Last month I had the rare opportunity to visit exotic Morocco with my dear friend Meagan – one of the best travel companions a girl could ask for. Meagan is in the middle of two adventurous years abroad teaching English in Spain. We talked about Morocco for the whole first year but the timing didn’t align until this September. We agreed we wanted to see as much of Morocco as we could but didn’t have the time or desire to do the amount of research it would take to plan the entire trip ourselves. We decided to book a 7 day tour which began and ended in Tangiers and circled the entire country. While there will be many blog posts to follow on the amazing Morocco sights, I’m dedicating this one to our glorious time in the Sahara Desert – complete with camel rides and camping in Berber tents!
Our Sahara experience began in the small town of Erfoud where we left the bus and hopped into off-road vehicles that drove us over 30 miles of rough terrain to the gateway of the fine orange sand – the edge of the largest desert in the world. Along the way we were treated to some gathering storm clouds over the desert and I began to hope for a stunning sunset.
When we arrived at our destination – a small outpost named Erg Chebbi, the light was stunning and the dunes glowed an orange best compared to the real world example of Cheetos. The rest of the group sat down to a Moroccan mint tea but I was far too excited to sit still and began exploring the property and nearby dunes.
Pictured below is the hotel we ate and showered in; the Berber-style tents we slept in that evening were located behind the hotel, right on the dunes. The tents themselves were outfitted very simply with colorful carpets covering the ground and a lightbulb screwed into a socket in the ceiling over a double cot we shared for sleeping. When we first arrived there were hoards of mosquitos in all of the tents and we had to unscrew the lightbulbs and leave the flaps of the tents open to draw them out! The tents were stifling with the flaps closed and buzzing from the insects was incessant so we decided to continue exploring well into the night, allowing the tents time to air out.
Meanwhile, the sun and storm clouds decided to put on quite a sunset show in the west and I loved every minute of it’s decent into stunning darkness, while the smell of camels wafted gently on the breeze. Considering the fact that the Sahara only receives 1-4 inches of rain per year, I felt incredibly lucky that my one evening was met with such a rare and vivid display.
In the last glowing light of the evening, I lounged around the hotel courtyard before heading east out to the dunes to catch up with the rest of the party.
The stillness of the night was incredible and I found a spot on a large dune and decided to sprawl out on my back and watch the stars make their debut. The sand was unlike anything I’d ever felt – more velvet than individual grains and nearly too fine to even contain in your hand. I spent a solid 20 minutes crafting a deep sand angel in the dune, luxuriating in the feel of the cold sand-silk. I sang softly to the moon without a soul around and I know I will remember that evening the rest of my life. The feelings of vastness and peacefulness flooded over me in the most rare and priceless moments of abandon. In truth, I lay on that dune without moving for well over an hour but time is one thing the desert effortlessly casts off it’s sloping shoulders till minutes melt into morning.
After a few hours of sleep, we had a well-before-dawn wake up call to get ourselves dressed and situated on camels to ride out to see the sunrise. I’m not entirely sure how far the camels took us but we must have been very close to the Algerian border when we stopped at the base of a nearly vertical dune. The next task was a hilarious scramble/crawl about 150 feet up to the top of the dune, fighting gravity for every inch! Once there, the view was breathtaking as we gazed into the endless Sahara and waited for the moment the sun would crest the dunes.
Of course, in my opinion, the real show was to the west once more as the rising sun lit the dunes on fire! And what’s a Saharan sunrise without a little photoshoot?? Meagan and I took turns passing off the camera and playing with a fancy scarf I’d brought along for the occasion!
After an amazing morning, we hopped back on the camels and headed back to breakfast – but not before sliding all the way back down the giant dune!
A giant breakfast buffet awaited our return but, Meagan and I had other plans. We skipped breakfast and threw on some Wanderlove dresses and headed back out into the desert for a quick photo session! We’d talked about a desert shoot for most of the year and were determined to use our meager time to make it happen. We had both fallen deeply in love with the Sahara and did our best to capture that in the short time allotted before our party headed back to civilization.
All too soon our desert time was at an end but the memory of that harsh and beautiful place will always be close at hand, like a melody whispered across the breeze, so familiar if you just close your eyes and listen.