In my last post, I wrote about riding camels in the Sahara desert of Morocco to a Berber camp and watching the sunrise the next morning from the top of a 300 ft dune. Now I’ll tell you about what happened in between. The Berber camp was set up just for our group, not an actual camp where Berbers lived but done in the Berber way, with traditional camel-hair tents, a central fire pit and carpets laid on the sand, connecting everything. Inside the tents the ground was also covered with carpets. The low-frame beds were surprisingly cozy, with thick mattresses and warm, heavy blankets. This was November, so the temps dropped into the 40s at night. Everyone packed warm clothes for this experience and I heard no complaints.
Our camp consisted of about 20 tents. Besides the sleeping tents, there was a cooking tent, a dining tent and tents with toilets and showers. We have since changed to sleeping tents with ensuite toilets, sinks and showers.
When the sun went down, we mingled around the roaring fire pit with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Dinner was elaborate, perfectly prepared and presented. How they managed a 5-star dining experience out of a tent, I don’t know; thousands of years of experience, I suppose. In the dining tent, the tables were beautifully set, with carpets underfoot and torches ablaze. One side of the tent remained open to the cool night. We had salads and soup and bread and tagine, trays of assorted sweets and a great volume of wine.
For me, the next chapter in the evening came on like a dream. I may have actually been nodding off, sitting at the dinner table in a warm, glowing space, lulled by the surrounding conversations, a little overfed, 60% sober, both fully present and having a vision of our tent from high above, an ember in a great black void (ok, 40% sober). In the midst of this trippy bliss I watched a striking group of men materialize outside, just at the edge of the light from the dining tent; our evening’s entertainment. The party was just getting started.
I remember the drums. There may have been other instruments but somewhere in my energy field those drums are still vibrating. The voices too, indelible. So we listened and we danced and we attempted to sing along. We gazed into the fire and we wondered into the pitch black beyond the camp and our mouths gapped unreservedly at the starry thicket over head. Well after midnight, I retired to my toasty bed. It was a good and complete day.
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excellent blog, ronan. i remember morocco vividly – the trip you and yalla helped me orchestrate for our TBE group back in 2000. it was fantastical, like a magic carpet ride. our berber tented camp (although not nearly as elaborate as you are digging these days) was certainly one of the highlights.
I want to go!!
Great! We can help with that!
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How long does it take from Tanger to this place? How did you go there?
Hi! I’m so sorry for the delayed response. I just saw your message. It’s a very long day of driving (at least 10 hours) from Tangier to Merzouga, which is the gateway to the Chebbi dunes. We typically overnight in Fes and drive to Merzouga from there, which is still a long drive, about 7 hours. If you want to spend a night or two in the Sahara, you should have at least 4 days in Morocco.