Wow, what an adventure! A chance to ride camels into the heart of the Sahara Desert, eat Moroccan food, meet fellow adventurers, see lots of diverse scenery and spend a couple of nights in tents with the Berbers.
When we discovered the trip, we knew we had to do it. The company we chose (Smart Holidays) was offering 2-day, 3-day or 4-day trips out of Marrakech. After reading some reviews we decided to do the 4-day. If you are debating about which trip to choose, we would recommend the 3 OR 4. The 2-day is action packed and lots of fun as well but you don’t get right into the actual Sahara Desert with the massive sandhills and the real desert feel. We know this because being on the 4-day package meant that we left the 2-day group on the 2nd day and hooked up with the 3-day people for the rest.
Which ever you choose, they all represent great value. Choose a mini-bus like us or pay much more for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. And DON’T pre-book online because trips go daily (in season), are readily available and you can bargain the prices down.
The ‘bottom’ line of our choice was that we were the only two people that were on camels on each of the four days! And camels aren’t particularly kind on your bottoms! The dromedaries aren’t anyway. No matter how much padding you put on the camel’s single hump, your arse will still feel it and after several hours of movement, you will wish you were sitting somewhere more comfortable. This is also because there are no stirrups. But it is certainly bearable and well worth it for such an incredible experience. I felt like Lawrence of Arabia and even checked out where it was filmed, along with a huge list of other movies including Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile and Babel.
I won’t bore you with all the minute details of our trip but I will mention 10 personal highlights:
- You get to experience the real Sahara Desert which is simply a stunningly beautiful place. With sandhills stretching as far as you can see, it is simply a wonderful feeling to be there.
- Amazing sunrises and sunsets, which are all the more impressive because of the location.
- Lots of interesting things to see as you travel around the area.
- The contrasting geography as you travel from Marrakech towards the Sahara, across the Atlas Mountains: lush in parts, snow-capped mountains in the distance, oases, gorges and thousands of palm trees.
5. Seeing where many desert-based movies were filmed: locations, studios, as well as an interesting museum (only on the 4-day) featuring props, rooms, costumes and equipment.
6. Mixing with the wonderful Berber people who own the camels.
7. Staying in a Berber tent in the middle of the Sahara Desert, with star-filled skies and clean air.
8. Eating Moroccan cuisine in the middle of the desert.
10. Meeting and mixing with a diverse group of like-minded adventurers from many countries and having the time to have meaningful discussions with them. In our case we had Italians, a Phillipino, French, Americans, Japanese, Polish, a Bangladeshi, British, an Argentinian and New Zealanders.
9. Visiting the World Heritage listed Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, an amazing, authentically Moroccan place. It features in many of the locally produced movies, particularly Gladiator and Jewel of the Nile. The locals had almost deserted the place but since it has been heritage-listed and a bridge added, 40 or 50 families are living there.
If you get a chance, do it! You may have occasional feelings of boredom with the great distances (most), tiredness (everyone), exhaustion (Anna), sore muscles (Anna and Damien), shortness of breath (Anna), nausea (Francesca, Jasmine and Rebecca), desperately wanting a shower, (most), a sore arse (everyone), or a chronic fear of dung beetles (Francesca!) but believe me, and my fellow travelers, it is all worth it. And if the camels are all too much, there is always the back-up vehicle (Marco, Tanja and Anna!)
Footnote: Marco chose not to use the camels on Friday!