Before our trip to Morocco, I started to fantasize about a magical trek in the desert. Friends of mine had woven tales of beautiful and once-in-a-lifetime experiences from Fes to Marrakesh. A trek lasting a couple of nights in the Sahara where you would ride a friendly camel, find a secret oasis, dine with the Berber people of Merzouga and fall asleep under the stars.
But apparently, magic and fantasy will cost you.
I had been searching for trekking options for months and was having trouble finding anything lower than $350 per person. Granted, this price was nothing in the grand scheme of a lifetime. However we had chosen to visit Morocco based on its budget friendly options and $700 for two nights was simply not an option for our RTW, long-term honeymoon. But dammit, I wanted to ride a camel!
I asked my friend Ali, who recently visited Morocco and Spain, and she informed me of Dunes and Deserts Exploration. This company was rated highly, had a small, half day camel tour option, and was within our price range. Budget-honeymoon for the win!
At exactly 8:45 am, we were picked up by our shuttle in front of the Saadian Tombs, located right across the street from our riad. The shuttle picked up 2 more couples and we were off to the Dunes and Deserts main location. Our driver acted as a mini guide prior to the trek, pointing out landmarks and famous gardens along the way.
Upon arrival, there were about 15-20 other individuals, mostly couples waiting for the trek to begin. We sat outside in a large circle where we were greeted with mint tea and discussed our itinerary with the manager of the company. Kevin went inside to pay while I had my scarf wrapped around my head in typical nomadic fashion. But Kev looked better.
The camels were lying down in a single file line, with the cutest baby camel (named Shakira) sitting next to her mama. Turns out, I was riding mama Aisha. I was the first to hop on the camels where they instruct you to hold on for dear life. Camels rise with their hind legs first and their front legs second. But after your first time being propelled forward suddenly and then jerked backwards, you start to look at it as a small roller coaster ride.
Kevin was in front of me riding Zissou and baby Shakira was hanging next to mom. Once the rest of the group hopped on their designated camel, we were off!
For the first hour and a half, we ventured through the desert where we saw several herds of sheep and goats with their doggy shepherds. There weren’t any cars, landmarks or people along this part of the journey. To be surrounded by a small group of individuals in such a vast, arid space was extremely awe-inspiring. When we weren’t taking obnoxious selfies, the group was often silent to take it all in. Occasionally, our guides would sing Moroccan songs, make camel decorations made of straw and check in on us.
We reached our lunch destination in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. It was here, amongst the tall brush and cacti that we enjoyed an endless supply of mint tea, honey crepes, the company of our tour companions and pet our camels for a job well done (and take another selfie). After a month (okay, two months) of missing the gym, our legs were screaming in pain and happy to take a break.
Our journey back was much shorter, thankfully. It was about 12 pm and the sun was getting hotter. Our guides continued to make the journey fun, teaching us camel instructions in Arabic, “Hassan, ti ti, massage, ni ni!”
At around 12:30, we arrived back at our starting location. Those who were to ride ATVs in the desert stayed while the rest of us were to be shuttled back to our respective riads and hotels. For about 50 dirhams you may purchase a professional photo taken by the staff’s resident photographer. The picture quality is great, however if you were taking several photos like we were, purchasing one was not really necessary. Plus they send you some photos via Facebook a couple of weeks later.
Overall, it was such a wonderful day! Kevin and I have been feeling the lazy, honeymoon vibe lately so the half day option was perfect. We promptly followed it up with a nap and a late lunch in the medina.
If you plan on visiting Marrakech and are looking for the best tour for the best rate, I highly recommend Dunes and Deserts. Check out their other tours like paragliding the Atlas Mountains, hot air ballooning and multiple day excursions. Just remember to tip your guides and driver for a job well done!