A huge bucket list item for me has always been to ride a camel into the Sahara Desert. I envisioned an ‘Indiana Jones-esq’ adventure into the colorful and vast expanse of sand. When I finally decided to take a journey to Morocco, the ride was a must-do experience on my list. Upon arrival, I learned that I was not only able to take a sunset camel ride but also camp for the night under the stars in the desert, making it an even more unforgettable experience.
To get to the Sahara, one must first head to southern Morocco, to a town called Merzouga which acts as the gateway to Eb Chebbi, the section of the Sahara in the southeastern corner of the country. While driving from the town, you watch the road slowly become engulfed by sand, and dunes rise up out of the ground in front of your eyes. Our jeep zig-zagged across the sand in a seemingly lost fashion, before finally arriving at a lone building with a basic restaurant, restrooms and a row of camels.
After a quick meal, we were ushered outside to meet our guides and scruffy rides. One by one we were paired with a camel, and it would take several men to pull the animal down to a sitting position and help saddle you on top. The huge, awkward animals had blankets, and bags of food and supplies strapped to them and would holler in protest to have the weight of another person added to their load. It only took a few moments until they calmed down, and we were given some basic lessons on how to command the animals before we set off into the sunset in a single file line.
Camels are massive animals and it took some getting used to their swaying movements. I decided to try my luck and pull out my DSLR camera and one handily take photos. It was difficult to death-grip on with one hand, and get any shots that were well composed or not blurry, but totally worth it as I got a few phenomenal photos. As the sun began to descend, the sprawling sand and smoothly sculpted dunes changed color. From yellow to burnt orange, and even a moment of brilliant pink. We watched the vast desert come alive in a dozen hues as we journeyed deeper into the desert. It was magical, beyond anything I expected.
We road for over an hour, twisting and turning between hills and sand formations. It felt directionless, as the rest of the world faded away, and then we were all alone in the stillness and silence of the Sahara. Eventually, a small camp came into view, and our ride came to an end, but our adventure would go late into the night. Once settled into camp, we could explore on foot, try sand boarding on old broken snowboards before dinner began. We had a feast of Moroccan tagine, a kind of meat and vegetable stew and enjoyed a moonlit campfire.
Despite getting flees from the camels, a restless sleep in the wind-blown tent, and most of the group suffering from travelers ‘sickness’, it was a unique and memorable experience. There were a few bumps, but I would still highly recommend to anyone visiting magical Morocco to experience the desert. Witnessing the sunset over the dunes wil be permanently part of my memory, and a top highlight of all my travels for the rest of my life.