Disclaimer: I was invited by My Moroccan Adventure to join their Sahara Spring Break.
I remember one of my very first Morocco desert tours well. It was my first time in the Morocco desert, in any desert for that matter and I can still recall the excitement. The snoring camels, the stars, the sand dunes, and the oppressive heat, enough to make us pull our mattresses outside to sleep on the sandy slopes which turned out anything but comfortable – don’t do a Sahara desert tour in August! Most of all, however, I remember the camaraderie and friends I made on this trip, the desert only left a fleeting impression on me.
Fast forward seven years and I have come to Morocco to celebrate my birthday. If you asked me how many times I have been here since this first trip I wouldn’t be able to recall – Morocco is hard to shake and despite all its issues easy to love, chances are I have been here once a year since this initial trip. This time I return to the desert for no other reason but to hug a camel and to take some pictures. Maybe the fleeting impression the desert has left on me wasn’t so fleeting after all. Coincidentally my friend Sheila has introduced me to her friend Jade who runs My Moroccan Adventure with her husband Adil and since I trust Sheila’s taste in bags, luggage, and American politics I decide to trust her taste in friends as well.
Morocco Desert Tours with My Moroccan Adventure
Fast forward and I am standing in front of Café de France on Jemaa El Fna and let the morning routine of vendors, touts and tourists wash over me. My Moroccan Adventure tours from Marrakech will fetch you from your hotel or riad, though in my case I am proud to show off my local knowledge and have suggested a more convenient pick-up location. Jade arrives a few minutes later and I am being introduced to fellow traveler Maria, our driver Sala, and Leo, the dog. Jade’s husband Adil is in a separate car with some more clients and we are due to meet at the first coffee stop en route to Quarzazate.
Most visitors underestimate what Morocco desert tours from Marrakech entail which is a lot of driving, not fun if you only get to spend one quick night in the desert. Luckily we get to take our time on our four-day trip and do plenty of stops on the way. If you don’t can’t spare at least three or four days, I recommend a trip to the Agafay desert instead. This one is an hour from Marrakech and while it ain’t no Sahara trip it is a good enough substitute, camels and all.
We don’t just visit the any old part of the Sahara desert, Morocco but Erg Chegaga in the south close to the border of Algeria. Sahara desert tourism has become a huge deal in Morocco which means that parts like Merzouga by the Erg Chebbi dune are overrun with desert camps and tourists. Erg Chegaga is wonderfully different. In this region of Morocco Berbers and Arabs live in peaceful co-existence and anyone who wants to set up a camp for tourism in this area needs to be directly related to one of the local tribes. Part of the proceeds goes back to the tribe making my Marrakech Sahara tour not only a cultural experience but also a sustainable one.
To break up the trip we stop for a night in Agzd before heading to M’hamid el Ghizlane, the last village before the desert starts or the first sign of civilization for caravans who crossed the desert trading gold, ivory, spices, grains, animals, and also slaves back in the days. We get some more canisters of water before we are off for an hour-and-a-half of fun dune driving and Leo’s first encounter with a camel.
As with most Sahara tours and travels, roughing it is part of the program, though for us this simply includes a quick and bumpy desert ride and sandy feet for the next 24 hours. Our tents are spacious and come with comfy beds, showers are hot and the typical Moroccan mint tea comes with a strong thyme flavor here, something that I love.
In the late afternoon, we start our desert safari tour on camelback and this is the time when the desert gets me and I realize that it holds the same hypnotic appeal to me as the underwater world. Considering that this place was once covered in water, many fossils still telling the tales, I wonder if that is the reason why these two landscapes so vastly different on the outside give me the same feeling of peace.
When the sun is starting to set we head back to camp for some yoga, dinner, and a desert karaoke session around the fireplace. Afterward, the camp gets quiet. The camels have gone home and nobody is snoring. Above me another million stars hotel with its sparkly canopy.
The next morning I explore the surrounding dunes on my own, discover that sand can be freezing cold and that yogurt actually tastes good when dosed in a big portion of amlou (Berber Nutella – a yummy spread made out of argan nuts, almonds, and honey). After a leisurely breakfast, it is time for us to head back or at least that is the plan. This being a proper Morocco desert tour, Adil’s car gets stuck in the sand having gone not even 50 m from camp. Our driver Sala has to come to the rescue and leads the way from then on out. With everything else having been such smooth sailing, I wonder if they planned it just to make me stop asking whether I can take Sala’s place and drive us through the dunes.
Should you ride camels in Morocco?
As you guys know while I am not a vegetarian or vegan, I loathe the idea of using animals for human entertainment and this includes going to the zoo or the aquarium for me. Needless to say that I am not a fan of elephant riding, something the organizers of my various India trips can attest to. Morocco also doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to animal entertainment and I regularly flinch when I see the horse-drawn carriages, the little donkeys on the roads, the monkeys, the goats, and even the snakes.
But when it comes to Morocco camel trekking I feel differently because I believe that riding a camel or a horse is not the same as riding an elephant based on their physiology (elephants have super sensitive spines) and the way they are trained and I am not necessarily against the idea of working animals. That is not to say, that camel or horse riding can’t be cruel but it is not necessarily the case as it is with elephants. Some may disagree with me here (which is fine, let’s just keep it civil!) but this is something I have made peace with after having a chat to Jade beforehand. She assured me that the camels of our Erg Chegaga desert camp are well treated and taken care of and they definitely looked the part. One of the young camels which was being trained was neither pushed nor pulled but simply led by my camel on our Sahara camel trek, presumingly getting used to the pace and all.
However, a great bonus of their Morocco desert trips is that you don’t have to ride a camel if you don’t want to. Unlike all the Marrakech desert tours that will take you to Merzouga where you have to take a camel to get to your camp, in Erg Chegaga you will simply take the 4x4 into the desert. The camel riding is just an optional activity but not a necessity.
Why solo female travelers should go on a trip with My Moroccan Adventure?
Personally, I don’t like that some destinations are labeled as perfect for solo female travelers while we are warned of others. I think it is much more important to find a destination you are truly excited about than statistical safe havens. With that said, I understand that Morocco can be daunting for women because it was daunting for me before I visited for the first time.
With that said, sometimes it is just easier to sit back and have an expert take care of the nitty gritty for you and have a friendly face by your side to show you the ropes. And of course, it is always nice to make new friends when traveling all reasons that speak to booking a group tour for your Morocco excursions.
While there is a myriad of local and international tour operators out there that you could choose from, I like My Moroccan Adventure for a couple of reasons.
1. They have set desert trips for New Year’s Eve and Spring Break for now as well as yoga retreats (plus there is always yoga during their regular Marrakech desert trips too!). And if you need help with any additional Morocco tours, hotel bookings, guides, drivers, and tips or want your own customized holiday – they do that too. Don’t worry about the price because Morocco itineraries are done according to your budget and requirements. Mind you, My Moroccan Adventure is not your run of the mill tour operator and they will tell you if your ideas and budget for a trip won’t work (Trip to the Sahara from Marrakech in 24 hours and back? Not such a great idea…). In addition, drivers and guides are paid extra so you know they not only make a decent wage as it should be but also you won’t be dragged into someone’s cousin’s carpet shop for a commission.
2. While some Morocco tours exclusively for women are in the planning, the trips so far aren’t just female. However, Jade brings such a unique perspective to their tours and will answer any silly questions you may have about living and traveling in Morocco as a woman. From things like dating in Morocco to ‘are there proper toilets in the desert because I will have my period?’ very little went undiscussed during our trip. And the answer to the latter is – yes, there are western toilets and sinks with soap everywhere!
3. And last but not least – they do not charge a single supplement!!! Yes, you read correctly (sorry for all those exclamation marks but that is huge) – they will not punish you / charge you more if you are traveling by yourself. Something that is pretty much unheard of in the travel industry, but there you go if you ever needed a good reason to book a Morocco desert tour for a solo holiday this is it – no single supplement.
What to pack for Morocco Desert Tours?
Regardless of how and where you go on a desert trek in Morocco, there are a few things you should pack (while others should stay safely at home or in Marrakech):
- Scarf & Sunglasses. Alternatively sunhat but I think a scarf wrapped by a local for you is the best to protect against the sun, the wind, and the sand.
- Wet wipes. We got lucky and did not only have running but even hot water in our desert camp, however, this is not the norm. Whether you are glamping or have to rough it completely – wet wipes are your friends.
- Clothes to layer. While March is the perfect season for Sahara desert trips in Morocco, the nights can still get chilly. Make sure dress appropriately, for comfort and warmth which all applies to your choice of PJs too.
- If you are planning to ride a camel, bring comfy clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and stinky and take a change of outfit for afterward.
- For private Morocco tours with My Moroccan Adventure make sure to pack some yoga clothes because chances are Jade will bust out the mats even in the middle of the desert.
- Take chargers and extra batteries for your electronic devices. While tents at the camps in Erg Chegaga have lights there are no plugs to charge your camera and phone, so charge them beforehand and bring spare batteries if you need to.
- Reusable water bottle, preferably one that you can use to filter water too. I love my Grayl bottle.
Other than that – do not overpack! While we had plenty of space in our cars and tents, I did feel a bit silly dragging my laptop and an entire suitcase around (I had just returned from three months in South Africa) with a lot of stuff I did not need one bit. Also, you will be back in ‘civilization’ in no time!
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