SAHARA DESERT // Adventure // Awe Inspiring
Note: For the rest of the Marrakech, Skoura and Essaouira adventures, head back to the main blog page and scroll.
With an early start, we set off towards M’Hamid en route to stay at the Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp
M’Hamid is a tiny town on the edge of the Sahara Desert which is where we planned to meet our local guide that Nick (the owner of the desert camp) set up for us. This part of the drive was pretty cool too, it was endless palm tree groves before it turned in to just sand. We met our guide at a small hotel and proceeded to be told that we should have put diesel in at the last town which was one hour behind us. Thankfully our guide, Nourredine was a local of this town and brought us to a small station that was closed - it was Ramadan and most businesses were not on regular hours - the owner opened up and gave a jerry can of diesel. With a full tank we were off!
While ‘Riders on the Storm’ by The Doors played, we saw civilization slip away and turn into small dunes with only our guide and tire tracks to lead us into the unknown. Slipping the vehicle into 4 wheel drive we navigated the new terrain with some ease. About 30 minutes into the drive we come across a herd of wild camels. When I say wild, they actually are tended and owned by the various nomad/Berber tribes that still live in the desert.
We continued on for about 45 minutes when we came across a small well with a small blanket placed in front with small handcrafted camels made from the actually hair of camels. They were made by a Berber woman who lived in the area. I was fascinated and of course purchased on from her. The well provides water in to the people living in the area. Our guide was eager to splash water on his face due to the fact that we were in Morocco during Ramadan. I am still astounded by the fact the vast majority of the population following the principles of Ramadan neither eat nor drink water from sunrise to sunset. Nourredine told us the foundation of the practice is to learn patience and restraint. I felt a little guilt sipping from my water bottle.
We carried on for another 45 min to the camp. We arrived at approximately 5pm and it was still 40+ degrees outside. Thankfully, even though it was Ramadan, they still catered to us tourists and directed us to the bar tent which had cold water, wine and beers. It was a welcome treat! Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the manager of the camp, Bacchir. He let us know that in about 20 minutes the other 4 guests would be driving 15 min to rent dune buggies and ride through the dunes at sunset. Ummmmm, yeah OK! We all hopping in our vehicles and drove to a small settlement that had the buggies and geared up and heading into the dunes. During the drive there we saw some small dunes but this was another level! I truly felt like was in another world. It was surreal, exciting and magical all at the same time.
Post buggy, we headed back to the camp, freshened up and all met up by the fire pit (it had cooled down by then) and the camp team had set up a table for all of us. They served a delicious zucchini soup followed by beef tajine, finished off with fruit salad. We all settled into the pillows around the fire and got to know each other. One couple was from NYC and the others were friends from England and LA. We laughed in to the night and then retired to bed.
The tents are equip with a double bed, bathroom with flush toilet, sink, pales of water for a shower and a fan. No AC obviously but the fan provided a nice breeze throughout the night.
Just before bed, I stepped outside of my tent and just took a moment to myself to soak in the silence. The silence is so vast and and complete in the desert, no sounds, no cars honking, no one talking, no noise pollution at all. The moon was almost full and incredibly bright and illuminated my surroundings. I breathed it in and was so thankful in that moment for being alive and for finding my way to that place.
At 6:30am Bacchir woke us up and brought us over to two camels who were lovely enough to take us for a little ride into the dunes. The temperature was mild at that time of the morning and it was a very calming experience. I was picturing what it must have been like to have lived hundreds of years ago ad traveled by camel to and from trading destination. Incredible how the world has changed.
Once back at camp we packed up and headed to enjoy a little breakfast. I only had coffee with the plan to intermittent fast until noon that day and find something to eat on the drive to Essaouira* (see note on that below) With some caffeination and our guide ready to go, we bid the team and our new friends farewell and headed west towards Foum Zguid where we were exiting the desert. This was a pretty crazy experience too because the terrain was similar yet different. We drove through this dried up lake bed and rally raced another of the guests who was also heading west. This site is where the Marrakech Sahara Rally takes place!
After a long and bumpy ride we emerged in Foum Zguid and said goodbye to our lovely guide Nourredine.
Note: I should have eaten! We decided to drive straight through to the coast from the desert. We were subtly advised against it due to the fact it would take us between 9-12 hours but we wanted to get to the ocean! So it took us 2.5 hours to get out of the desert and 8 more hours to the coast. During that time the only options for food were small convenience stands in various towns. As mentioned it was Ramadan so there was not many options. I survived on one bag of potato ships and a diet coke. Haha. I was rewarded upon arrival in Essaouira with a fabulous dinner so it was worth the wait.
All in all the team at Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp made our stay perfect! And the other guests whom we made friends, broke bread with and ripped through dunes with made it a blast as well! Best times to travel to the Sahara are April and October-December. Thank you so much to Nick and the team for all of your hospitality!
If I’ve missed anything and you have more questions please comment below or contact me on IG or at firstname.lastname@example.org