The journey to our Sahara desert camp was long but worth it! Sitting on top of a sand dune with my husband, watching the sunrise over the seemingly never-ending red desert was magical. We drove eight hours to get to our Sahara desert camp, but the ride itself was a great adventure.
We left Fez, Morocco in the morning and arrived at our luxury Sahara desert camp an hour before sunset. It’s an incredible sight. In the middle of the desert, someone literally rolled out the red carpet.
The Sahara Desert Camp Experience
Our tent had a king-sized bed, a heater, electricity, and running water! Heads up, there is no wifi. There was a fire in the middle of the guests’ tents and one large tent for meals. We were glamping, and in the middle of the Sahara desert the setup is impressive!
We stayed at Merzouga Luxury Desert Camps, which is one of the more expensive Sahara desert camps. One of the benefits is that is is small and secluded. You really can’t see anything but endless dunes, which gives it a unique experience. There were only two other couples at our camp and one family with four exceptionally well-behaved kids.
Visiting the Sahara desert was one of the highlights of our two-week adventure in Morocco. However, there is honestly not a whole lot to do! We arrived an hour before sunset, so I recruited Kam to play Instagram Husband and take a photo of me wearing the yellow Moroccan shesh (turban) which our driver picked up for us during our drive to the desert. Not only does it provide protection from the hot desert sun it also keeps blowing sand out of your face. He shot this photo of me on his iphone!
Camel Ride in the Sahara at Sunset
The main event is taking a camel ride up the sand dunes to watch the sunset (and sunrise in the morning). A guide from the hotel led Kam and me on a camel ride over the rolling dunes. When we reached an exceptionally tall dune, we dismounted and climbed our way to the top. It did get a little slippery as you can see from my Instagram post! At the top, we took a seat and watched the golden sunset over the Sahara. It was epic!
Dinner in at the Sahara Desert Camp
After the sunset ride, everyone gathered around the fire with some tea. It was nice to say hello to the other guests who came from parts of Europe, Asia, and Canada. Then we all sat down for dinner in the main tent for a Moroccan meal...and pasta! It’s a pretty space and there was so much food! We appreciated that they accommodated my husband’s diet who is vegetarian.
After dinner, the staff at the Sahara desert camp entertains everyone with Berber music. Looking up at the stars is incredible too! Be warned, at night it gets very cold. We bundled up in our warmest clothes (I wore two sweaters) and went to bed early.
Sunrise in the Sahara
We set our alarms early to be up for sunrise. Instead of the camel ride, we opted to walk up the dunes. We found a tall dune to enjoy the sunrise. It was especially beautiful because opposite the sun, we could clearly see the moon over the Sahara Desert.
After sunrise, we climbed down the dunes and made our way back to the Sahara desert camp. We had breakfast in the main tent, then packed up our things. Our driver was already there and waiting for us. Our trip in the desert of Morocco was quick but extremely memorable.
How Many Days Should you Stay in the Sahara Desert?
Honestly, one night was enough for us. Again, there isn’t a whole lot to do. The views are insane and the experience is unique, but after breakfast on Day #2, we were ready to continue the adventure. We didn’t even shower in the tent. We were ready to hit the road and shower at our hotel a few hours later (where the facilities were more comfortable). Don't get me wrong, the trip was well worth it! But one night was all we needed.
If you come for one night, just be sure to arrive at camp before sunset so you get to enjoy two “excursions” into the desert for sunrise and sunset.
If you stay for two nights, I’d recommend booking some more activities. You can plan a longer hike in the hot desert, and ride a dune buggy or quad bike.
Are Camel Rides Ethical?
Some people argue taking camel rides are a good way to support the locals, but you definitely want to make sure the animals are being treated properly.
For some reason, in the Sahara, we hopped on top of our camels with little hesitation that night. When Kam and I went to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand we did tons of research to find a place during our visit to Chiang Mai where we could respectfully see elephants up close. The place we found rescued sick and abused elephants, and did not allow riding them. When it came to riding camels, for some reason we hadn't put the same amount of research into it. (Maybe because the topic regarding camels is less publicized?)
During our camel ride in Morocco, there was a young camel who was clearly in training. The young camel had a rope through its nose which the guide pulled to guide him on our walk through the dunes. There were many times the little camel cried out in protest, shook its head furiously, and refused to walk in line. It was difficult to witness.
We never saw anyone hit the animals and they seemed to be well-fed. However, we opted not to take our second camel ride to see the sunrise. Instead, we walked. We walked the same distance as the other guests riding the camels and it wasn’t difficult.
I understand that some people rely on camels for transportation in the Sahara Desert, but seeing the young camel in pain didn’t sit right with us. It is interesting though, this article about riding camels suggests it can be helpful to ride the camels in Morocco. The reason is to support local communities and help ensure they have the means to care for the camels which they use for their livelihood. I don’t know what the right answer is but, I did want to share our experience.
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The Journey is Part of the Trip
There are flights from Fez to Errachidia (read about our trip to the magical medieval city called Fez ) which is only two hours from the luxury desert camp.
However, the drive is a big part of the experience. This way you can see the Moroccan landscape change along the way, and you can make pit stops in different cities.
The drive takes 7-8 hours (without stops) from Fez, and 9-10 hours (without stops) from Marrakech.
I think the most common way to get to the Sahara Desert is by hiring a private driver. The drivers typically drive a 4x4, which is necessary for the terrain. Our driver was AWESOME! Just shoot me a DM on Instagram @heylizzyfay and I can give you his information.
Our Route from Fez
Our driver picked us up in Fez, (read about our time in Fez) drove us to the luxury desert camp in the Sahara for an overnight, took us to Ouarzazate for an overnight stay, and continued all the way to Marrakech. He recommended stops including the Skoura Palm Grove, Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou (where movies like Gladiator and TV shows like Game of Thrones were filmed), and Todgha Gorge.
During the drive, we saw nomads and goatherds who were kind enough to let me photograph them. I loved driving along the vast, sandy desert and coming up a palm oasis. By the way, the palm trees bear dates, so be sure to eat them during your trip. They are delicious!
Here are some of the photos I snapped during the long trip to/from the Sahara Desert.
Our trip to Morocco was fantastic! I hope this inspires you to visit the desert! Also, check out my ultimate guide to Fez, my favorite city we visited in Morocco! And if you're going to Marrakech, you need my secret to skipping the lines at Majorelle Garden (a must-see in Marrakech!).
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