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Camel Caravan and Camping in the desert of Morocco

After a few days of exploring Marrakesh, we packed a backpack to embark on the next leg of our adventure. We were headed to hop on a camel and trek across the desert to go camp under a star lit sky. Doesn’t sound too boring right? We left all our belongings at the Riad we stayed in, located in Marrakesh, and packed a backpack for the trip. Before the sun was up, the tour bus was outside to pick us up. Here’s what you need to know to camel caravan in the desert of Morocco.

Camel Caravan in the desert of Morocco
Our Camels taking a rest from our trek across the Desert

Arabic is the official language of Morocco. Wherever we travel, we try to learn as many basic phrases as we can in the native tongue of the land. While we did learn some basic transactional or conversational words and dialogue, we found that most everywhere we went (lodging, shopping, restaurants and taxis) people spoke English. Language was not a barrier of any kind on this adventure.

Pick a good Tour Group

You can join a caravan camping trip for a reasonable price. I would not consider this an expensive activity, particularly when you gauge the value of what you get versus the cost. However, there are many tour groups that offer this trip for varying lengths. Typically, this trip can last 2-5 days depending on which tour you select. Therefore, you’ll likely choose your tour group based on your time or budget constraints, if any. We ended up booking with Marrakesh Desert Tours and recommend it highly.

Map of our journey from Marrakesh only we ended at Zagora

Camel Trek Itinerary

So where did we go exactly on this camping trip?

Day 1 started with our driver picking us up from our Riad. Then over the course of 48 hours we:

  • Drove in the tour bus for 8 hours through the High Atlas Mountains
  • Visited the UNESCO World heritage site Aït Benhaddou Ksar (arabic castle, or Berber fortified village)
  • Toured Ouarzazate – known as the “Gateway to the Sahara Desert”, a city south of the Atlas Mountains
  • Camel caravan’d and explored the Dunes of Erg Chebbi then went tent camping under the stars in Merzouga
  • Visited several small Berber villages on the way back to Marrakesh
Camel Caravan in the desert of Morocco
We finished our Camel Caravan through Erg Chebbi and arrived at our campsite in Mergouza

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to ride a camel (referred to as the “ships of the desert”) for many hours? Let’s just say, I’ve definitely experienced more comfortable modes of transportation. However, my camel took care of me and got us to our campsite safely; and that is what is most important. During our journey, we actually started to bond, so I was sad to say goodbye! Did you know that these iconic animals, despite being strongly associated with the Middle East, are native to North America (what?!) ?

What time of year should I do this excursion?

If you dislike heat, I highly encourage you to take this trip in October. On average, highs are about 82℉ and lows about 60℉. The weather was perfect – just warm enough during the day, and pleasantly cool at night. It will also make for a more enjoyable experience overall while venturing on the camels, without risk of overheating. 

Be cautious of the time of year you choose to do this activity. One of our guides shared with us that traveling Nomads will prepare dough for pitas and dig a hole in the sand for the sun to bake it! In other words, don’t go during times of excruciating heat unless, you too, would like to become sun baked. 

Camel Caravan in the desert of Morocco
UNESCO World Heritage Site – Aït Benhaddou Ksar

What to wear?

Pack pale colored clothing, constructed of light fabrics and textiles. Be respectful of local practices and wear appropriate clothing in accordance to customs in Morocco. When in doubt, you can always buy weather and culturally appropriate garb on site. There is a mecca of affordable shopping in the surreal labyrinth of Souks, or you can check out the Jemma el-Fnaa

I highly recommend a head wrap for covering your mouth. When the winds kick up, especially as you are caravanning on your camel; sand will hit you in the face and you won’t want to breathe that in. Your guides can and will help you learn to work with your head wrap and properly tie a Moroccan shesh.

My Camel and I bonded on our trek and didn’t want to part ways in the end!

What’s to eat?

I’m just going to be straight up that if you are a food snob or a picky eater, you may not be thrilled. Keep your food expectations modest. No one expects coursed meals when camping, but keep in mind: This is food that has to be prepared in large quantities, with no amenities, in the middle of the desert. Meals will be simple, with low to moderate seasoning. If you take this trip with the same tour group we did, food (albeit, a bit bland) will be plentiful, hot and you will always be full.

I also recommend packing and keeping water bottle(s) and toilet paper with you at all times.

Checking out Ouarzazate – which is supposedly a popular town for Hollywood to shoot movies

We did stop a few times for snacks or lunch during the course of this journey. Most everywhere we went accepted credit cards or Euros. However, we still recommend keeping a reasonable amount of Dirhams on hand for street vendors that may only accept cash. While tipping isn’t mandatory, it is customary to round up your bill at a restaurant if you had a good experience. There is no “rule of thumb” to tipping in Morocco, but if you are pleased with someone’s service, leaving them a small tip is a nice way to show your appreciation. 

Saying Goodnight to my sweet Camel when we were at our Campsite

Unique, must experience excursion

Having no cell phone service, no internet, no access to media and being thousands of miles away from all your worries and things familiar is freeing in so many ways. Camping will teach you to reconnect with your imagination and deep thought. Nights were spent surrounded by a campfire sipping Moroccan mint tea — no sound of the television, but rather just the strumming of nomadic instruments and the beating of drums filled the air. Camping in medium size groups like this also gave you the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life, from all over the world.

As I have often concluded; there is more that connects us then makes us different, and it is those very differences that makes travel and meeting people from all over the world so meaningful. Few things compare to laying flat on your back on a hand-woven carpet in the middle of the desert and gazing up into a pitch black void with piercing bright light from all the stars strewn across the sky. Mesmerizing and enchanting… you wonder if you have transported yourself to a different time. You realize in that moment, that we were meant for so much more than spending our life on a plush leather couch.

ما سيأتي هو أفضل مما ذهب

“What is coming, is better than what is gone.”

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