Last week I started to tell you about the luxury desert camp that I stayed at in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. It was one of the most incredible travel experiences of my life. Today I am going to tell you about all of the activities that kept us busy in the desert. Surprisingly, there is a lot to do in the middle of nowhere.
I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be much to do out in the desert, but I was wrong. We rode camels, went hiking, ate like kings, and ended the days sipping wine by the bonfire.
The food at the camp was great. For breakfast, we ate traditional Moroccan pancakes served plain with lots of toppings on the side. For lunch, we had salads, kebabs, and rice. And at dinner, we had several different tagines.
I don’t know how they were able to produce such beautiful meals in the desert – hours away from the nearest town, but I looked forward to each meal.
The desert camping experience showed us the beauty of the desert. The guides knew the ideal spots for hiking and watching the sunset. It was clear that a lot of thought went into the location of the camp, placing it in an area with some of the most impressive sand dunes.
It is easy to think that the desert is all sand dunes – but it isn’t! Much of the desert is flat with small rocks or brush. Some parts have giant rock formations that reminded me of Utah. It’s the massive sand dunes that make the Sahara unique, and the Erg Chicaga Luxury Desert Camp is right in the middle of them.
We arrived at around 5pm on our first night and after we settled in we joined our guides and fellow campers for a brief hike up to the top of a sand dune to watch the sunset.
While the sun was setting, the guides set up a lounge area where we could enjoy beer, wine, and snacks. Once we made out way down the sand dunes we got to mingle with the other camp guests at the improvised bar.
You meet a very specific type of traveler when you venture hours away from running water and electricity. There were 5 other guests staying at the camp and they were also avid travelers. Hearing about where they have traveled added to the experience.
The guides at the camp all grew up in the desert. Not only did they know the desert like the back of their hands, they had so much pride for the desert. Most importantly the guides were incredibly kind genuinely hilarious.
The guides kept us on our toes in the best way possible. They joked about pushing the SUV holding my mother over a sand dune. At one point another camp guest landed on his tailbone while sandboarding, and he dramatically and jokingly rolled around in the sand. One of the guides responded by running over to him while making an ambulance noise. (He recovered from the injury but it discouraged us from sandboarding).
One night all of the guides joined us at the bonfire and brought out drums and other percussion instruments and sang and played for us. After a while asked us to play to take the drums and play an American song… not realizing that it wasn’t remotely possible. We jokingly said that we would sing Hotel California for them and Souky sang an improvised Hotel Sahara instead.
One thing that amazed us is that many of the guides had never been to a city. When my sister said she was from New York our camel guide earnestly asked how many camels we had there. It was at that point that Kelly realized that we should show them photos of the cities we live in. They were surprised when we shared photos of New York and Chicago on our phones. They also said that they wouldn’t like it there, they love being in the desert.
The guides also helped make sure we made the most of our time in the Sahara. They arranged camel rides, played bocce ball with my Mom (she loved it), took us for hikes, and performed music for us at night.
(Fun fact, there is about a pound of sand in my hair here).
On our second night we ventured to a big sand dune away from the camp to watch the sunset. Kelly and I hiked most of the way with Bashir, and our driver, Abdoul, drove our Mom out to meet us. The driver got Mom out to the sand dune, but Mom still had to go up it, and it was steep. At the steepest point, Bashir took off his turban and used it as a rope to help pull Mom up the sand dune.
The men in the desert use their turbans as important tools. They keep the sand out of their eyes, nose, and mouths. They can use some of the excess fabric to wrap up and carry firewood. Sometimes there is no rope to tie to their bucket at the well, so they use the turban fabric instead. This is why the guides wore turbans much longer (up to 30+ feet) than us.
These are challenging times in America, and these are the experiences that stick with me. These men might be Muslim and they might wear turbans, but they are the sweetest nicest people. We were very sad to say goodbye to them. When I said that I wanted to visit again someday they said, “You are welcome!”
You can learn more about the Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp here.
I owe a huge shoutout to my sister Kelly who took many of these photos and who planned the itinerary for this trip.