After a long travel from Azrou and some exhausting encounters with touts along the way, we finally caught sight of the spectacular Erg Chebbi, a large dune shaped by wind blown sands on the oasis of the Sahara desert.
The lonely road to the Sahara.
The gate of Kasbah Mohayut, an exotic accomodation in the desert oasis where we stayed for a day before embarking on our desert trek. It is located in the village of Hassi Labied, right next to a more known and more touristy town of Merzouga.
The lovely courtyard of Kasbah Mohayut, beautifully decorated with terracotta and traditional Moroccan tiles and antiques, was very calming place to relax after a long travel.
The staff of Kasbah Mohayut were all very pleasant and attentive. Keith was not feeling well when we arrived and they made sure he was nourished. They gave him tea and cooked steamed rice for him.
The rooms in Kasbah Mohayut are exquisitely decorated with traditional Berber touch.
The view of the stunning golden desert dunes from the rooftop of Kasbah Mohayut.
One of the kasbahs in the oasis. A kasbah is a fortified structure that generally look like a castle built by wealthy families or warlords. Some kasbahs have been converted into guesthouses like Kasbah Mohajut. A kasbah can also refer to a fortified city that were built as defense from attacks.
Hanging out with the curious young ladies of Hassi Labied.
The kind manager at our kasbah advised that we needed turbans for the desert trek to protect our heads and ears from wind blown sand. He drove us at to this store where the vendor insisted on showing us piles of carpets despite our repeated insistence that we only wanted to buy turbans. When it was finally clear to him that we had no intent to purchase a carpet he got very upset and tried to overcharge us for the turbans, but we bargained hard. After we made our purchase, he yelled at us to get out of his store:( And we thought that the peaceful oasis was going to be hassle-free.
With turbans and all, we were all set for the camel trekking adventure in the Sahara Desert.
Keith mounted on his camel, Bob Marley.
With our guide Mohammed leading the way, we started our trek in the Sahara Desert which stretches over a vast area of 3.5 million square miles.
Our desert shadows.
The color and patterns of the desert
Playing with our desert shadows.
Prince and princess of the desert for the day.
We finally reached our private camp in the middle of the vast, beautiful, golden desert of Sahara.
Our exotic tent in the desert camp.
Inside our exotic, romantic, sandy desert tent.
Play time in the sand!! It was fun to have this part of the desert all to ourselves. A perfect playground to escape modern technology and clear your mind.
That’s me as I approached Keith on top of the dune. That red structure to the right of the camp was our desert potty! It was clean and fresh smelling, if you’re wondering.
Keith feeling like Lawrence of Arabia.
Our amazing guide, Mohammed, is a desert nomad. He was our most favorite among two dozens of Mohammeds we met in Morocco. He was a very kind and gentle soul. He has plenty of special gifts and one of them is possessing a built-in GPS! Halfway through our desert trek, he decided to go barefoot and left his sandals right in the middle of nowhere. He said he was going to pick it up on our way back. But how could he locate minute objects in the extreme vastness of Sahara desert? But guess what? He knew the exact location of the sandals and retrieved them on our way back to the oasis. Amazing!
We asked Mohammed what time he was going to break his Ramadan fasting for the day. He looked at the sky and said, “in ten minutes.” In exactly ten minutes the sun set and the fasting ended for the day. Mohammed doesn’t have a watch but can tell the time of the day by just looking at the sky.
Mohammed did not have formal schooling but he is very conversational in several languages, which he learned from mere interactions with foreign travelers he guided. I think his mind is so pure, so uncluttered that he absorbs information like a sponge.
Keith and Mohammed in an engaging conversation about life of the desert nomads.
We were lying on the sand gazing at the most beautiful night sky we had ever seen. As there was no trace of light pollution where we were, the stars appeared as bright and abundant as they can be. It was like being under a giant planetarium. We wished we had the right camera equipment to capture the amazing sight.
Mohammed was all smile as he greeted the new day. The night before, Mohammed said he was going to wake us up at at 6:15 a.m. At exactly 6:15 a.m. on our watch, we got our wake up call. Remember, he didn’t have a watch.
It was almost the end of the trek as we caught sight of the oasis from the desert. We had a memorable time in the Sahara. We were grateful to experience the calmnesss and beauty of the desert, but most of all we we were grateful to meet Mohammed, who made our desert adventure a soulful experience. It was the highlight of our journey in Morocco, aside from that unexpected event that took place in Marrakesh
Passing by Rissani, a bigger oasis town, after we left Hassi Labied.
The street in Rissani.
Our wonderful driver Abdul veered off our planned route to show us Fezna, an oasis village dotted with hundreds of water wells. These picturesque mounds are the wells where the villagers access water from “khettara,” a network of underground canals that draw water from the mountains.
Keith and Abdul checking out a water well in the middle of nowhere. It is meant to provide water for camels that happen to pass by.
That ends our adventure in the Sahara region of Morocco. You may also like to see our other posts on Morocco:
- Morocco: Navigating the Ancient Maze of Fez
- Morocco: Volubilis and Meknes
- Morocco: Bhalil, Ifrane and Azrou
- Morocco: Ait Benhaddou and Tamdaght
- Morocco: Madness and Surprised in Marrakech
- Morocco: A Day Hike in the High Atlas Mountain
Getting there and away: We chartered a grand taxi from Azrou, which involved the usual exhausting negotiation with the driver. The grand taxis from Azrou are only allowed to go as far as the town Er-Rachida in the Ziz Valley (4-hour ride). From Er-Rachida, we had to transfer to a shared grand taxi to take us to the town of Rissani (one-hour ride), where our hotel, Kasbah Mohayut, sent a driver to pick us up. From Rissani, it was another 45-minutes to Kasbah Mohayut. (While waiting for our transfers in Er-Rachida and Rissani, we were swarmed by touts and rouges trying to sell us hotels and tours, etc. Getting there by grand taxi was such a hassle but was an interesting experience.)
Leaving the Sahara, we had our hotel, Kasbah Mohayut, arrange for a private car with a driver to take us to Marrakesh via overnight stay in Tamdaght/Ait Benhadou. It was a much more convenient option. No touts and rouges bothered us along the way, our driver Abdul protected us from them. If you book with Kasbah Mohayut, request for Abdul to be your driver.
Booking the desert trek: We booked our desert trek through our hotel, Kasbah Mohayut. They own the private camp where we stayed in the desert. There are two kinds of desert treks available – a private trek or a group trek. The private trek allows you to go deeper into the dessert and stay in a peaceful and pleasant private camp. The group trek is an inexpensive alternative but it does not take you far away from the oasis and the evening lights from the oasis will still be visible from the communal camp, which you will be sharing with other groups of trekkers. If you’re looking for a party scene in the desert, this maybe more for you. If you book with Kasbah Mohayut for a private trek, ask for Mohammed to be your guide.
Travel Date: October 2007
Travel Guide: Lonely Planet
Accommodation/Travel & tour arrangment: Kasbah Mohayut