Yesterday morning we left Marrakesh in Morocco and head towards the world harritage site of Aït Benhaddou, the place where there filmed many films including “The Gladiator”. We also spent the night in the very special hotel called Kasbah Amridi. It was the place where they filmed “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in 1944. Today’s itinerary will be the highlight of our trip. We are heading into the Sahara desert and camping there for one night. Winny has adored the world famous book “Little Prince” when she was 8 and she has looked forward to staying in the Sahara desert ever since. Spending a night at the Sahara desert tonight will be a dream come true for her and I will be following her into the desert to look for the “Little prince”.
Heading to the Sahara Desert is a long journey. Our destination for the day is at Merzouga, a small village closest to the Sahara Desert. This village is over 600km away from Marrakech. Merzouga is a common starting point for many tourist company to send their guests into the Sahara desert on camels. At the entrance to the desert is a very beautiful hotel made for guests who doesn’t want to stay in the desert. These guests will come back to this accommodation after a camel ride around the Sahara desert.
We will be spending our night in a camping ground in the desert and we will be reaching the camp site on the backs of camels! Originally, we were supposed to have arrived at our Sahara Desert camping ground before sunset, however the sun was already setting by the time we reached Merzouga, the starting point of our camel ride. The camel ride will still take another 1.5 hours before we could get to our camping ground. During this extremely rushed and crucial moment, our guide forgot to tell us that we need to repack the night before and we were suppose to only take what we need for the night in a small bag. We were quite annoyed at him and only grabbed a couple bottles of water and a jacket before riding off into the sunset.
We were slowly led into the seemingly endless desert on our camels. We watch the sun slowly set over the golden sand dunes and it was soon getting dark. we continue our camel ride under the moon and the stars. Surprisingly, the desert was quite well lite under the moonlight. Our camel guide leading both our camels is called Mustafa. Mustafa is Berber, an ethnicity found in parts of Mococco. He grew up in the desert and although he didn’t receive much education in his life, he was full of knowledge of the desert. Amazingly Mustafa was able to walk at the same speed as the camels on this extremely soft sand.
There were no city lights or any civilization around us and the darkness felt extremely relaxing. We were alone with our camels and have peaceful moments to stare out into the endless desert and the beautiful night sky. As the night sets in, there were not any noticeable features on the horizon and we were began to wonder how Mustafa was finding his way in the darkness. We originally thought he was using the stars to work out his location, however he then explained to us that he was simply using the camel poo from the previous trips to work out where he was going. Camel poos are really small and hard and they are found all over the path to the the camp site.
The camel ride was exciting at first, however after one hour into our camel ride we were getting quite from it! We were getting motion sickness from camel rides! Also being not used to riding camels, our butts were bruised. Every time we head down a sand hill we felt like we were on a roller coaster. When we were approaching our camp site, Winny finally couldn’t handle the camel ride anymore. As soon as she got off the camel, she vomited up all her lunch. Before today, I didn’t know it was possible to get such bad motion sickness from riding a camel!
By the time we got off our camel, we still had 20 minutes of walking to go still. Winny and I can barely keep up with the walking speed of our guide! The sand was so soft that our feet can barely get any traction and each step was strenuous. We now really appreciate how powerful our guide’s legs must be to walk on sand at such a fast pace for hours! Although hard to walk on, the sand was silky smooth underneath our feet!
We were the last couple to arrive at our camp site and at that point, there were many tourists at the camp site chatting and waiting for dinner to be served. All the food and cooking equipment had to be transferred here by camels from Merzouga. Each of us were allocated a simple tent as our accommodation for that night. Inside the tenet, there is a huge bed with nice clean bedding, a clean rug and a small lamp.
The Bathroom is a long drop which is a few meters away from the camp site. As soon as Winny and I stepped in, we decided that finding a spot next to a bush would be a more hygienic and less a smelly venture. There weren’t any light here and we had to use our phone as torches to move around. Before we read a book on Sahara travelling and the author of the book was describing how she stepped onto a patch of wet sand from the piss from other travelers, hence we moved around extremely carefully to find a good spot to do our business. Luckily we didn’t step on any wet patches that night!
Just before dinner, the camel hurdlers and guides who weren’t helping out with dinner preparations began to sing and play their traditional drums. The music was really festive and upbeat and they were quite interactive, so many of the tourists began to join in their singing and dancing. Amazingly one of the young female tourist even started to do a sexy belly dance.
At dinner, we were lead to a huge tent where all the guests were led to different tables for dinner. Our food were better than we imagined and by that time we were extremely hungry. Eating our dinner by the candlelight was quite romantic. The huge tents were lined with carpets and the atmosphere did not felt like the typical camping. We felt like we were in a fair-tale.
We were told that we were waking up at 6am on the next day to climb this ginormous sand hill just behind our camp site to see the sun rise. The sand hill reaches 100m tall and the soft sand makes it extremely difficult to climb. Because the night sky was so beautiful and it was our only night in the Sahara desert, Winny and I decided to climb up this hill to enjoy the beautiful night. We want to find that magical feeling which Winny felt when she was 8 years old reading the “Little Prince”
We climbed half way up the hill and found a good spot to sit, stare out into the sea of sand and watched the beautiful stars. Out camp site was so small from where we were and the desert seems to stretch on forever in all directions. It was Winny’s childhood dream to visit the Sahara desert and she was glad that she finally made it. I was happy that I could enjoy that moment with her. We didn’t bring out camera out that night so we didn’t take pictures of this extremely picturesque night. We sat there on the huge sand hill until the music stopped and the lights of our camp site began to dim. By the time we started heading down, a few tourists began their night climb up this sand hill. We had an early night to rest up to prepare for our big climb on the next day.
In the morning, as soon as we woke up, we were directed to climb up that hill. This time we were determined to climb all the way to the top. Some of the tourists started early and some of them were already halfway to the top already! With a good night’s rest we began to work our way up, stopping every few meters to take pictures and videos of this magical place. Soon the night lifted and the desert’s color changes every second. It was a moment we can never forget.
Winny and I wanted to give up climbing to the top many times, climbing a sand hill is extremely exhausting! However we kept going until we both reached the top. It was our once in a life time experience and we didn’t wanted to give up on the opportunity to see the Sahara desert from a high point! We were glad we made it because the view was magnificent up there!
We finally did make it to the top of this huge hill and we felt like we were on the top of the world. It was an emotional moment for us. From here we could see the Sahara desert stretching out infinitely into all directions! We felt like we have done everything we wanted in this desert and achieved Winny’s long term childhood dream.
The return trip is another couple hours of camel ride. Our butts were still extremely bruised from yesterday’s camel ride and that made the return trip seemed to go on forever. The camels here only has one hump and although the seating point is extremely padded, our bums are not made to endure such a long ride! We began to wonder how people even battled on camel backs in the past!
Winny seems to be less nauseous than yesterday, however one of the other tourists on this return trip couldn’t handle the camel ride anymore and chose to hopped off her camel half way through our trip. We had to stop a few times to wait for this lady to catch up.
Although the camel was quite shaky, we took quite a few nice photos. Especially when the traditional clothes of the camel guides matches the sand so well. The sand also changes color when the sun shines on it from different angles. No wonder people fell in love with this beautiful desert. We will never forget the beautiful sceneries we saw that day!
We went back to the hotel where we left off to have our breakfast. At this point is where we had to say goodbye to our guide. These guides are paid extremely poorly. Their main source of income is to be able to sell fossil bones they found in the desert to their guests. Unfortunately we didn’t have any space for souvenirs so we tipped him 100DH and thanked him greatly for his great work. After we finished our camel ride, we arrived back at Merzouga again and we were only 1.5 hours drive away from our own hotel so we headed straight there for a rest!
The accommodation that night was extremely nice and has a beautiful large pool. Winny and I just sat around the pool and relaxed this whole day. We were sad to leave the desert but we will soon embark on another journey. We will soon head towards the ancient city of Fez!
Our 32 second Video in the Sahara Desert!
Uncut video of the Sahara desert!
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