CAMPING…IN THE SAHARA DESERT
It was almost dusk when we landed in Casablanca. By the time we drove into the city via taxi I could see the sun setting in the distance. The sun was enormous as it moved across the horizon and I hoped we would make it to the Hassan II Mosque in time for me to get a sunset shot of the epic mosque. It was my first time in Morocco and had some…concerns about the trip. SPOILER ALERT: They were totally unfounded. 🙂
I was excited but apprehensive about our trip to Morocco. I planned this trip entirely and while that in itself is not unusual….this was not a typical trip, due to the fact I decided we should camp in the Sahara Desert for 3 days.
It was clear to me that Gary (aka. best husband ever) was happy to stay in Portugal for another week and was disappointed we cut that short to hop over to Morocco (literally a hop – the flight was not even 2 hours). So I wanted to make sure Morocco was amazing…for a lot of reasons. That said, he knew how much I wanted to see Morocco so didn’t voice an objection when I tacked on a week there.
We did NOT make it to the mosque before sunset. The traffic going into Casablanca rivals that of Los Angeles on a really bad day so we missed it by a mile but moved to settle in at our hotel and head out to dinner.
The next day the real adventure started. We left Casablanca early and flew to Zagora, about an hour away on a turbo prop plane (~9 hours if you prefer to drive and I wouldn’t). Upon landing in Zagora, we were the only passengers exiting the plane, which was….interesting and possibly a little concerning but we hopped off anyway. About 7 security guards met us, along with a few baggage handlers, which really made me question the next part of our itinerary. We exited the airport and met our driver Abba. Yes, Abba! Then we started our ~4 hour drive to the world’s largest desert – the Sahara. By the way, technically it’s the largest non-polar desert because both Antarctica and the Arctic circle also have deserts. Who knew? Not I….
As we started our drive I was thankful that Nick at our camp persuaded me to hire a driver. Typically my husband and I prefer to drive ourselves everywhere and for this trip, I tried to arrange this with our camp. They assured me I needed a driver and wow, were they right. Once we were in the Sahara, the sand dunes all look the same and you’d never know that behind a small cluster about an hour in, lies a luxury desert camp. We would have literally been camping in our car. Once I arrived and met Nick and Bobo, who run the camp, I thanked them for not laughing at my desire to drive myself.
We spent 3 days in the desert at the most amazing camp ever with incredible staff and food. It’s called Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp and make sure you get this one and work with Nick Garsten to book. I never thought I’d say that the most comfortable bed of my entire trip was when we camped in the Sahara Desert, but that is in fact, true! Nor would I say that 10 hours of travel within Morocco (each way) is worth it, but that is also true!
Our days primarily included hanging out under tents with delicious meals and drinks (Morocco’s finest wines, no less) supplemented with any/all of the following…camel rides, sandboarding, playing golf at the top of a giant sand dune, ATVs, enjoying the sunset with wine and cheese, and many more I am sure I am forgetting.
The camp is small – less than 10 tents so there would never be more than 20-30 people there, which makes for a great trip among friends or even strangers, who may turn into friends. I would go back in a heartbeat and hope to one day, bringing a few friends in tow.
From Erg Chigaga we headed to Marrakech and spent a night in Ait Ben Haddou, which you might recognize from the Game of Throne’s city of Yunkai or Gladiator.
There were no celebrity sightings for us but we enjoyed it just the same. I also enjoyed our spartan room at Chez Brahim for ~$25 with this view. My pillow left a lot to be desired but what do you expect for $25…. I think dinner was an additional $8 and was incredible. Apparently Hillary and Chelsea Clinton came here to eat on one of their visits years ago. If you want a luxury hotel, you won’t find one here and will have to go outside of the “city” a bit.
Our trip to Morocco was full of cool beauty finds, namely learning all about the making of Argan Oil and visiting a few hammams along the way. You can read a lot more about Argan Oil, Marrakech and other fun things in my next post, which is more focused on my Moroccan beauty finds.
My top 5 favorite things about Morocco:
- The food – tajines and spices;
- The market in Marrakech – the biggest is called Jemaa el-Fnaa;
- Dinner under the stars in the Sahara Desert;
- Hours spent at a specific shop in the Marrakech market;
- Vegetables, which I love, are everywhere in every meal and every dish.
I look forward to returning for a few weeks and diving into the amazing culture and exquisite ingredients Moroccans use for food and cosmetics. I’d love suggestions for places to visit too so be sure to comment below!
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