Greetings Internet Stranger! You might be looking at this blog post and thinking that spending 24 hours in the Sahara Desert tour is a bit of a tall order. Why would someone spend 24 hours in a desert? Don’t you need water to live? Well, technically we’re not going to spend all 24 hours in the Sahara desert tour. We’ll just spend the night in the Sahara.
Then we’ll get up in the morning and go ride some camels. We’ll stare at the sun rise over the greatest desert in the world. Finally we’ll spend the afternoon in Todra Gorge, one of the most beautiful spots in Morocco. Does that make more sense as a 24 hour travel itinerary? Good! Never question me again, Internet Stranger!
24 Hours in the Sahara Desert Tour
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Morocco can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in the Sahara Desert Tour
Morning: Sahara Desert
Spending 24 hours in the Sahara Desert was the number one reason I wanted to go to Morocco. How can I call myself a world traveler if I had never seen this most majestic of sand oceans? As with most of my trip to Morocco, this part of the journey was through my tour with G Adventures. They arranged one night of camping out with the Hotel Yasmina, which is right on the Sahara Desert!
Hotel Yasmina arranged the camel riding excursion into and out of the desert, tents to sleep in, dinner, and breakfast and shower the next morning. All we had to bring was our tushies so we could keep them firmly planted on our camels. Every part of this journey was an experience of a lifetime! But for now, I’ll just stick to telling you about…
Approximately top 5: 24 hours in the sahara desert
1) Night time camel ride
I must break with Around the World in 24 Hours tradition here and begin my itinerary the night before instead of the morning of. I mean, technically I could start this with waking up in the desert camp and going on the sunrise camel ride, but that would be confusing. You would just be sitting there wondering how I got in the desert in the first place. Well, I’ll tell you how I got into the Sahara, Internet Stranger! I did it the old fashioned way, on the back of a camel.
I instantly decided that my camel was a girl (not sure if that’s true or not and DEFINITELY didn’t feel like checking). So I named her Camille. Camille the Camel is an excellent name for a cartoon camel. For those of you who are concerned about animal safety, just keep in mind that camel riding in Morocco is just like horseback riding in European countries or the United States. I was told many times that most Moroccans have been on a camel at some point in their lives. So if you don’t have a problem with riding horses, there shouldn’t be any problem with riding camels.
24 hour treasure: moroccan scarf
You have to wear a helmet on your head for safety while you’re on Camille. It’s also traditional to tie one of these scarves on your head over your helmet as you go. I always have wished I knew how to tie a scarf glamorously like a French woman, but no matter how many Wikihow articles I read on the subject, success seems to elude me.
It takes a little over an hour to reach camp on Camille’s back. Aside from some bounce on your booty, it’s a pretty smooth ride. Everyone in the group was snapping a grillion shots of the Sahara as we bounced along, none of us had been on a camel before, and no one fell off.
2) Camping out
After about 90 minutes of picturesque bouncing, you’ll reach base camp. The tents are comfortable and well-lit, but there’s no heat in them. Since I visited Morocco in December, this meant that I was, to use a technical term, freezing my cazungies off. Fortunately, the camp provides giant wool blankets and cotton sheets in which to wrap yourself. (I am desperately allergic to wool, but the layers of cotton between me and the wool blankets were enough to prevent my skin from breaking out in flames.)
The evening’s activities were pretty low-key, since the setting was the star of the show. We were served a warm beef tagine with nuts and olives for snacks. (We had stopped to pick up some Moroccan wine at a shop along the way, so that helped warm us up.) Then we gathered around the fire while the crew played cymbal music and danced for us.
All in all, I was extremely impressed with the sophisticated set-up of this desert camp. There were even toilets that flushed! I imagine if I’d tried to spend 24 hours in the Sahara Desert 200 years ago, I would have just frozen to death at night. Plus we wouldn’t have had any wine!
3) Sunrise Camel Ride
No matter how entertaining the cymbal performance by the desert fire is, I suggest getting to bed ASAP You have an excruciatingly early morning up ahead of you. Even before the sun rises, you’ll need to jump out of bed, pull your clothes on, attempt to run a cranky brush through your greasy hair, try to apply a minimal amount of makeup in the dark, and get plopped back down on Camille. We’re off to watch the sun rise in the Sahara. It’s a once in a lifetime experience! Your sleep-deprived lazy butt is going to enjoy it!
I have to say, there’s nothing like watching the sunrise in the middle of the desert with no buildings around. You can absolutely see everything as the sun comes up bit by bit.
The wonders of nature! I am now at a loss for words and have to resort to weird noises.
Fnorb! And even gemurk!
Now it’s time to do your very best Debra-Winger-on-a-Camel pose and say adieu to Camille. By now the sun and temperature are rising, and you’ll be in serious need of a shower. Fortunately the Hotel Yasmina has both breakfast and a hot shower waiting for you.
My advice is to make sure you are the first one in the shower. The hot water doesn’t last forever and the last thing you want after a cold night out in the desert is to have to wash your hair with freezing water. Shove an old lady out of the way if you have to! I promise it will be worth it.
5) Restaurante Genial Merzouga-ouarzazate
This is one of the stranger restaurant names I have ever come across because it literally translates to “Nice Restaurant between Merzourga and Ouarzazate“. That’s setting the bar pretty low there, restaurant! Can’t we at least aim for Good Restaurant instead of Nice Restaurant? But after a long night in the desert, you’ll want to stop for lunch in between the Sahara and our next destination, Todra Gorge.
The best thing about the Restaurant Genial is that it has a three-course lunch menu, so you can fill up your tummy before our hike this afternoon. I started with a nice lentil soup.
The main course was some nice beef brochettes with vegetables and rice.
And to finish, there was a little plate of nice Moroccan cookies. Many Moroccan cookies seem to have almonds in them, making them taste vaguely like marzipan. I adore almonds, but those with nut allergies should be careful.
24 Hours in the Sahara Desert Tour
Afternoon: Todra Gorge
You might be thinking that we’ve had enough of Morocco’s natural beauty for one day. Boy are you wrong! In the afternoon, we’re going to move from a chilly and windy desert to a hike through a chilly and windy gorge! This area is famous for its limestone canyons, Berber villages, and fields of date trees. What’s not to love? Join me and I’ll be honored to share with you…
Three nice facts about todra gorge
1) why is todra gorges?
The Todra Gorge was made, much like the Grand Canyon of the United States, by a river cutting repeatedly through rock until a perfect path was made for a scenic stroll. Rivers are very patient that way. I would never want to get into a fight with a river. They can wait forever for revenge. Have you ever heard the expression, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”? A river came up with that saying.
The rock in question here is orange limestone. The limestone’s color gives the whole surrounding area a kind of glow, which makes this a most enchanting place to go for a hike, even in December. The increased popularity of hiking in the gorge has dramatically increased tourism in this area. In one sense this is great for the surrounding community because this is not a wealthy area. But on the other hand, it’s important for the tourism to stay sustainable. No one wants the environment surrounding the gorge to be devastated by tourists.
2) is there agriculture here?
Speaking of sustainability, this area is a popular spot for local farming. The main crops grown around here are dates, palm trees, and bamboo. I was a bit shocked about that last one. Who knew there was bamboo in Morocco? Are there also panda bears in Morocco? Do they put the pandas in little fez hats? That would be extremely cute.
To maintain the farms, the villagers have to use a carefully orchestrated system of water sharing and irrigation. Well played, Morocco! Maybe they should share these tips with us Americans so California wouldn’t be having a drought all the time.
3) what about shopping!!!!!!??
Of course it wouldn’t be a perfect 24 hours in Morocco without a little shopping, even in this remote area. We stopped at a Berber rug collective to look at their wares. (Remember Berbers are some of the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa.) Our guide told us that the rug collective works together to make sure that the women who make the rugs are paid a fair price for their work.
There was no pressure to buy anything, which was a nice change for Morocco. I assume we got a soft sale because we were there on a group tour. We were simply gathered together with a warm glass of that omnipresent “Moroccan whiskey”, mint tea. Here at the rug collective they called it Berber whiskey, but the basic joke is the same. Then it seemed like every rug that had ever been made in the history of Morocco was shown to us. The manager of the store explained that there were three types of thread used to make the rugs: camel, sheep, and agave silk.
The manager also said that the Berber women are proficient enough at making rugs that they don’t need a pattern. But there are some patterns that appear more than others, like the symbol for warding off the evil eye. I couldn’t resist buying a little purple rug to put in my front hallway. (Don’t forget to haggle over price with the merchant a bit. He will expect it!)
Most of the people from my group bought a little something to take home with them as well. It’s always nice to know you’re buying a souvenir that is handmade and crafted by people who are treated decently.
24 Hours in the Sahara Desert Tour
Evening: Dinner at Kasbah Restaurant Amazir
As you can probably imagine, the nightlife in the Todra Gorge area isn’t exactly hopping. You’ll probably want to just have dinner at your hotel. We were staying at the Kasbah Restaurant Amazir, which was probably the best reviewed hotel we stayed at on the entire trip. You have to order dinner earlier in the day.
I opted for a classic chicken tagine with prunes and almonds. Sadly I forgot to bring my camera to dinner, so there’s no record of this delicious meal. You’ll just have to trust me that it was moist, spicy, and flavorful. Well, you would have had to just trust me anyway, since you can tell if food is moist, spicy, or flavorful by looking at a picture.
My one regret from this trip is that on this night our guide played some traditional Moroccan music on his drum and most of the people on our tour started to dance. Only I stayed out. I hate dancing! Usually I’m such a positive person willing to try anything but dancing is the final frontier for me. I do not enjoy it under any circumstances whatsoever. But I’m always telling other people to try new things, so I need to follow my own advice. Next time I have the opportunity, I promise to be Lord of the Dance!
That’s 24 Hours in the Sahara Desert Tour
What would you do with 24 hours in the Sahara Desert tour? Is there a better name for a camel than Camille? And will I someday be the world’s reigning ballroom dance champion? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Just because this itinerary is for 24 hours in the Sahara Desert area, it doesn’t mean you should only spend 24 hours in the Sahara Desert area. If you’d like to add 24 hours in Fez, try this itinerary. And if you’re looking for 24 hours in Ait Benhaddou, I’ve got you covered here.