In 2016 I went to Morocco for the first time. Foreigners who do not need a visa for Portugal can be in Portugal for a period of three months, renewable for another three months and then have to leave the Schengen area and re-enter so that time starts counting from zero. As you know, my husband is Mexican and when he arrived in Portugal we thought about all these issues, before deciding to get married and done, and we booked seven days in Marrakesh, where we arrived only with the address of our Riad and without any plan! We immediately realized that seven days in the ocher city was going to be too long, so we started to analyse the excursions that the hotel itself offered.
The one that caught our attention the most was the Tour to the Merzouga Desert, three days, two nights, all for around 80€ per person, with everything included except lunches and drinks (Count on 15-25€ per day per person for these expenses because obviously they take us to tourist places, a little more expensive than the standard of living in the country)! Attention: Online I find the same tour for 280€ per person and others similar from 115€, so I advise you to buy directly in Marrakesh, not only is it cheaper but it probably helps locals, who receive a commission for it 😉 We booked the tour for our fourth, fifth and sixth day of the trip. The first, second and third, were spent in Marrakesh and it was like this.
We woke up early and got picked up from the Riad to go to the meeting point, a street near the Jemma el Fna square. Almost all tours depart from there and people are divided by vans, by language. Our group consisted of eleven people: two Dutch, two French, two Korean-Americans, two Chinese, one Tunisian, one Mexican and one Portuguese 🙂 The first day begins with the crossing of the Atlas Mountains. I never thought to see a mountain range so dry and so green at the same time! Wherever a stream of water passes, there is life! The first long stop was in the fortified city of Aït-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a kasbah quite famous for being the scene of several Hollywood films, including the Gladiator or the Mummy and even some Game of Thrones scenarios. Only four families still live there, with the majority of the population now living in the new city, across the river, which was dry that day. Lunch was right there in the city, at L’Oasis Dor, a typical restaurant for groups of tourists. We continued on our way with a brief stop at the city of Ouarzazate, which I was very sorry not to go inside, because when I read the tour description I thought we were going to have time in the city, but for our guide it was the same as the previous one and we just continued driving… We finally arrived at Gorges du Dadès region, naked mountains of red dirt, which contrast with the green of the valleys, where locals work in the fields, harvest cereals and other crops, advancing work before Ramadan starts! It was here that we slept and dined at the Le Vieux Chateau du Dadés, a small hotel by a river, between the mountains, much more pleasant than I expected.
The excitement of the second day was to arrive to the desert, something we knew it was going to happen just at the end of the day. Along the way we could enjoy the view, the life of the Moroccans in these lesser-known cities and villages and the stops the guide would give us. The first was in the city of Tinghir, to visit some plantations and its Kasbah, where we would visit an artisanal carpet factory, where they use not only sheep wool but also camel wool! We continued to the Gorges do Dadès, a very high gorge that ends in a river. From the photographs I had seen before, I imagined a more empty place. It was full, not of tourists, but of locals – families making picnics, children playing in the water, something like the local beach. Here, too, I thought we would have more time, that we would even have time for a refreshing bath, but we had to keep going! The second day’s lunch was the best, on a terrace full of plants, a huge table for the group. Unfortunately, I didn’t memorize either the name or the place. After lunch the landscape began to change, starting to look like a desert, first of dry land and finally of sand. We reached the Merzouga desert, one of the Sahara gates! As we were going to camp in the middle of the desert, we stopped at a hotel where the vans stayed, to eventually change clothes and prepare a backpack with only the essential items for the trip, the night and the return. A caravan of dromedaries was waiting for us to take us for an hour and a half through the golden dunes of Merzouga. This desert is not actually connected to the Sahara, it is a kind of oasis of sand and therefore the end of the dunes is almost always present on the horizon. Still, it was one of the most impressive sunsets of my life! Finally arriving at the camp, it was time for dinner (unfortunately the food was horrible, tasteless), the guides still try to give a show, dancing and singing, but what we really wanted was for them to turn off the lights so we could see the stars! Needless to say, everyone slept outside 🙂
Attention, take power bank or extra batteries for the camera, as there is no electricity to charge them. There is also no bathroom, so a flashlight is not a bad ideat – no, it is not a luxury camp, you sleep on mattresses on the floor 😉
On the third day we woke up before sunrise, we packed everything and in five minutes we were already on top of the dromedaries. After an hour and a half “on camel” the day before, the return was not at all comfortable, a literal pain in the ass! We stopped halfway to watch the sunrise from the top of a dune and continued on to the vans – I gave up almost at the end and finished walking. We still had 11 hours ahead of us to return to Marrakech, with no stops except for lunch or to buy some water. In the first part of the path almost everyone slept, since the way was the same as the day before. Through the photographs in the tour brochure, we should pass that super-steep S road in the mountains, famous for this tour. If we passed, no one woke or warned us. We stopped in Oarzazate for lunch, in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the city, La Kasbah Etoile. Again, we didn’t visit the city… When we arrived at the Atlas we were all super awake, taking lots of photos! We arrived in Marrakesh at around 6pm, where we only had dinner and went to bed, as we had three super intense days!
I really think the tour was amazing! The group was super friendly and was travelling in the same vibe as we were, which helps a lot! It was my third time on camels and the most spectacular, because it was so long, although the next day I suffered a little for that, and for that beautiful sunset! I was just sorry we didn’t visit Oarzazate but it was so special to cross this part of the country, see how people live, eat their food, see and photograph the different landscapes! I think it’s a tour that everyone who goes to Marrakech should do.
If you liked this post and want to read more about my trips to Morocco, you can visit the following posts: