Moroccan Sahara Camel Trekking and Camping

13.02.18 10:22 PM By Putri

Until the year 2017, I have done camping TWICE in my entire life, you all. TWICE. Please note that this is actually some kind of grand achievements for me. I might seem like having a lot of savage manly traits in me, but deep down inside, I am a dainty, feminine lady. Spending nights in wilderness, protected by nothing but a flimsy tent, with no access to fresh water is not really my cup of tea. I am the kind of person who will die first when the apocalypse happens. I have no survival skills, my mood is heavily dependent on how fast the wifi is, no electricity freaks me out, and I HAVE to have access to fresh water and an enclosed toilet at all time (I have the urinary retention of an 80 years old grandmama).

Okay, I might die in the next electricity blackout…

Camping in the Moroccan Sahara was my third attempt of camping. Honestly, it was not even real camping, we slept in a semi-permanent bivouac and everything was prepared by our hosts, all we got to do was hop on our camels and ride to the location. It was more like a sleep-over to me. A one of the kind sleep-over. 

We started our camel ride to the camp at around 5 PM to catch the sunset on the way

The camel ride

We joined a camping group of 10 people, so there were 10 camels lining up for us. There were two guides for the ride but neither of them rode a camel. Instead, they walked up in the front, leading the camel convoy. 

The first challenge was getting on the camel's back. One of our guides, Mohammed, made one of the camels sit down to let me climb onto it's back and sit on the saddle. I made myself secure and comfortable before he told the camel to go on its feet. The camel looked pretty reluctant doing this (was I that heavy, camel?!) I could tell by the way it grunted and spat. Then Mohammed chatted a bit to the camel and the camel followed his order voluntarily. Mohammed was a camel whisperer… And I got swung around like a nipple tassel at a burlesque show as the camel stood up.

The ride to the camp was about 2 hours or so, including a few photo stops and enjoying the sunset from a peak of the highest sand dunes. I must admit, riding a camel was pretty comfortable. Have you ever ridden an old, grandpa car, let say an old Buick where it’s very cushiony  with wide leg room and it runs so smoothly it feels like it just glides away? Riding a camel is almost that comfortable, with non-stop background sound of spits and regurgitation. Nico doesn't share the same impression tho, he found it rough. Well, at the beginning was a bit rough indeed, but once I got into the rhythm of the camel's step and speed, it got easier and enjoyable. 

About 30 minutes into the ride, my anxiety kicked in. I looked around and there’s absolutely nothing but dunes and dry land. I couldn’t see any civilization nearby. I realized that I let myself being led to the land of doom for all I know by these camel whisperers. Things could happen, you know, like in the movies. Luckily, it was just another episode of my anxiety attack. 

The only bad thing happening was when Nico’s camel suddenly decided to go on a strike and took my beloved Canadian with it. Nico was at the end of the line of the camel convoy, so nobody noticed that his camel wasn’t tied anymore to the group, and neither did he because that bloody canuck was too busy taking pics!!

- sigh - face palm -

The desert looked pretty empty and dead. There was nothing at all but sand, well this is what the bottom of the ocean looks like when you empty it after all. I found it beautiful and bleak at the same time. As someone who was born in a tropical country, near a city with the highest precipitation in the world; rivers and mosses are in my veins. Seeing all this vast dry land where there was nothing, no trees, no fresh water flowing, no sign of live, were somehow depressing.

Suddenly our guide looked at a dune, a simple dune like all the others, walked towards it and plunged his hand deep in the sand and pulled out a small lizard, commonly called a sand fish... Proving that there was life all around !

The desert lizard and the gorgeous sunset wiped my last fears away. 

The camp

There are two types of dessert camping available; the glamping one (glamorous camping with all the fanciness you can ever imagine and highly instagramble set-ups) and the modest one that offers you a genuine sleep over in the desert. We took the later one. 

The camp was located secludedly among dunes. From afar, it looked like a bivouac fort. The camp has tents for rooms, an open-air space, and a dining tent. There were two dry toilets not far from the camp with eco-potty kind of toilets. There was no running water whatsoever. So what about taking a shower after the long camel ride? Shower? Pfft, you can even take a bath if you want, if you are a chinchilla that is.. There are unlimited stock of sands for your dust bath.. LoL.. 

After supper, which was vegetarian tajine and watermelon, we had a short gathering at the open-air area. Mohammed turned out to be not only good with camels, he was also a good host. He entertained us with music, and even attempted to teach each of us how to play the Berber tambourine. He was also a good story teller. He explained a lot about how the Berber nomads live, their culture, tradition, and he even threw some Berber jokes and cheesy riddles. 

We had our own tent/bedroom with mattresses and tiny lights, which rapidly transformed into a sauna after 5 minutes you’re in it. Seriously, it was hot. I was told that it could become freezing cold at night but once again I was misinformed. I couldn’t sleep at all. This must be how the aubergines feel inside a tajine; hot, sweating and cooking in their own juice, slowly dying from dehydration yet sinking in sweat. I feel ya, aubergines. I wanted to take my mattresses out and sleep under the stars, ignoring the risk of getting bitten by scorpions, along with the other aubergines friends from the group who had the same problem.

Somehow Nico slept right thru… what’s wrong with that Canadian? 

The dining area. I swear to you, it looks much better after the sun sets.

The famous desert sunrise

Shortly before 6 AM, we were woken up to catch sunrise. The sunrise view on the desert is one of the most sought-after sunrise views, it was incredible indeed and beautiful. 

Can you find me?

Practical tips for Sahara trekking and camping: 

  • Arrange your trekking and camping trip with a trustable agents before hand, or through your hotel at the desert area. Most of big hotels in the desert also has their own desert camp,
  • Long pants so you don't your rub your inner thigh against the camels harsh hairs while riding,
  • Water bottles, lots of water bottles,
  • Sunglasses and scarf to protect you from the heat and the sandy wind, 
  • Wet wipes,
  • Protection for you electronics. My Sony mirrorless still spat sand months after the trip.