During my trip to Morocco last year, I went on a camel ride and 1-night camping in the Sahara Desert on Boxing Day.
Sahara is the first place that comes to most people’s minds when you mention about deserts. It is the 3rd largest desert in the world behind the Artic and Antarctica. The desert is so huge that it stretches across North Africa from Morocco all the way to Egypt. A trip to North Africa does not feel complete if you do not visit this sandy natural wonder.
Tourists that want to visit the Sahara Desert typically go on a 2 or 3-day tour package, which covers attractions like Aït Benhaddou and Todra Gorge before arriving at the Sahara Desert. The tour I went on entered the Sahara from Merzouga, a small town close to the Algerian border, to visit Erg Chebbi sand dunes.
Prior to entering the Sahara, local guides in other attractions that you visit beforehand may mention about you needing a “passport” to enter the Sahara. It turns out that the “passport” is actually a shemagh (Scarf wrap) to protect your head and face. There will be people to help you put this on before you venture into the desert.
You are only allowed to bring hand baggage into the Sahara as other luggage should be stored overnight in the tour bus. Do remember to bring water and portable phone chargers along with you.
The camel ride from Merzouga to the campsite in Erg Chebbi took around 40-50 minutes. I must say that the experience of riding a camel was better than expected. When sited on the camel, you will be more than 2 metres above the ground. There is a handlebar in front of the saddle that you can grip onto as the camel is moving. I didn’t feel that I needed to grip the handlebar at all except when the camel was walking downhill, which allowed me to take photos of the beautiful orange sand dunes all around me.
Once you reach the campsite, there is no itinerary for the rest of the day except for dinner. You have sufficient time to walk around the sand dunes and just admire the beauty of the Sahara sunset. It was such a simple but enjoyable experience to play with the fine sand. And I will never forget about gazing at the sky during the night and being awed by the countless stars all around me. The Sahara is rather windy at night and temperatures will drop below 10°C, so ensure that you have enough warm clothing.
The campsite was better equipped than I expected. I was surprised to see proper beds and blankets in the tents as I wasn’t sure if we needed to bring our own sleeping bags. If you stay in a standard tent accommodation, there will be shared toilet facilities but no showers. However, I noticed that there was no way to lock the front entrance of your tent. And as it was difficult to distinguish your allocated tent, anyone could just walk into my family’s tent during the night.
The next morning, we rode the camels back to Merzouga and watched the sunrise along the way. We then had breakfast before taking the bus ride back to Marrakech. You could choose to take a shower too, but it is unlikely that you have enough time since the bus driver wants to get on the road as soon as possible. After all, it’s a more than 10-hour drive back to Marrakech.
Overall, a truly unforgettable experience. Even if you don’t like long road trips or don’t care about the other attractions in the tour package, it is still undoubtedly worthwhile for the experience of trekking in the Sahara.