Morocco: a land that conjures images of bustling, winding souks and the grand burning hues of the Sahara, as far as the eye can see.
I had always dreamed of camping in the desert, riding camels into the sunset and shopping for a magical lantern in Marrakesh, but never did I think this would all be so simple to do. Travel Talk, is a UK-based group tour company had been recommended to me by many fellow travellers, in particular their Adventure Morocco tour. The 8-day tour was perfect for my Christmas and New Year break, hitting all the main places I had on my bucket list. With little thought on the matter, my magical week in Morocco began.
Travel Talk’s main focus is on value and simplicity, making these trips perfect for those who don’t want to break the bank. I chose to head off for their New Year’s Eve adventure, which costs less than £300 + taxes for 8 days, 7 nights, Camel and 4×4 tours, breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and luxury accommodation – a real bargain!
Day One & Two
After landing a late flight to Marrakesh, we were greeted at the airport where a free shuttle bus awaited us. In a city as big and intimidating as Marrakesh, this was a perfect way to start. I met (most of) my group and headed straight to the main square for dinner, where we opted for a rooftop restaurant and Moroccan tagines. Make sure you get the mint tea – it is usually sweet and delicious!
The welcome hotel was a big surprise for a budget travel tour, with grand hallways and a luxurious pool, it was beyond what I had imagined. If you are a solo traveller like me, you usually get bunked with a fellow tour member, which is a great way to make a friend early on (special shout-out to Flic for dealing with me!).
Waking up refreshed on day two, we headed straight for the High Atlas Mountains, the tallest range in Morocco. We were introduced to Abdoul, our one-of-a-kind tour leader who I am now lucky enough to call my friend. Abdoul made this whole experience a blast, from hilarious stories to crude jokes and of course, first-class knowledge on his native country. Time flew by as we passed through the snow-capped peaks and witnessed views that leave you speechless.
Next, we visited the Berber village of Aït Ben Haddou. This was my favourite short-stop on the whole trip. You can really feel a world of history surrounding you here. The village is famed in the region for the Taourirt Kasbah and the abundance of films captured within its walls. We walked through the beautiful cobbled streets, to the peak of the village – with a truly remarkable view waiting.
Next up, we made our way to Ouarzazate town, a tiny commune in the mountains. Here we purchased our very own Kaftans, a traditional dress in Morocco. With our first full day coming to an end, we laughed, drank and ate to our hearts content as we became better acquainted with our new friends.
Day Three & Four
This morning, we drove along the incredible, vast Drâa Valley. This is the longest (and most beautiful) oasis in Morocco which follows the river Drâa for over 850km. Here, you will see thousands of acres of palms, Kasbahs and villages. Abdoul told us all about Islamic culture, burial traditions and enlightened us on many of the misconceptions in our western cultures, such as the reasoning behind wearing the burka. It is times like this that make you really appreciate having a local guide, who is warm and open to our questions.
After lunch, we reached the desert village of Zagora where we picked up our camping supplies for the next two days. Be sure to grab yourself some alcohol, snacks and water – it is hot in the day out in the desert (albeit freezing at night) and a drink by the campfire at night is a must!
It is then time to Moroc-and-roll into the Sahara! We hopped into our 4x4s and made our way through the desert to our first campsite- M’hamid. I was blown away by how beautiful it was. The tents were far from ‘camping’, with real iron beds and flushing toilets. With a quick stop to ditch our luggage, we hopped right back onto the jeeps – yes ON TOP of the jeeps – to get some spectacular views over the Sahara for sunset. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.
We sat around the camp fire, sang, played bongos, danced and laughed till we couldn’t feel our faces anymore. This was the true meaning of a getaway. A secluded camp, delicious food, great company and a sky full of stars like you couldn’t imagine.
Big tip: For those camping over winter (November – February) make sure you bring thermals, thick socks and a big winter jacket – temperatures drop fast and it is freezing at night!
Day four was the day we had all been waiting for, camel riding! After an early breakfast at camp, we hopped back on the 4×4’s, through the oasis and stopped off at ‘Maison de Poterie’, a local ceramic workshop in Tem Groute. Here, you can even try your hand at pottery and buy a locally made handicraft.
Next up, we made our way back through Zagora to our second desert camp. It was just after lunch, so we hung out, soaked up some sunshine and got ready for our evening camel rides (wearing our new Kaftans of course). I chose to ride Kanye, the smallest male of the group, who unfortunately decided I wasn’t good enough for him (blood Kim K) and kicked me off, so I jumped aboard Fantasia, a much more elegant and smooth ride. Some moments in life you will never forget… sitting on the back of my majestic camel, I realised this was one of them.
The night ended with a beautiful sunset, delicious home-cooked food and of course, a smokey bonfire. Read Part Two.
Read Part Two HERE.