“Are we there yet?”. This simple 4-word question crossed my mind at least a hundred times during our long 12-hour journey from Marrakesh to Merzouga in Sahara Desert.
For those who are familiar with long-haul flights, you would know that confusing feeling of waking up from a sleep only to know that you are not even through half of the journey. Imagine the same kind of feeling but in a car instead.
Yet we know, this is one of the main reasons why we chose Morocco as our 10-year anniversary celebration. To be able to sleep under the stars, walk on endless sands of Sahara Desert and experience the local Berber culture. We knew it would be worth the journey.
Although significantly costlier than the normal option of shared tourist busses to Merzouga, I’m glad that we chose a (much) more expensive private package. We wanted flexibility in customizing our own journey and we were glad to have Ali as our driver cum guide and occasionally entertainer (he can sing well and has 1-2 good jokes in his sleeves).
While it is a long full day journey, it was not without some interesting stops. We made a few short side-trips to stretch our legs at the same time enjoy some of the interesting sights.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, this place was once a major stop along the caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara so our guide insisted for us to spend some time here.
Gladiator, The Mummy, Kingdom of Heaven, Lawrence of Arabia, Alexander, Prince of Persia, Game of Thrones are some of the movies and shows that has scenes shot at Aït Benhaddou.
In fact, Hollywood (and even Bollywood) movie scouts seem to love Morocco so much that a lot of desert, middle east scenes were filmed here. Snow-capped mountains, endless desert, palm trees, world class film studios all in one place, so it kind of makes sense.
Atlas Studio. Spend some time here if you can and enjoy being in sets of Prison Break, Gladiator, etc. We wanted to reach the desert earlier so we kind of regret not stopping by for at least an hour or two.
A nice round of tajine at mid-point of the long journey.
Finally. Hello Merzouga, Sahara Desert.
12 hours after leaving Marrakesh, we finally arrived at our next base – Kam Kam Dunes Camp.
It was cloudy when we got there but alhamdulillah we could start seeing the stars as the night goes by.
Our 10-year anniversary dinner. Nothing too fancy but something we would remember.
While Kam-Kam Dune is not quite a Neelofa kind of luxury glamping, we love the place as it has private tents with WC and shower facilities. Something that is super useful on a cold sub zero degrees Sahara winter night.
The tent is nice but what’s more amazing is the view outside.
The only entertainment you need out there in the middle of nowhere. We spent most of the evening just chilling out (literally too… please bring your winter attire if you come in December) looking at the stars.
Hours later it was time for the next activity. A short camel trek to catch the sunrise over Sahara.
A bit too short but it was alright.
Back at the camp, we had a nice hearty breakfast while enjoying the facilities we paid for and of course the amazing view.
Despite all the fun we had, we felt there was still something missing in our desert adventure. The experience of being in a middle of a sand dunes in Sahara Desert like I had always imagined. Thanks to Ali, he brought us to a place where we could experience just that.
He recommended us to go crazy on the dunes with an ATV. We chose a buggy instead but it was definitely one of the best moments of our Morocco trip.
I highly recommend this if you come to Merzouga. One hour of endless fun.
Ending our Sahara adventure with a tour to experience Berber life at nearby Berber villages.
It may be labeled as the authentic Berber experience, but I have a feeling that they are so use of having tourists coming over it felt a bit commercialized.
A mosque at one of the villages.
We also made a quick stop at a village near Merzouga inhabited by Senegalese musicians and dancers. I really enjoyed their music and performances.
After 2 full days, we opted for a more modern accommodation just outside Merzouga. This is a perfect location if you want to still have all the usual hotel stuff but still near by the all the fun that Sahara Desert has to offer.
And for us a well-deserved pit stop before we continue our journey to discover more of Morocco.