From Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains and the Dades Gorges to the Erg Chebbi dunes of the Sahara desert, we have already seen so many different and incredible landscapes in Morocco. But, this was by far our very favorite. I've never seen desert like this (outside of the movies) and it was kind of surreal- the orange colored sand dunes as far as you can see, with the amazing blue sky providing a perfect contrast. It totally felt like the set for Aladdin (they actually have filmed quite a few movies here). When we arrived, there were camels waiting for us to ride to our campsite...this was my favorite part of our entire trip.
Getting up on the camels was equally terrifying and hilarious. These amazing and huge animals rise up on their back legs first, which throws you forward so you better make sure you're holding on tight! Our guides informed us that these were actually dromedaries, not camels (one hump versus two) and that we had to have both hands on the handlebars at all times- it would have been a big fall if you went down. There had been an unexpected cold front sweeping through Morocco, so it was really, really cold and we all bundled up as best we could for the 45 minute ride to the tents we would be sleeping in. The ride itself was just awesomely different and so cool- its just one of those things that you can't do anywhere else in the world and in those moments, it feels like this fantastic memory that you can keep forever and ever.
These traditional camel hair tents at Bivouac Merzouga were top-notch camping. They came with nice beds and LOTS of covers for the cold. Hot showers, a toilet, working plugs and a sink meant that they were right up my camping alley. :) We had 3 tents between the 8 of us and because we were the only families there, we had the place to ourselves. For meals, we would gather at the open tent at the top around a big table and ate some of best traditional Berber food--tagine of meats, traditional Moroccan bread (called khobz and its served at all 3 meals every day), rice, french fries, vegetables and always finished with a dessert of fresh fruit (one night they served it sprinkled with cinnamon- so good!). The food here was so delicious.
On our first morning, we had a traditional breakfast of Moroccan pancakes (called msemen) smothered with cream cheese, honey and jams finished with boiled eggs and more khobz. We got back on the camels and rode them to our cars so we could visit some local sites. We went to the black village of Khamlia to see and hear the Gnawa musicians followed by a trip to the old coal mines, where the kids could have spent hours picking out colorful rocks to keep. We stopped by to see the nomads and how they can make a life in the desert with their families.
For lunch, we ate traditional Berber pizza at the cutest outdoor cafe right off of the dunes. It had a swing too (see above), so the kids all took turns swinging in the desert.
At the mines (above and below), picking out rocks and Tessa getting some love from one of our drivers.
(at the pizza cafe above and below). It was soooo Moroccan and really eclectic.
At the nomad village (where they slept is above and where they cook their food is below).
After we got back from lunch, it was time for the kids' favorite part...sandboarding! We used old snowboards and climbed the dunes to glide back down. We spotted the highest dune and decided to climb to the top, which was much harder than it looks so we all got a great workout at the same time! :) On the way down this really big dune, the sandboard would get going super fast, which was a little bit scary too...I totally bailed on my run because we were going way too fast for my liking. By the end, the kids were standing up and riding the boards down the dunes instead of sitting...they had so much fun!
Staying in the desert for a couple nights was so singularly unique...I hope this part of our trip stays embedded in my kids' minds forever.
More pictures of our trek into to the camp