After a whirlwind 36 hours in Fes (more on that later), and one semi-sleepless overnight bus, I found myself standing sandy-footed in the middle of Merzouga, Morocco.
I’ll save you the Google search: welcome to the Sahara Desert.
Though Morocco’s west coast and central region are heavily populated and dotted with cities, the eastern portion remains largely the domain of the vast desert and the nomadic Berber people who live there. Small family-owned hotels have cropped up on the edges of the Sahara, and many of these have formed connections with local Berber peoples.
When we checked into one such hotel, the lovely Kasbah Azalay, one of the first questions they asked us was, “Would you like to take a camel into the desert to camp with the Berber people?”
No, thanks, I’m just here for the wifi.
The next morning, we were saddling up our camels and beginning the slow lurch into the dunes. The plodding ride was lighthearted; we laughed and joked with the British family that was traveling with us and experimented with various ways of sitting on the (somewhat uncomfortable) saddles.
The sun sank slowly into the sand behind us, and before we knew it we had arrived. Our camp sat in the shadow of the biggest dune in sight, and as soon as we halted our guides were shooing us off our camels with cries of, “Up! Up to the top! Sunset!”
And so we ran.
That night, we played music and shared stories into the late hours of the evening. After we said our good nights, I sat for a minute at the edge of the camp. The desert silenced nearly all sound, save for the occasional grumble from a camel, and the stars had flooded the sky.
Thinking back to a year ago, I never could have predicted what this year would hold, or how much a difference twelve months could make in my location and lifestyle. Embracing this nomadic adventure is all that I know for now, and as I sat, with my toes curled into the sand, I could feel that this was right.
I’ve never slept so well.
When you go
- Ask a lot of questions before booking any overnight tour! If you’re planning to stay multiple days, it’s good to know what to expect in terms of showers and facilities.
- Pack your own food if tajine & vegetables aren’t for you, or if you need to have breakfast first thing in the morning. We were given a large dinner, but didn’t have breakfast until we arrived back to Kasbah Azalay (2-3 hours after waking).
- Pack layers! The desert gets cold at night and doesn’t warm until late morning.
- Don’t be nervous about the camel riding. I had heard a few horror stories, but our trek was pleasant and the camels were perfectly docile.