, sped through the back roads and desert tracks to catch up to the bus a few towns along and made sure we got on! Saved our bacon!