With its exotic charm and fabulous range of high end riads and villas, Marrakech is the perfect destination for a luxurious holiday in Morocco. It sits near the base of the breathtaking Atlas Mountains, beyond which extends the start of the vast Sahara Desert, both popular excursion destinations from the “Red City.” However, to truly experience the desert one should stay over night. Our experts at cazenove+loyd, top international specialists in luxury African holidays, whisk us off to the Skoura Valley and then into the desert to show us how to have an authentic, magical and comfortable desert camp trip.
“The experience starts in Dar Ahlam is located in Skoura in the province of Ouarzazate,” explains Daphné de Vogüé, Destination Expert for Africa and Indian Ocean at cazenove+loyd. “This area is famous for its palms groves and its kasbahs (it is also known as the area of the Thousand and One Kasbahs).
“Dar Ahlam, the ‘House of Dreams’ is an ever changing experience. It is at once sumptuously luxurious and yet focuses on the simple things. Both traditional and contemporary, rooms feature tadelakt plaster floors and adobe mud walls rather than phones or TVs, yet the baths are deep, and showers powerful. Expect to be delighted at every opportunity by the exquisite offerings from the kitchen. The phrase ‘a moveable feast’ has rarely been so apt. Never will you eat twice in the same location or even with the same crockery.
“You can take advantage of the swimming pool and pamper yourself with unlimited spa treatments or a whole range of magical excursions: explore the almond tree valley (the trees blossom between February and March) and stroll to the breath-taking viewpoint, which overlooks the landscape and the salt mines, enjoy a picnic on the shores of the lake in Ouarzazate, have your breakfast at sunrise or nibble on sunset snacks at the Ksar Ali viewpoint overlooking the Skoura Valley, discover the Sidi Fla volcanic basalt gorges, explore the picturesque, crumbling Kasbahs this area is so well known for, hop on a quad bike, a motor bike, a donkey, a camel or even an Arab stallion.
“From here, your private guide will take you on a 4×4 drive of five hours into the surrounding desert to their private overnight desert camp for under the stars. The journey will take you through the Valley of Tazenakht to Foum-Zguid, passing amazing scenery along the way. Arriving in the area of Tassetift, you will stop for a break and a gastronomic picnic lunch.
“You will then venture further and further away from ‘civilization’ as we take an unpaved road from Foum-Zguid to Iriki lake, reaching the bivouac camp around 4:00 or 4:30 PM. On arrival, you’ll have a chance to settle into your private tent (50 m2) which includes a comfortable bedroom, a living room, a terrace, a small bathroom (no shower or bath) and private toilet. Once freshened up, the staff will carry out a traditional tea ceremony. Afterwards you’ll have some time to take a stroll on the sand dunes and enjoy the splendid sunset.
“Back at the bivouac, you can savor the magic of the desert before being served aperitif followed by a traditional Berber-style dinner surrounded by lanterns, accentuating the enchanting ambiance. Spend some time stargazing before retiring to your tent, guided by the glowing lights of the twinkling lanterns.
“The next day you’ll want to wake up early to witness the spectacular sunrise on the dunes; a moment you’ll never forget. You can continue to enjoy the tranquil ambiance over breakfast served on the dunes before departing back to Dar Ahlam to arrive around 2:00 PM for a late lunch.”
Traveling into the desert is a unique experience, but you’ll have to be prepared for a few things:
- Protection against the sun and sand: these are both very powerful in the desert, don’t forget your sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and a light scarf (for protection from the sand).
- Dress wisely: aim for comfortable close-toed shoes or solid strapped sandals (no flip flops), light trousers and layers as it can get chilly at night if you’re visiting in late-autumn/winter.
- Bring some cash: while the costs are usually all included in your excursion, there is little access to bank machines along your way so best have some money on hand in case you do need some for tips or purchases.
- Disconnect: it’s very unlikely that your phone will pick up on any roaming signals, so embrace a few days offline.