Morocco - Road to the Sahara

As soon as I started planning my trip to Morocco I immediately started looking into desert tours to the Sahara.  There was many options, all that looked amazing, so it was definitely hard to make a decision.  This was the most luxe item on my trip and my #1 To Do in Morocco.  I inquired with many companies and all ranged from $150/night up to $1000/night.  The most important part of this trip for me was to actually be in the Sahara desert and IN the sand dunes.  Also as a solo traveler it was important for me to find an option that wouldn’t break my budget as most tours had pricing catering to couples or 2 travelers.  I finally decided to book with Desert Luxury Camp as they were able to create a private 4 day/3 night tour still within my budget.  

My guide and driver, Hassan, picked me up at Riad Safa on a rainy Monday morning.  I had been watching the weather very closely and seen that it had been scheduled to be very windy in the desert and was worried that the rainy weather would follow us, Hassan assured me that the weather would change as soon as we crossed the Atlas Mountains.  Along the way we stopped at an Argan Oil cooperative.  I had bought some Argan oil products in Marrakech but was told that sometimes it’s mixed with olive oil and not pure.  In order to ensure I was getting the 100% pure Argan oil we stopped at the cooperative to see how it was made and buy more because one can never have too much argan oil.  

As soon as we reached the top of the High Atlas mountains, the clouds started to break and blue sky started to appear.  At that moment a visual feast of different colors and textures was before my eyes as a lot had been hidden from the fog and clouds.  Bright blue skies were ahead and the diverse beauty was before me. We continued our ascent to the peak of the High Atlas mountains and one of the most dangerous roads in the world the Tizi n’Tichka pass.  I didn’t recognize we were on the road at first because there is major construction going on there and they are starting to widen the road so it does looks a lot different than photos I had seen but I’m sure will be much safer for travelers in the future.  

We left the High Atlas mountains behind and ahead was a continuing change in scenery.  Ahead of us were the mid-Atlas and anti-Atlas mountains, anti-Atlas being the lowest of the mountain range and a difference in color to a reddish tone and the feeling of being on Mars!

Along the way was our first major stop to the historic city of Ait Ben Haddou and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Also for any of you that have seen The Mummy, Gladiator and Game of Thrones, scenes from those were shot here.  So if you’re looking to walk where the Mother of Dragons has walked then this should be on your list!  Also I’m gonna be real for a minute, this part of my journey was almost a month ago and I’m terrible at retaining information so even though I had a walking guide to tell me more about this amazing city I can’t remember as much as I would have liked.  

After my tour of this ancient city we still had another 3-4 hours before reaching our stopover for the evening and continuing the journey to the Sahara the next morning.  We drove through Ouzazate “The Moroccan Hollywood” where there’s a few large filming studios and shortly after that we arrived to Skoura Oasis.  We drove into a sea of palm trees amongst a desert landscape and arrived at Ksar El Kebbaba.

I entered their arched doors and before me was an oasis within an oasis.  I was given a short tour through the property and walked through the gardens where herbs and produce are grown and used when in season for the restaurant.  The rose garden was in full bloom and with the fragrant damask rose.  I was offered mint tea and told I could enjoy it wherever I would like on the property as they had cozy seating areas throughout so I opted for an area with pillows and a table on the grass with a view of the pool.  At this moment I was in a complete state of peace and relaxation.  

After my mint tea and another stroll through the property as the sun was about to set I chose carefully on the perfect place to sit down and relax.  I chose a hammock that was nestled in the rose blooms and under a beautiful palm and olive trees.  Imagine laying on a hammock in one of the most picturesque settings and the hammock completely failing and dropping you on the ground; YES that happened to me.  I’ll blame it on my increased crepe intake in the morning.  I quickly looked around, thought I was safe from embarrassment and decided to sit on the pillows around the hammock instead.  A few moments later a smiling, practically giggling, young man approached me and came to fix the hammock.  I was assured it was now safe and could put my feet up and enjoy the golden hour beauty before me.

That evening I enjoyed a delicious dinner outside with a lantern hanging from the tree and then my first hammam experience where I was scrubbed head to toe and then argan oil smoothed all over my body and hair.  I was in a state of complete relaxation and woke up the next morning for a walk around the oasis.  I planned a majority of my trip ahead of time and that didn’t allow much flexibility to change my plans but Skoura Oasis is somewhere I could see myself spending much more time.  The oasis has such an abundance of growth of food and resources; I was told that whatever the oasis gives is for everyone in the oasis to enjoy.  It doesn’t matter if the pomegranate tree is considered to be on someone’s property; it’s for everyone.

My time in Skoura oasis was too short but the Sahara desert was waiting and we still had a few more stops:  Kelaat Mgouna “Valley of Roses” and Torda Gorge.  Valley of Roses was another place I would have loved to spend more time and visit the cooperative to see where the coveted rose oil is made.  I was able to stop and buy some rose water that came in super handy because I would carry it with me everywhere and would spray it on my face and feel refreshed, which is a necessity; I even shared it with other patrons on the bus and in the taxi when it was starting to feel hot!

While in Torda Gorge I was taken to meet with a Berber family in their home and see how they make rugs.  I was offered mint tea and also sat with the women to comb the wool.  I then had every rug laid before me and I finally felt ready to buy my first Moroccan rug.  The one I chose was a mixture of red and orange colors and symbolized the colors of the Sahara desert with Berber symbols for the sand dunes around the edge.  I felt it was appropriate and was immediately attracted to it.  I was told that it was made of cactus silk from the agave plant, it was a good size, not too small, not too large and could picture it looking beautifully hanging on a wall wherever and whenever I come home; in the meantime my mom is enjoying it.

After my rug purchase we were on our final leg before arriving to the Sahara.  Hassan made a few calls and he said that it was very windy and I had the option to stay at a hotel in a nearby city as everything at the camp wouldn’t be laid out as normal.  I had only 2 nights in the desert and I decided to stick it out.  It was approaching sunset and we drove through many small towns where the wind was blowing hard, I kept seeing men and kids on bicycles going against the wind and wondering how they could make it.  The best image was of 2 boys on 1 bike, one boy was doing all the work while the other sat in the front near the handle bars.  I couldn’t see anything in front of me where normally there’s sand dunes, all I could see was the glowing sun behind a blanket of the sand dusted sky…

More from the Sahara coming next!

SLEEP / Ksar El Kabbaba

DO / Desert Luxury Camp