Desert Adventure Holiday
Journey through wild and remote desert - by camel! For anyone wishing to leave the frenetic modern world behind, this is like travelling back to a different age. You'll sleep in traditional nomad tents, pass village scenes of everyday life and be part of a typical desert caravan. Local camel drivers will accompany you throughout the trek, providing good company, as you marvel at golden sand dunes and palm-fringed oases from your unique vantage point.
This trip is graded as moderate. During the trek, participants are free to ride their camel or walk, as they choose, though on some rare occasions it may be necessary to dismount due to conditions underfoot. No previous experience is required. The trek involves three full days, each of approximately five to six hours walking. Facilities while camping are basic. Accommodation in the desert is in large communal Bedouin-style tents.
Don’t try to change money in the street in Morocco - it is illegal.
Moroccan meals can consist of up to five courses! If you eat a little of each, you may just have enough appetite left to find some room for desert which is well worth saving some space for!
Take a sarong with you. It can come in really handy, especially in the desert; use it as a headscarf, a towel, to wrap around the shoulders and protect against the sun.
SOME INTERESTING READING:Lords of the Atlas – Gavin MaxwellThe Sheltering Sky – Paul BowlesA Year in Marrakech – Peter MayneSahara – Michael PalinHideous Kinky – Esther FreudBy bus to the Sahara – Gordon WestA Hedonist’s Guide to Marrakech – Paul Sullivan‘Time Out’ Marrakech: Essaouira & The High Atlas – Time Out
LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language but most people also speak French so it is a great chance to practice. You’ll probably know enough French phrases from school to get by but if you don’t know any Arabic, here are some common phrases to get you started:
Hello (literally Peace) - Salaam No – La Yes – AiwaPlease – Min fadhlekGoodbye - BisslemaThank you - Shukran God willing – Insh ‘Allah
We use local tour leaders and accommodations (Riads & Kasbahs) on our tours in the main towns, and support the local communities in the Atlas mountains by staying in Gîtes owned by Berber families, Bedouin style desert camps and using local services such as coaches.
Working closely with our local agent we do our best to support and encourage local schools and projects in all the areas of Morocco that you visit. We strongly discourage people from giving directly to children in the street as it encourages begging. We prefer to support local well-run organizations and projects which are of greater long term benefit to many more people.
If you would like to donate any gifts of pens, pencils or other learning materials your Group Leader will ensure that these are passed on to a suitable and worthy cause. All items will be gratefully received however small. Subject to local constraints, you may be able to visit a school yourself and meet some of the children, if this is of interest to you please discuss the opportunities that may be available to you with your Group Leader - we often find it can be one of the most memorable moments of your trip.
The Adventure Company offset the carbon emissions associated with in-country travel on all of our trips by supporting the ADES Morondava project centre, which is a solar stove and clean energy project in Madagascar. However, it is your flight that will have the largest environmental impact on your holiday. We offer you the opportunity to offset your carbon dioxide emissions with a donation to this project, run by the non-profit organisation Blue Ventures Carbon Offset, as delivering measurable carbon reduction and wider sustainable development benefits for local people. We strongly encourage you to donate to our project, so if you would like to offset the carbon emissions generated by your flight, please contact us. Offsets start from as little as £7.
Since the increase in popularity of bottled water, many countries are experiencing a problem of litter especially where adequate recycling is not available. Please could you try, where possible, to use purification tablets or filters for water or buy bigger bottles of water between group members and decant into your individual water bottles.
Please note: As Morocco is a Muslim country, tight, skimpy clothing should be avoided out of respect for local customs, especially in the smaller, more remote villages. Loose, knee-length shorts are usually acceptable but women should avoid tight, low-cut T-shirts and shoulders should be covered.
Below is a suggestion of what you might find useful to take on this trip. It is not an exhaustive packing list. If you need further advice, please call us or consult your nearest specialist outdoor clothing and equipment store.
For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase). A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc.
Some or all of the excursions detailed below may be available. Approximate costs are given for guidance only and may depend on the number of participants.
Urban Adventures (Tajiine Cookery Class) - GBP £41 (must be pre-booked)
Tajine Cookery Class
Your day starts with a brief language lesson so that you can identify plenty of different ingredients. Once you have them mastered you head out into the souks and mix with the locals as you shop for the fresh produce that you will need for your meal. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to try out your new language skills.
Spices are used extensively in Morocco and have been imported here for thousands of years. There are also many home-grown ingredients though, such as saffron from Tillouine, mint and olives from Meknes and oranges and lemons from Fez. During the cookery class, the chef will teach you how to make traditional dishes that are central to Moroccan cuisine. Along the way you’ll learn about how each ingredient is used and which are needed to make authentic fare.
Among the most famous Moroccan dishes are couscous, pastila, tajine, tanjia and harira. Although the last of these is actually a soup, it is often considered a dish in its own right during the month of Ramadan. It is often served with delicious, locally grown dates.
For lunch you will get to savour your creations, while enjoying the riad setting. Afterwards you will be transferred back to your hotel, armed with local knowledge and plenty of Moroccan recipes to take home with you.
Duration: 4 hours
Start Time: 9-9:30am
Please note that if you wish to do this Urban Adventure it must be pre-booked before your trip departs. Due to flight times, if you wish to go on this Urban Adventure you will need to add an extra night's accommodation onto the end of your trip. Please speak to one of our travel consultants in order to arrange this.
After your flight, you transfer to your first night’s accommodation and check in. Standing at the confluence of three valleys and on the threshold of the Sahara Desert, the town of Ouarzazate was originally a staging point for trans-Saharan caravans but was expanded during the colonial era as a garrison for the French Foreign Legion. Hotel - 1 night
Today you depart from Ouarzazate on a fascinating journey through the lush Draa Valley – a strip of intense cultivation along the Oued Draa, a river formed from the melt waters of the Atlas Mountains. The beauty and colour of the fields and villages is intensified by their stark contrast to the towering Atlas Mountains to the north and the desert to the south.
For lunch (not included) you stop in Zagora, a small town dating from the 13th century and the administrative centre for the Draa Valley. Afterwards, you continue your journey deeper into the desert but still following the life-giving vein of the Oued Draa. Soon you come to the tiny settlement of Beni Ali where you get to meet your camel drivers. The latter are intriguing men from the Aït Atta ethnic group and lead nomadic lives, driving camels and herds of sheep and goats from the higher valleys of the Atlas Mountains across the lower anti-Atlas to the great oases of the southern desert in wintertime. The journey may take months, yet in springtime they turn around and ascend once again to the higher pastures.
As you set off with one camel per person and with additional animals to carry the baggage, the camping equipment and (most importantly) the water, you form a typical desert caravan for the remainder of the day’s journey. Not all deserts are sandy and much of the afternoon is spent crossing flat stony ‘hamada’. Walking or riding as you please, you follow a wide, dry valley. Later you pass a number of wells – always a site of much activity in this parched landscape. Locals from nearby villages surround each well with donkeys, carts and dozens of plastic jerry cans and lower buckets on ropes to draw the precious commodity. You too fill up here before continuing.
Towards the end of the afternoon you’ll reach your camp at Imin Ougni. Your traditional nomad tents are made of dark woven material stretched over wooden props with sides that can hang down or be raised for ventilation. Each is sufficiently large to sleep six or eight people on a floor of carpets and mats. This evening you dine on traditional Moroccan cuisine in the tranquillity of the desert night. Total driving time approx. 4 hours. Camp - 1 night (BD)
After breakfast you watch as the camel drivers load your beasts before finally setting off. Scattered palms dot the landscape now and local people work in irrigated fields collecting grass and dates. You continue through a string of small villages each with its own kasbah seemingly crumbling into the desert soil.
You’ll stop for lunch by the river. Water flowing from the far away Atlas Mountains is dammed in a great reservoir near Ouarzazate. From there the flow is regulated to optimise the irrigation of agricultural land throughout the year in the lower Draa Valley. Occasionally you may see water flowing, and the camels will take great advantage of this during the lunch stops, wallowing in whatever pools they may find. More often than not however, the water is invisible, flowing underground or being carried away by channels to slake thirsty crops. Lunch on the trail consists generally of fresh salads with perhaps sardines or eggs. Fresh fruit is almost always available and invariably you round it all off with a refreshing mint tea.
This afternoon you leave the palm-fringed river and head across scorching desert towards the small dunes at Bougeorn, a short distance from the village of Nesrat. Here you set up camp. The sunset from here on a clear evening is unforgettable with the sinking sun silhouetting the palm trees or perhaps a distant minaret. Your cook prepares a delicious tagine, some cous-cous or perhaps a lentil stew and if you are lucky, your camel drivers may decide to play drums and invite you to join them for an evening of traditional songs under the starry expanse of the night sky. Walking/riding approx. 6 hours Camp – 1 night (BLD)
Today is a particularly dry day. Flat, open, stony plains are traversed by cracked riverbeds. There’s little for the camels to eat so they’re treated by their masters to sacks of dates brought from the villages. Soon you arrive in the small settlement of Zawayat Sidi Salah. Locals watch your passing from the shade of a tree or wall.
If you’re feeling energetic you can perhaps coax some local children into a game of football but otherwise you stop for lunch at the edge of the village. This is the penultimate settlement you’ll see before the end of the trek tomorrow.
By the end of the day you arrive at the Dunes de Tidri - a magical area of rolling dunes in the middle of nowhere which, though not high, stretch spectacularly off into the distance. As your camels wend their way across the rolling sand-scape you may find the ideal moment to photograph this classic desert caravan scene. Sunset is often the most magical time of day; as the fading light illuminates the golden sand enticing soft browns and reds from the distant escarpments. Walk/ride for approx. 5 hours Camp – 1 night (BLD)
After breakfast in the wonderfully fresh and cool air of the morning you set off once again. There are few people now in this vast expanse, save for a few nomadic herdsmen with their precious dromedaries. By noon you arrive at another chain of low dunes scattered with palm trees. Here you have lunch before proceeding for the final hour or so across the dunes to the town of Ouled Driss – civilisation at last! Ouled Driss is a picturesque village with a small museum and a well-maintained Ksar. You’ll camp in a palmeraie just outside of town and take time to wander the surrounding area admiring the intricate network of irrigation channels. Walk/ride for approx. 4 hours Camp (with ablutions) – 1 night (BLD)
This morning, after an early breakfast, you board your vehicle for the long return trip to Marrakech. (total driving time approx. 8 hours, plus meal stop) As you retrace your steps through the beautiful Draa Valley you can reflect on the privileged insight you have had into the ways and customs of the region and be amazed at the completely different pace you have been travelling at. You stop in Aït Benhaddou for lunch; a small village whose focal point is one of the best-preserved fortified kasbahs in the country. With its slit windows and dramatic walls of red earth, this is a magnificent example of a stronghold. Dating from around the 15th century, its importance as a trading post gradually dwindled, and today’s inhabitants eke out a living from farming the meagre soil. However, due to its stunning photogenic qualities it has been used as a setting for several recent Hollywood films including Gladiator. After lunch you continue over Tizi-n-Tichka pass - the highest in North Africa - and witness the astonishing transition from the arid semi-desert of the south-facing slope, to the fertile terraces and fields of the well-watered northern face. On descending from the mountains you cross the plain to enter the imperial city of Marrakech whose old town is surrounded by a cordon of protective ramparts. Even today, the name Marrakech conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city, dating from the 11th century, never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. It has everything from the graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, which dominates the skyline, to the wonderful atmosphere of souks and alleyways that make up its old quarter.
On arrival you check into your hotel, shower off the sand, and enjoy a celebratory meal in a restaurant for a change! Later you can wander the Djemaa el-Fna, the famous market square at the heart of the medina and the focus of night-time activity. An almost medieval pageant ensues as acrobats and magicians, minstrels and fortune tellers, jugglers and snake charmers all come to entertain the crowds of onlookers. Hotel – 2 nights (B) The hotel is located just outside the city walls around the old Medina. It is about a 25 minute walk to the main square Djemaa el Fna but close to local shops and restaurants
Today you are free to explore the back alleys and souks of this fascinating city. To orientate yourself, you start with a guided walking tour of the centre, taking in the main sites, then later you make your way into the sprawling souk. As is usual in a souk, individual trades and crafts are concentrated in one street or area, so the shoemakers are all next to each other, as are the jewellers, the potters, weavers etc. This must be the best place in Morocco to hone one’s haggling skills, and you are sure to be tempted by some of the wonderful variety of merchandise on display, even if it’s only a small packet of exotic spices or a trinket.
The afternoon is free to explore; there are plenty of sites to visit such as the Saadian tombs, el-Badi Palace or the Dar si Said museum. Later on in the afternoon the souks come alive and there are many bargains to be had. If you’d like to experience the relaxation of a hammam (traditional bathhouse), your Group Leader will advise you on which one to visit. For just a few dirhams, you’ll be steamed and scrubbed until you shine! Tonight you head to one of the city’s many restaurants for your last meal together (not included), to reflect on all you’ve seen and done in this fascinating country. (B)
The trip ends for Land Only clients. Those on group flights transfer to airport and fly home. (B)
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