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The Berber Camp of Sahara Desert

A country of contrasts, Morocco will take a first time traveller by surprise. As you will make your way towards the south, you will leave behind the lush greenery that might seem quite unusual for the country’s climate. Instead, dramatic gorges and rocky landscapes will dominate the scenery until, at last, it all turns to dust in the Sahara Desert. Quite literally.

Approaching the Sahara Desert, the terrain will be more of what one might have expected to see in Morocco. The surroundings are stark and bleak, with nothing in sight for miles. It seems almost like an aimless drive, until something changes, again.

Slowly, the orange hues of Saharan sand sweep across the road. Driving on, the scenery shape-shifts before your eyes and, before you know it, it’s not that plain anymore. Suddenly, you’re going off-road (thank God for 4×4!), up and down tiny little dunes, foreshadowing what’s to come.

A Berber abode

Right there, at the foothills of Erg Chebbi, you will find your simple, yet adorable dwelling for the night. The Berber camp is made up of traditional tents, quite unassuming at first. The exterior is purely functional – the black tents are made out of goat and camel hair, with no floors and held up by sturdy poles. This was so that the nomad Berbers could easily load their tents onto camels and move to the next spot. Various rugs and fabrics are draped over the tents to protect them against the heavy winds that roam the Sahara from time to time.

Going in, you will find a completely different sight. The sleeping tents surround the main area, with an outdoor space for the campfire and the main tent. This space is used for dining and entertainment. Colourful carpets in all shapes and sizes cover the sandy ground with comfy poufs scattered around. The tents are adorned with equally colourful drapes and proper beds.

Sunset over the dunes and a starry sky

After being welcomed with a refreshing mint tea (much appreciated in the desert heat), it is time to face the sandy vastness unraveling before you. And not anyhow, but on the back of a camel. You will pace slowly towards the distant dunes until the camp disappears from view and the sand towers higher and higher.

The overwhelming size of the desert glows in the dusk light. Take it all in from the top of a sand dune, watching the sun set behind these sandy mountains. The still vastness, quietness, and soft lightning cast by the descending sun offer a magical sight, unparalleled to anything you’ve seen before.

As the darkness settles in, return to the Berber camp where a hearty meal awaits. Tuck in the traditional Berber dinner, full of flavour and exotic spices. After dinner, curl by the campfire and watch the twinkling sky. Away from light pollution, the sky boasts a plethora of stars, big and small, or shining happily.

For the night, if there are no winds in sight, you may opt to sleep outside of your tent, under the starry sky. The blankets will keep you warm as you fall asleep enchanted by the dancing stars. To make the most of your time in the desert, you can wake up just before the dawn to welcome the return of the sun as it rises from behind the afar dunes.

Good to know

The Sahara Desert will provide a memorable experience from start to finish, without a speck of (sand) doubt. To ensure you will have the best possible time and you are ready to simply relax, here are some hot tips:

  • Make sure you have an overnight bag prepared, with just the essentials. The luggage will be safely tucked away at Auberge Derkaoua, a kashbah just at the edge of the desert.
  • Do pack layers for the evening, as the nights get quite chilly in the desert. For the camel ride, you will need a scarf to cover your mouth and hair against the sand. As far as footwear goes, a pair of sandals with straps will do the trick.
  • There are basic toilet facilities at the camp, along with outdoor washbasins for freshening up in the morning. As far as showering goes, you will be able to do so upon your return at Auberge Derkaoua in the morning, where you can get ready for the day ahead.

To witness the glorious Sahara Desert, head over to our Sahara Desert Experience. If you’re short on time, the 4-night Mini Sahara Desert Experience will do the trick. And if you want to explore more of Morocco, including the medina of Fes, the blue Chefchaouen or coastal Essaouira, check out our Morocco Experience.

Written by Oana Moldovan, Untravelled Paths