Experiencing the Sahara Desert
So…no Moroccan trip is completed without a visit to the Sahara Desert. The Sahara is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. I’ve came across this article recently saying that the Sahara was lush and green until human beings and goats came and turned it into what it looks like now.
Joining a tour is the most hassle free way to experience the Sahara. There are LOADS of tour operators online and locals luring you to go with them in the medina.
Choosing Sahara tour operator
The price range for the Sahara tour varies a lot, from USD150 to USD300 with similar 3 days 2 nights itinerary that I found online. We did not sign up any tours in advance as we want to decide upon arrival. I contacted my hostel in Marrakech to check if they organize any Sahara tours.
What’s covered in the Sahara tour?
Their tour costs only USD80 including:
- camel ride
Excluding lunch, drinks and tips.
Lunch cost depends on what you order, ranging from MAD50 to MAD100. You will be very full if you pay MAD100 for food. Tips are actually optional. A guide popped up out of the blue and took us to Ait Benhaddou. In the end they asked us explicitly to pay him tips. Next tipping session was for the camel ride.
Off to Sahara Day 1
The staff picked us up from the hostel and drove straight to Ait Benhaddou with a toilet stop on the way.
I slept all the way. When I woke up, I arrived at Ait Benhaddou which is an UNESCO World Heritage site. You may find this site very familiar as this is a place for many renowned films like Gladiator, The Mummy, Prince of Persia and the TV Series Game of Thrones!
A tour guide popped up from nowhere and took our group to visit Ait Benhaddou by crossing the muddy river.
After lunch, it was about an hour drive to the Kasbah City where they have a cinema studio…subject to an entrance fee. None of us was interested to visit. Our next ‘attraction’ was Oasis of Skoura, the Valley of Roses. Since it wasn’t the rose blooming season, we only saw a land of mud.
It was about sunset when we reached the Valley of Roses. We stayed at a hotel in Dades Gorges. The hotel has no central heating or whatsoever. There were only a heater and a fire in the kitchen. I had no words to describe how freezing it was as I had to put on all my clothes when I was asleep. It was also a challenge to take a shower. I think I only spent like 6 minutes which was record breaking. Thank god they had one and the only one hairdryer in the hotel.
My second camel ride experience Day 2
We were so happy to leave that freezing hotel and head to the Sahara Desert. Before that, we went to Dades Gorges and a very hard-selling Moroccan carpet session. Honestly, the Moroccan carpets that they showed us were all beautifully made, however, a carpet is completely useless in Hong Kong because we have limited space in our apartment. Thanks to a Canadian in our group who bought some so that we can leave. It was so funny to see that everyone was trying to avoid eye contact with the Moroccan guy.
After lunch, here came the highlights of this tour – 2 hours camel ride to the tents in Sahara! I am not gonna lie, riding on a camel was no fun to me as it can be quite uncomfortable…Compared to the experience I had in Mongolia, this Sahara one was thousand times better in terms of the comfort, hygiene and climate.
Climbing sand dunes, a camp fire, star-gazing and probably shisha are a must in Sahara.
Accommodation in the Sahara Desert
To my surprise, it wasn’t cold at all to sleep in the tents in the Sahara. Compared to the hotel in Dades Gorges, it was very warm! Their tents were already setup for millions of tourists all around the year. There are a ‘living room’, ‘dining room’ and many ‘bedrooms’ inside the tent. Each room is equipped with pillows and blankets. Nature is the toilet…
Food at the Sahara
Food that they provided was nothing special but still delicious. It was all about Moroccan bread, tagine and couscous during dinner and lots and lots of bread, Moroccan pancakes for breakfast.
Food for lunch has more options like local and western like pasta. The restaurants’ menu look pretty much the same.
Bye Sahara Day 3
The tour ended with another camel ride to watch the sunrise at about 6 – 7 am and went back to Merzouga to have breakfast. We left the group as we wanted to go to Fes from Merzouga which took us almost a half day!
Tips when visiting the Sahara:
- Bring some snacks along
- Carry some small dirrham notes to pay tips, MAD50 for 2 persons is reasonable.