Glamping in Erg Chebbi or How We Rode Camels in the Sahara

If you’d told us six months ago that we’d be riding camels in the Sahara, we would have

Camel riding in the Sahara: just do it!

Camel riding in the Sahara: just do it!

replied, “You’ve got the wrong people for that.”  After all, we had done just that at the Knoxville Zoo atop a mangy, reluctant beast who shuffled around a dirt ring with us and our granddaughter hanging on for dear life.  But when in the Sahara, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  There’s only one way to see sundown in Morocco:  on a camel’s back.  And yes, you still may be hanging on for dear life.

After leaving Ourzazate, you drive half a day (at least) past oases, farm land, clusters of homes surrounding yet another beautiful mosque until you finally come to Merzouga, the

The "road" from Merzouga to Erg Chebbi

The “road” from Merzouga to Erg Chebbi

place where you leave the comfort of your guided tour and hop into a jeep headed to the desert.  You travel along an unmarked road.  (Well, really there is no road.  And how the Jeep drivers know their way through sand was just one of the baffling realities of our trip to Morocco.)

We went past campsites of nomads, past tourists mounting camels, and into what seemed to be the end of the earth as we knew it.  But it was really just the edge of Erg Chebbi.  Now, an erg is a sea of dunes formed by wind-blown sand, but this erg is dotted with campsites the likes of which you may have never seen before.

With mint tea and cookies in front and luxury behind the door, we approached our tent in the Sahara.

With mint tea and cookies in front and luxury behind the door, we approached our tent in the Sahara.

Welcoming us with open arms and a pot of herb tea in a silver pitcher, our hosts for the evening guided us to a white tent worthy of Lawrence of Arabia.

Welcoming us to Erg Chebbi with open arms.

Welcoming us to Erg Chebbi with open arms.

And once inside, we were surprised by red velvet “walls” and down comforters — not like any tent camping we’d ever experienced.  On one side of the tent: a private shower.  On the other side: a private toilet.  Sinks, mirrors, and hot water, too:  all part of the standard luxury treatment.

Deep red walls and plush bedding greeted us in our tent for the night in the Sahara.

Deep red walls and plush bedding greeted us in our tent for the night in the Sahara.

But behind the tent was what we came to see: dunes piled high against an afternoon sky with camels sitting idly by, waiting for a sunset run with yet another batch of tourists.

Camels await the sundown tour through the desert.

Camels await the sundown tour through the desert.

Wrapped tightly in all white, our guide waited patiently for our party of six to arrive.  And then he shared secrets of successful mounting — some of which we understood, some of which we didn’t.

Posing with the guide who would help me mount a camel -- hopefully!

Posing with the guide who would help me mount a camel — hopefully!

It was all good advice, we quickly learned, even if we didn’t fully comprehend:  “As the camel moves, you move in the opposite direction.  If he comes up, you bend down. If he dips down unexpectedly, you move upright.”  And we thought about that, not really knowing any more than when we started the journey.  But with a few flourishes and counter moves, we were up.

Success! Bert mounts a camel!

Success! Bert mounts a camel!

And then (even before we were ready) we were off!  The guide held the rope of the first camel which was tied to all the others, and the camels knew the drill.  (Take the tourists one careful step at a time: up and over and around those dunes!)

A camel caravan in the desert. (I'm number five, taking pictures from behind.)

A camel caravan in the desert. (I’m number five, taking pictures from behind.)

We dismounted once, as we were given the opportunity to climb to the highest mound of sand.  Some did. Some didn’t.  But all took in the afternoon glow as the sun began its descent.

Dismounting to rest and take it all in.

Dismounting to rest and take it all in.

 

Want the best view of the sunset? Ya gotta climb!

Want the best view of the sunset? Ya gotta climb!

By the time we re-mounted, we had only a few shaky camel steps downward before we all held tight to the reins with one hand and our cameras with the other to capture sundown in the Sahara.  Worth it.  Totally.

Riding again -- into the sunset

Riding again — into the sunset

Sundown. At last.

Sundown. At last.

Meanwhile back in the camp, dinner was bountiful — Moroccan dishes, one after another.  And entertainment that got us up: bouncing, singing, clapping and cheering on the brave ones selected by the drummer to entertain the group.

Circling the firepit and waiting for the stars to come out.

Circling the firepit and waiting for the stars to come out.

After dinner the light show began. With nothing more than a fire pit for a soft glow, we sat around and pointed at stars, the moon, and the pitch black sky before turning in and putting our tired bodies to rest on those plush beds in the tents.

Dawn's early light in the Sahara

Dawn’s early light in the Sahara

Morning began at 4:30 a.m. when we did as we were told the night before: “Put on your clothes and get outside.  You may only have one chance to see sunrise at the Sahara.” And the host was right.  Worth it again.

How's this for a screen saver shot of dawn in the Sahara!

How’s this for a screen saver shot of dawn in the Sahara!

Saying good-bye was like parting after a week of camping — sweet but a little sad.  But back into the Jeep again — and on to the next adventure.  Morocco just may have it all — cities with medinas, vast stretches of fertile land and small farming communities, coastal towns, and sand.  Lots and lots of sand.  What a country!

Saying good-bye at Bivouac Sahara, a perfect desert experience.

Saying good-bye at Bivouac Sahara, a perfect desert experience.

For more information:

Contact your travel agent and ask for information on camping in the Sahara.  Or just Google “Camping in the Morocco desert.”  You’ll find prices, dates, and accommodations for just about every budget.  But, for sure: don’t mark it off your to-do list ’til you’ve done it!

Thanks for traveling to Morocco with us —

Bert and Rusha Sams

For more places to see in this fascinating country, click on Marvelous Morocco under Travel Series.

 

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
This entry was posted in Marvelous Morocco, Morocco, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Glamping in Erg Chebbi or How We Rode Camels in the Sahara

  1. Great photos!
    Loved the camel trek in the Western Saharan – stunning…

  2. Pretty fancy there Rusha. I can imagine you hated to leave these deluxe digs. In my Sudan days, I spent a fair old amount of time in the Sahara, and there wasn’t much glamping to it. And they must have drugged your camels, because my experience with them is that they’re some of the meanest, most ornery critters in Christendom. Glad you had a good experience. When it works, the desert is a very special place. ~James

    • Loved your photo in your most recent “questions answered” post. I should have stretched out on our bed in the tent in the Sahara. I didn’t feel as though we were meat on a stick if we ventured forth at night, but I wasn’t going to give it a try either. We did, however, put socks in our shoes at night to keep out the scorpions!!!

  3. David says:

    Who else can say they rode a portion of the Sahara on camelback? They’re the easiest animals to ride. Did you get to visit Rabat? Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    O/T: Finally got an IG account. I’m @DR1779R. Hope to find a better name. 🙂

    • You’re right about camels being easy to ride. The only time I got a bit concerned was when the camel had to step down for the descent and shifting sands were under foot. I wasn’t sure I wanted my camel to lose his footing and take a tumble with me under his body! But all is well that ends well — a great memory!

  4. lulu says:

    Quite an adventure! I’ve ridden a camel in the Sahara but not experienced glamming which sounds wonderful.

    • Glamping (Glamorous Camping) is something I’ve never experienced. We just don’t camp, but the last time we tried, I was sleeping in a sleeping bag on the bare ground. Not comfortable. This had comfort, unbelievable scenery, and great entertainment. If you get a chance to do it, we both highly recommend it. Thanks for taking a look.

  5. krithya G says:

    What a lovely treat! Seems like the perfect way to spend time in the desert, with camel rides, sand dunes, sunrise and sunset, star gazing and singing and dancing around a campfire and to top it all good food and a comfortable tent. Perfect! Thanks for sharing your adventure. Happy Holidays.

    • Thanks for taking a look at (and you said it!) a perfect getaway! I’m hoping others will see the post and be inspired to inquire about tacking one of the trips onto their itinerary in Morocco. All the best to you for Happy Holidays and good travels/blogging in the new year!!!

  6. Desert safaris are epic! 😀

    • I totally agree with you! We thought it would be tent camping with cots and metal mugs of coffee cooked on a fire. But wowsers! It was pretty fancy. And God came through with the best sunset and sunrise! Epic, for sure. Thanks for taking a look!

  7. A great trip Rusha. Fun photos of you, Bert, and the camels. And all of the Moroccan dishes— I wish I would have been there to sample them. Thanks for sharing. –Curt

    • Thanks, Curt. It’s interesting that I’ve camped in the Sahara but not in the Oregon woods. Something’s wrong with that. Maybe you need to lead me in the U. S. camping direction! (But you’d have to pitch a glamorous tent!)

  8. tappjeanne says:

    Wow! An adventure of a lifetime!

  9. kzmcb says:

    Great tale and beautiful shots.

    • Thanks so much for taking a look. I had no idea that a tent in a desert could be so pretty. And, I’m so glad I said YES to the camel ride. Almost didn’t. Sometimes you just remember the interesting things you did on a trip, and this was one of ours in Morocco!

  10. Wow that was amazing and so interesting thanks for sharing

    • Thanks for looking at this — we loved the desert up close and personal. Have seen photos since I was little, but it’s really interesting when you’re in the middle of it and can’t see anything else all around. Best wishes for a great holiday season! And thanks again for commenting.

  11. Sue says:

    That looks like an adventure and a half!

  12. HesterLeyNel says:

    Wow, what an adventure!

  13. Wow. That is so awesome. Thank you for sharing the picture.

    • Thanks for taking a look. It not only met our expectations; it exceeded them! No sleeping on cots that night. And no eating sandwiches and drinking cold coffee. It was first class. Here’s to you for happy holidays and a good year of blogging ahead.

  14. cindy knoke says:

    What an excellent adventure!

    • Cindy, we’re still talking about that excellent adventure. It’s not that we ever need to do this again, but I’m glad we didn’t shy away from it. At first, I didn’t want a camel ride since they’re not the kindest of animals. But I’m so glad I didn’t stay back at the camp. Here’s hoping your holidays are wonderful. Looking forward to your posts in 2019.

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