NIGHT IN THE SAHARA DESERT
I woke up quite early, had a rushed breakfast and triple checked that I packed all the mattering belongings for what was to be a very unusual trip. Camera – checked, phone battery charged – checked, cardigan – checked, cash – checked, etc. It was a day before my birthday, so I was extra excited to spend my birthday in the Sahara desert.
Before leaving London, I checked various tours/day trips, but almost all of them were around £100 per person. I was sure I could find better options once I reach Marrakesh, and I was right. Once I reached Medina, Jemaa el-Fna square, I saw many people who were offering tours. Trust me when I say you can find affordable and reliable tours/day trips and for a fraction of the price. I booked not one, not two, but three day trips.
When I got to the Medina, there was already a minibus/van waiting for us. We had a very long journey ahead of us and the fact that the driver had the same 20 songs on repeat for the whole 8 hours journey didn’t help much. On our way to Zagora, we had many stops to eat, go to the bathroom and also visit other amazing places that were included in the trip. We reached our destination just in time for sunset.
Camels look majestic. There is something so fascinating about seeing someone ride a camel. I’ve always wanted to have that experience, and when I finally had it, I was just eager to get off the camel as soon as possible. Let me tell you that the ride can be quite painful if the camel doesn’t have enough cushion for you to sit on, or you are just unlucky (like I was on the second day) and get a very slim camel. Putting aside the pain, the experience of riding a camel in the Sahara desert, overlooking the sunset is surreal. It was magical.
Open our arrival, each one of us was given a tent. The tent I was staying in was basic; it had a low mattress, covers and that was it. The whole camp only had lights in the living room/kitchen tent. The meal we had was divine. The entire atmosphere made the meal taste a thousand times better. How could it not? We were in the Sahara desert, stepping on sand, looking at a sky full of stars and breathing in the breeze of the night. The food was included in the price of the trip. That evening we had tagine with couscous (they had vegan, vegetarian and chicken options), millet bread, watermelon for dessert and Morrocan tea. There was more than enough for everyone to be full.
After dinner, we had a mini show. Our hosts made a small bonfire and started playing the drums and singing along. Soon after they started dancing and invited the rest of us to join them. It was the best birthday party I could have asked for. We danced and wandered around in the desert. Our shoes were full of sand, but our hearts were glowing, happy and bright.
Depending on the season, the desert can be quite chilly during the night. Yet, when I went in June, the night was pleasant, and the breeze refreshing. After a restful night sleep, I woke up quite early to be able to squeeze in a morning walk around the camp before breakfast. We had bread, coffee/tea, jam and butter. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to keep us going until we reached the first nearby city.
I was fixing my scarf to make sure I was protecting myself from the scorning sun. And here I was once again on the back of a camel, only this time I was riding an even slimmer one. The desert has a mystic quality about it. It seems rough and unwelcoming, yet the moment you step foot in it, it welcomes you with open arms.
Was it worth travelling so many hours to get to spend one night in the desert? ONE THOUSAND PERCENT YES. My only regret is that I didn’t stay for more nights. Next time I’ll know better.
THINGS TO KNOW
AVOID GOING DURING EXTREME WEATHER – I went at the beginning of June, and the weather was quite pleasant. Avoid going during winter when the weather can be below zero during the night.
Pack accordingly – The camel rides are anything but glamorous. You want to feel comfortable, have your skin mostly covered and wear closed shoes.
BRING WATER & SNACKS – While we were given tea & delicious food at the camp, we didn’t get any extra water. You will drink plenty of water after the camel ride, so be prepared.
DO NOT OVERPACK – You do not need a lot of things with you. If this is a day trip and you already have a hotel to go back to, excellent. If not, you will need to book a hotel nearby and leave your luggage there. There is no way you can bring a suitcase on the camel ride.
CAMEL RIDES ARE BRUTAL – They may look glamorous, but the reality is different. You will end up with sore tights, and if you get a slim camel, you may have bruises (which I had).