Kasbah's, Camels, and the Sahara Desert!
We booked a 3 day/2 night tour that would take us into the mountains and finally the Sahara Desert. On the first day, we drove through the High Atlas Mountains, stopped for a few photo ops and then made it to Ait Ben Haddou, where we would spend most of the afternoon. A guide took us through the Ksar/Kasbah town that has been preserved over the years and been used numerous times for movies and tv; think Game of Thrones, Gladiator and The Mummy. We stayed in a hotel the first night and enjoyed a traditional Moroccan meal.
The second day, we continued our drive towards the desert. We stopped in a beautiful town called Tinghir and took a walk through the palm oasis. Our guide led us into an older part of town where we learned about the Berber tradition of carpet making. Again, we were served mint tea and were shown the different types of carpets. They mainly use sheeps wool, camel hair, and cactus fiber to construct their durable carpets that last up to 100-120 years. They were absolutely beautiful and I would love to buy one some day. We continued on and stopped in the Dades Gorge for a quick walk before lunch.
We arrived at the outskirts of the Sahara Desert around 5:30 pm, just in time to head out before sunset. We gathered the things we would need for the night and got ready for our camel trek. This is definitely something I have had on my bucket list since I first learned about Morocco in school! Can you imagine riding a camel into the desert and then staying the night in a tent?! It was awesome! It took almost 2 hours by camel to get to our camp. I was sore after about an hour (camels are much wider than horses) but the views made it all worth it! The sun went down as we were still riding, making the sand change all sorts of colors. It felt like we were on a different planet.
We arrived at camp, put our stuff in our shared tent, had some tea and snacks (peanuts and olives) and waited for dinner. We weren't sure how commercial everything would be when we got to camp so we were pleasantly surprised with how authentic everything was. There were about 30 people staying at the camp, with maybe 8-10 guides. The tents were pretty basic. Most of them fit 4-5 people and had simple mattresses with thick blankets. We packed warm clothes since the desert gets very cold at night and there definitely isn't any heaters. There was a bathroom, but no running water and toilets that didn't flush. Luckily, we would only be at the camp for about 10 hours.
We were served a traditional Moroccan meal (soup, tajine, bread, and fruit for desert). After dinner, we sat around a camp fire and the locals played music and sang. It was so surreal! Overall the camp was pretty dark, but if you walked away from the main area, you could really take in all the stars. We were pretty excited, since stars are non-existent in Chicago! We attempted to hike up the tallest sand dune we could find, but it was dark and the wind picked up and a cell phone light probably wasn't the safest situation! We made it half way and then stopped to take it all it.
We left at 6am the next morning, about an hour before sunrise, and headed back to the main town where we would leave the camels, eat breakfast, and be on our way. Blake and I opted to go to Fes instead of back to Marrakech, so we said goodbye to our tour group and waited for our driver. We didn't realize we would be the only ones and ended up having a whole cab to ourselves. The drive to Fes took about 9 hours but it was scenic and we were glad to see more of the countryside.