Cristian

Cristian

With a passion for travel and particularly Morocco, I own and manage Sun Trails.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015 00:00

Morocco desert experience

erg chigaga dunes and tent

Sahara luxury camp- it this the way to experience Morocco's desert ?

What is it that draws us to the immensity of the dunes ? The oceans of sand. Where does it spark from, this longing to gaze at wave after wave of sand disappearing on the horizon?...  All else irrelevant. There, on top of the highest dune. Minutes ago, you were cresting the dunes on the back of a camel. Presently, you are sitting down and conjuring the majesty of saffron dunes, shifiting tinge as the sun gradually sinks. Nothing compares to waking up at night with the Milky Way above you and falling back asleep. And perhaps, the desert and its inherent sparse human contact, draws people together and warrants hospitality.

Here, by the dunes of Erg Chigaga, despite of all the apparent scarcity, water runs just below the surface, a secret well kept under layers of sand. The desert also makes grown- ups children again. The most reserved of persons can’t resist the urge to climb up the highest dune and jump in the sand, the face lit with a wide childish grin. 

camel ride into the dunes                                              Camels ready for the ride in the dunes

In the collective imaginary, there is hardly anything more exotic, than those tougher- than- life Bedouin men crossing the desert, carrying precious loads of gold, ivory, slaves, textiles, spices or salt on the back of their sturdy camels. Or the bandits constantly threatening to attack the caravan, unless the due tax was paid at different custom points. It used to take the caravans 7 to 8 weeks to cross from one side to the other and some were losing half their personnel on the way. What has become of these men nowadays, when,  not so long ago, camels were replaced by trucks ? Whilst some camel trading still takes place in some parts of Niger where the Azalai sees thousands of camels travel across the vast teritorry, camels in Morocco are not used for caravan trading anymore. In the modern age, the nomads are mostly employed by the on- site numerous desert luxury camps that have cropped up on the fringes of the Sahara. Others went to university, took up English and became drivers and guides for the numerous foreign visitors taking a private tour of Morocco. We are lucky enough to have some of them work for Sun Trails. And every time they return to the desert, they feel at home, still very much nomads at heart, their 4x4 Toyota a modern mobile caravan.

erg chigaga dinner                                                   Dinner by candle light in the dunes at Azalai Camp

For some of those travelling to Morocco, spending a night in the Sahara is ticking off a box on a travel notebook. For others, it is a lifelong dream. Naturally then, you don’t want to ruin that experience and thus should carefully choose the right Morocco travel planner. Your agent should make sure you won't have to put up with a party at the camp next to you, the racket of a noisy generator or quad bikers blazing past your tent when you least expect it.

ERG CHEBBI DUNES VERSUS ERG CHIGAGA DUNES

Any forum on Trip Advisor, Fodor or the likes will tell you that there are two places in Morocco where you can actually spend a night in the desert: the dunes of Erg Chebbi and the dunes of Erg Chigaga. The route from Marrakech over the High Atlas mountains is one of the most dramatic in Moroco and reaches Ouarzazate on the other side. From here, there are two options: Erg Chebbi dunes– east through Skoura, Dades Gorge, Tinerir, Rissani and finally Merzouga; and Erg Chigaga dunes- west, following the Draa Valley through Agdz, Zagora, Tamegroute and finally Mhamid. From my own experience and feedback over the years, indeed, the dunes of Erg Chigaga get a fair amount less of visitors. The distance and driving time to both these dune locations is more or less similar, about 5- 6 hours drive. 

erg chigaga luxury camp inside tent                                                       Azalai Camp luxury tent interior

The dunes of Erg Chebbi owe their popularity partly to their being easily accessible : a bus will take you to literally the foot of the dunes from Marrakech in a 10 hour drive. When you opt for the classical imperial cities tour, the Erg Chebbi dunes are easier to include in the itinerary, given their location. If you are ready to give Fes a miss, then the dunes of Erg Chigaga are the ones to go for. Especially since they are two hours drive away from the closest bit of tarmac and you would be a fool not to loop your way back to Marrakech on a different route, thus experiencing all different formations of the desert:  sand dunes, stone plateaus, gravel plains, dry valleys and salt flats. To not mention the legendary Draa Valley, a caravan highway for centuries, where the river is flanked by one of the largest palm groves in the world along with Biblical villages and century old kasbahs. Then, is it impossible to experience the desert in a Sahara luxury camp at Erg Chebbi ? Not at all. Your travel planner can suggest a more distant camp, deep in the dunes. 

erg chebbi luxury camp                                                    Erg Chebbi luxury camp by dawn

SAFETY

Although the border with Algeria is not far, until this day there has been no registered case of kidnapping or activity of a terrorist organization in these areas. Security at the border is very tough. In the very hot season ( July – August), there may be very rare cases of scorpions or snakes, but they never enter areas where they feel human presence. If you want to be 100 % sure, make sure you spend the night inside your tent and that your mattress is not laid straight on the ground. 

erg chigaga VIP tent                                                       VIP tent with private butler

BASIC DESERT TENT VERSUS LUXURY DESERT TENT

Nowadays, there are more and more luxurious desert camps to complement the regular ones. Most regular camps offer spartan but clean double beds with mattress and frame and plenty of blankets to keep you warm in the night, if chilly. Toilets and showers are shared and running water is scarce. Luxury camps offer wider tents with en suite showers and toilets, extensive furniture and fittings, and king size beds. The dinner menu is also more comprehensive. In the past 2- 3 years, the desert luxury camps also offer a higher level of standard, the VIP desert tents. These tents tend to be further away from the main camp, more accommodating and complete with a private butler. A normal basic camp accommodates 10- 12 double tents with a larger tent for restaurant. The typical luxury camp accommodates 4- 5 en- suite tents with a restaurant tent.

{ Read: House of Dreams, impromptu romance half way between Marrakech and the Sahara }

Although the typical nomad tents are wool tents secured with wood hooks and ropes, set up in a cone- like pattern, the camp tents nowadays tend to be box- shaped units set up on a solid (usually metal ) frame. Less traditional, they are much more resistant this way to strong winds and provide a better insulation from sand grains or any eventual insects ( mostly flies). However, if your only reason for booking a luxury camp tent is having private showers and toilet, you should know that you can still have a shower both in the afternoon arriving at and the morning departing from the desert lodge. Normally you have that choice, when arriving in the afternoon, before leaving the asphalt. After a 30 – 45 minute camel ride ( optional), you arrive at the desert camp as the sun sets, where you will have your dinner and spend the night. Naturally, the camp is fully staffed. Next morning, you should try and not miss the sunrise. Then, you will be taken back to the same lodge where you had arrived the previous afternoon and have a proper breakfast, before proceeding with your Morocco itinerary.

erg chebbi basic camp                                                Basic camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi

ONE NIGHT OR TWO NIGHTS ?

In winter ( mid November to mid March) days are short and the sun sets around 5- 6 PM. If you're on a tour of Morocco, it is likely you will arrive at the camp just before sunset and will leave after breakfast. Which doesn't leave you with much time to enjoy the dunes. Ideally, forecast two nights in the desert in winter then. If you are worried about not having much to do, you may be wrong: tea with the nomads, rock engravings, prying out fossils, lunch in the oasis, the Black People village, dinosaur sites, quad biking, sand boarding are plenty of choice. The downside is that if a sand storm is blowing in ( very rare but not impossible ), you will have no choice but to spend the morning or afternoon inside your tent. 

ALCOHOL

Given the alcohol regulations in Morocco, very few camps ( even among luxury ones) sell alcohol on site. Therefore the best way to go about it is to get yourself your supplies in Marrakch or Ouarzazate ( cca. half way between Marrakech and the dunes and the largest town in the south). Otherwise, you may end up paying 3 or 4 times the price if you want to acquire it in a hotel by the dunes. All you need to do is ask for your driver to stop you at a special store. He will then stock it for you in the 4x4’s freezer box, if need be.

erg chigaga basic camp inside                                                            Basic tent interior

CLOTHING AND TEMPERATURES

Cotton/ linen clothes and sneakers/ sandals are best for travelling around Morocco including the desert. A fleece or rain jacket is always a good addition for late nights/ early mornings. Outside the summer season, nights in the desert tend to be fresh/ chilly and in December/ January temperatures can get down to 35°F/ 2°C. Even with the basic tent accommodation, you will get as many blankets as necessary to keep you warm. That being said, it’s not a bad idea to bring over your sleeping bag, if space is available in your luggage. Day time, when the sun is out, temperatures can vary from 70°F/20°C in the winter months to the 113°F/ 45°C and more in July and August. In general we will not recommend taking a Morocco tour to the desert in summer but for some, it is the only time of the year they can come. Have you booked to spend the night in the desert in the summer and you find it too hot to be there ? Worry not. Sun Trails will accommodate you at no extra charge, back at the lodge by the dunes, where you will have the comfort of an air conditioned room and a fresh pool giving onto the dunes. Early next morning, you can still enjoy your camel ride over the Sahara dunes while the sun is rising.

Sun Trails offers both basic and luxury camp options in the desert for those booking bespoke tours of Morocco. For more details, please send your enquiry here.

erg chebbi luxury tent inside                                                    Luxury tent Erg Chebbi interior

 © Sun Trails. All rights reserved. No part of this interview may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

 

 

Friday, 29 May 2015 00:00

Family holidays in Morocco

jardins de douars poolYou may think that Morocco is not the best place for your family on holidays. Think again. In the last few years, a new breed of hotels caters specifically for families with children and teenagers. And we don't mean trampolin and water slides all- inclusive- resorts. We mean treasure hunt, camel rides into the dunes, surf lessons on the Atlantic, spending time with animals on an organic farm or trekking with mules into the Atlas Mountains.

To begin with, flights to Morocco are short – a 3 hour flight from London or an 8 hour flight from New York. Children will find a host of activities to enjoy on a holiday to Morocco. They can explore the ancient medinas which look like something from a Harry Potter movie or the Arabian Nights. With all those alleys, souks and mysterious apothecary stalls they’ll be fascinated and have a lot of stories for friends back home. There are sandy beaches on the Atlantic Coast too with great water sports and even a camel ride or two in the dunes. The majestic Atlas Mountains are a cooler alternative with easy day walks and delightful Berber villages which are very hospitable. In July and August, when everywhere else charges peak prices, the rates for a holiday in Morocco are at their lowest. And best of all, a new breed of hotels is now offering specific activities for children on holidays in Morocco

adounia camp beachWhilst the summer may not be the best time to visit the Sahara, Morocco offers other sites that would be perfect for a family at that time of year. The cooler Atlas Mountains are ideal, or there are the medieval cities of Fez and Marrakech. The Atlantic coast is also perfect during July and August and there are less crowds than in the cities, if you know some secret beaches. Well, we do. One of the best ways of experiencing the country is splitting the holiday between contrasting areas to get the best of both worlds. You can combine a camel trek in the sand dunes on the Atlantic with a few days wandering the souks of Marrakech or Fez.

douar samra terraceWhy not spend some time walking in the Atlas Mountains and enjoying the hospitality of the Berber villages before relaxing on the coast at Essaouira. Kids will adore learning to catch fish and cook it for a rustic lunch or take surf lessons. There are all those velvety night skies with thousands of stars to gaze at too. For some creative ways of spending the family holidays in Morocco, take a look at these hand- picked destinations which include hotels with sheltered lush gardens, air conditioning, pools, and offer specific have activities for children. The hotels and guest houses have been picked for their family friendly focus and ambiance. You’ll find that when you look at the accommodation so you won’t be in a situation where your 'suite' consists of a double bed and an armchair or a small shower in the bathroom. These Morocco family friendly guest houses are not an all-inclusive destination, but rather focused on giving their guests an opportunity to relax and switch off from the pressures of everyday life. Some have teen friendly things to do to get them away from their iPhones and enjoying the Moroccan outdoors. Some guest houses accept children for free and others offer discounts depending on the child's age.

12 fellah kidsFellah Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel just 20 minutes from the centre of Marrakech and a world away from the busy medina. It is very minimalist in design and is typical of a rural building in this region. The hotel has 10 villas with 69 rooms and many are furnished with locally produced crafts. But there is a lot more to the Fellah Hotel than just accommodation. It is home to Dar al-Ma'mûn- a non-profits arts centre and the only one of its kind in North Africa to receive UNESCO-Aschberg status. Dar al-Ma'mûn is supported by visitors to Fellah Hotel and not only helps with bringing international art and culture to Morocco but is renowned for its innovative approach to literacy and local education issues. There are a number of outreach projects in the local area coordinated by Dar al-Ma'mûn including a preschool programme for 250 children where dropout rates can be high, and a literacy class for women.

hotel fellah main pool
Another reason to stay at the Fellah Hotel is that it is home to Morocco’s only Wat Po Massage Centre. Therapists have been trained at Wat Po Temple in Bangkok – the centre of arts and learning. They provide a wide range of holistic therapies and signature treatments which are perfect for chilling out on holiday and escaping the stresses of everyday life. Whilst you relax in the spa there are lots of child friendly activities around the hotel to keep the kids occupied. And talking about the kids there’s a Fellah Kids Club which will keep them entertained. With a wide range of activities for children scheduled every day from 9 to 5 you can chill out whist they get down to a little Moroccan pottery, cookery, painting and even a treasure hunt. They can also enjoy theatre and games which are aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 11. It is the only hotel we’re aware of that has this level of planned entertainment for kids. Fellah Hotel is ideal for teenagers and children with double rooms available on a bed and breakfast basis from 170 Euros.

la pause marrakech landscape
For another unique and amazing experience try a 4x4 drive to the Desert of Marrakech. The sci- fi landscape will fascinate children and adults alike and it is the perfect place to have an impromptu geology lesson. Another bonus is the magnificent night sky in this area with skies full of glittering stars. In the distance the lofty peaks of the High Atlas Mountains rise above the landscape at 4000m and the busy medina in Marrakech is a short distance away. One of the best places to stay here is La Pause, a luxury eco-lodge on the outskirts of Marrakech. Remarkably, this hotel uses no electricity and yet manages to supply hot water, crisp Egyptian cotton sheets, log fires, refined Moroccan cuisine and more. Just a short distance away is the 9 hole golf course in a dried- out river bed. You’ll have your own personal donkey to carry golf clubs and be guided round the course by the caddie handler.

la pause marrakech suiteThere are other interesting excursions here including mountain biking and horse riding across the desert and along secluded oases. You’ll find cookery lessons too and the chance to have lunch in the home of a local villager. For children it will be the enticing landscape that enchants them on a holiday like this and will really set their imagination alight. Rooms are lit with magical lanterns and candles creating an intimate warmth at night. This hotel is best suited to teenage children and a double bungalow is priced at 250 euros on a half board basis.

jnane tihihit gardens
Lalla Takerkoust Lake is a 45 minute drive from Marrakech and has a welcoming place to stay close by with views of the Atlas Mountains. Jnane Tihihit is a cluster of adobe bungalows owned by a Belgian couple who serve the most organic cuisine. Everything comes from their farm and garden and kids will enjoy meeting the collection of animals including pigs, mules, horses, donkeys, cows, chickens, and pigeons. There are lots of child friendly activities here to which will keep kids entertained. From learning to cook a tagine to riding a horse and making pots there is something for everyone. When it gets a little too hot there’s always the swimming pool to cool off in. There are also opportunities to go mountain biking and enjoy a picnic with views of the Atlas Mountains by the lake. Babysitting services are available at this hotel. Jnane Tihihit is recommended for children, and teenagers. Double rooms start at 76 Euros per night.

douar samra roof terrace
For a Berber chalet look no further than Douar Samra. It may be just an hour away from Marrakech but the Imlil Valley is a completely different environment and located right in the heart of the Berber homeland. Douar Samla has been exquisitely restored by Jacqueline who aimed to recreate a Swiss chalet ambiance in the Atlas Mountains. There are lush gardens with cherry and nut trees and the chalet has log fires and quite a few breath- taking- view terraces. You’ll find a chilled out atmosphere in the village which kids will enjoy exploring. For small children the three dogs, Jules the donkey and the ducks will be a fascination and the colourful interior with splashes of pink and purple will brighten everyone’s day. For somewhere to relax the sunny terrace with its views of the mountains is the ideal place to curl up with a book or just gaze out at that endless panorama.

Kran room Douar Samra ToubkalAnd as for the tree house and hammocks in the garden- well what child won’t enjoy those ? Kids will be running around and enjoying simple things in no time. There are also some captivating Atlas Mountains day treks from Douar Samra which are ideal for all the family. One of the best is a five hour waterfall trek which passes the village of Armed before a fifteen minute walk to the cascade itself where a picnic lunch is waiting. Another highlight of Douar Samla is that it is one of the few places in the area offering a traditional wood- burning Moroccan hammam – an idea way to relax after a day of walking. Douar Samra is ideal for teenagers and children, although children should be supervised on the roof terrace. Double rooms start at 94 euros on a half board basis.

adounia camp camels
One of the most fascinating places to visit in Morocco is the UNESCO world heritage site of Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast. This chilled out town is less chaotic than Marrakech ( and much cooler in the summer) and is a delightful place for families. The light has attracted artists for years to this fishing port and today the town has a vibrant music and arts scene. Children will delight at the old town ramparts where they can walk to see the historic cannons and bastions. There are lots of places to enjoy a drink or an ice cream in town and the medina is a lot calmer than those of the imperial cities. The beach is popular with families and just the place for a few ball games or water sports. The area has a milder climate than other parts of Morocco and there are several lovely places to stay within a short drive of Essaouira.

jardin des douars piscine
Le Jardin Des Douars is located in the hills above Essaouira and is ideal for families. It is surrounded by argan trees and has magnificent botanical gardens, two pools and a hammam. There are also two restaurants and the hotel has a rustic Moroccan style and is decorated tastefully. It is popular with couples as well as families and is designed for a relaxing time in a tranquil setting. Essaouira is a ten minute drive away so guests can enjoy the peace of the countryside or head into down for a dose of culture in the centre of town. This is a destination where you really can divide your time between a rural setting and a historic town with good shopping and restaurants. One of the particularities of Le Jardin Des Douars is that the air conditioned accommodation has a variety of room options to suit most people. There are private houses which come complete with a cook.

6234The domed Royal Suite comes with two bedrooms, a terrace, and a lounge. Simple Relax Rooms have a small terrace and queen sized bed. Whatever your requirements, there will most likely be a room to suit. The décor is typically North African with Berber rugs, carved doors, and wooden masks. This hotel has a family pool and another adult’s only swimming pool with wrought iron loungers. There is an adult’s only restaurant at La Table des Douars whilst families will enjoy the views at Le Ksar Restaurant. Both serve delicious North African cuisine. There are lots of activities available from Le Jardin Des Douars. From cocktails on the terrace to petanque and a library the hotel caters for adults with lots of things for kids. There’s also a hammam and spa for those chill out moments. Trekking is available from the hotel to secret beaches and rushing waterfalls. There is surfing nearby too and shopping opportunities in the souk. Jardins des Douars is suited to teenagers and children. Rates start at 109 euros a night on a bed and breakfast basis.

adounia camp by nightIf you have a sense of adventure and want a holiday in a remote area, then why not take a look at a Moroccan luxury beach camp. These are located on the Atlantic coast by secluded beaches. Camp Adounia is such an example Guests can enjoy night skies with thousands of stars, deserted beaches, and Morocco’s unspoiled coastline. Camp Adounia is an eco-friendly camp to minimise impact on the environment and is miles away from the crowded beaches at Essaouira. Guests will have golden sands to themselves and some excellent surfing to enjoy. This is a wild and remote coast and ideal for those who want to escape the holiday crowds common in other resorts.

adounia camp tentA cooling breeze will take the edge of the summer sun here. The tents are on the beach and the sound of the waves will lull you into a deep sleep at night. Camp Adounia is a simple set up but has a touch of luxury. There is a resident chef who can conjure up delicious meals and a team of guides who can help guests get to know the area. The camp is all inclusive and its highlight is being at one with nature and living very simply. There are some great activities for kids including beach walking and private surfing lessons. The camel trekking along the sand dunes will delight most children and adults and is really popular. There are opportunities to catch fish for lunch and simply relax in a beautiful setting. Local food and resources are used, minimising impact on the environment. There are comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton sheets at the campsite and ensuite bathrooms. Washing is done in the traditional hammam style. You’ll also find a kettle in your tent with water for washing and brushing teeth. Camp Adounia is recommended for teenagers. Rates start at 210 euros per adult on an all-inclusive basis.


We can help you get the best rates at any of the accommodations above or craft a private customized family tour of Morocco to include Fes or Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coast. For enquiries please click here

Wednesday, 18 March 2015 00:00

Medieval Morocco - exhibition of the year

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On a beautiful morning in March we are entering the newly opened Museum Mohamed 6 in Rabat. The previous months built quite an expectation since the exhibition on medieval Morocco had been hosted by none other than Louvre Museum ( yes, the one in Paris) and proved to be quite a success in France, having received 170 000 visitors. It was now presented in Rabat at the Museum Mohamed 6 and it is the most comprehensive exhibition ever presented on medieval Morocco with more than 220 items brought over from Moroccan, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian museums. 

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The loud group of children that had been brought to visit that morning, on a school visit it seemed, proved to be quite useful in the end, having kept the security guards busy while I managed to snatch a few photos of the items exposed, otherwise forbidden. 

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And now for the technical sort of data: this exhibition provides a rereading of the era spanning the XIth century in XVth century, which represents the golden age of western Arabic civilization, headed successively by the Almoravid, Almohad and Merinides dynasties. These last ones were able to realize a political unity over a wide area bringing together the areas from 'Sub-Saharan Africa, Andalusia and the provinces of North African countries.

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The exhibition includes nearly 220 artistic works, which reflect what Morocco had accomplished during this period in the fields of medieval architecture, ceramics, textiles, calligraphy and book manufacturing. It shows the innovative achievements in science and technology, achievements that had a profound effect on the European Renaissance. This exhibition brings together highly symbolic artistic and religious masterpieces, such as the candelabrum of Qarawiyyin mosque and minbars of various mosques as well as architectural artefacts and samples. It also showcases daily life objects such as dishes and ceramic jars, chests for conservation of textiles, candelabrum lamps and instruments used for water extraction techniques. It also presents various Korans and manuscripts related to religious and artistic topics, in addition to many coins and flag models.

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These masterpieces are brought together from Moroccan, Portuguese, Spanish and French museums. This exhibition is an opportunity to discover the monuments and to throw a light on the authenticity of Morocco, the consistence of its unity and its civilizational outflow. It highlights the cultural sources that has inspired Moroccan civilization as well as the influences of varioius spaces within itself and the role that Morocco has played in the circulation of ideas between the far Arabic east and the Andalusian culture.

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The author and his insightful companion, the owner of an influential travel blog in Morocco, both agreed that it was probably the most comprehensive exhibtion they ever witnessed in Morocco and most definitely one to attend to if you are visiting Morocco and Rabat. The exhibition is currently included with all of our Morocco private tours and is open to public every day except on Tuesdays. 

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015 00:00

Agafay Desert Lodge & Camp

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Luxury camps and things to do in the stony desert of Agafay.

Only 40 minutes drive of Marrakech lies the desert of Agafay. It isn’t sand dunes like the Sahara. Yet layer after layer of rock dunes instill a similar feeling of remoteness. Of nothingness. Only troubled by the occasional douar, local hamlets with their mud houses which seem to slowly return to the adobe they’ve been molded from. There is no living soul in sight, if not for the solitary camel grazing by. It is one of the few places in Morocco where near- total desolation manifests with such exquisite beauty. Some in- the- know travelers move through this desert as part of a 4x4 day trip from Marrakech into the High Atlas mountains. But they don't suspect one can also spend the night in Agafay desert, without having to rough it up. Also, for those newly wed, it is hard to find any place more romantic to include on a honeymoon in Morocco. 

scarabeo camp suite tent

One of these places offers both exquisite adobe-and-tadelakt bungalows and spacious air-tight tents. The French owner, with a passion for Africa and the desert, was driving aimlessely around Agafay some many years ago, when he stumbled upon an oasis and a ruined house. It immediately occured to him that this would be the perfect spot for an eco- lodge that would reflect his love of desert and remoteness. The oasis would provide the water, the desert - the views. Nowadays, this remote eco- lodge offers adobe bungalows, comfortable tents, a restaurant area, shady gardens, a refreshing pool and a miniature golf course, among other things. But it’s the views and complete remoteness that make it worth spending the night or two here.

la pause marrakech suite

You may think that the beautiful lanterns lit at night are there just for the effect. You're wrong. The whole place works without one watt of electricity. Which makes for the starriest sky at night, the one you'd normally sight in the Sahara. And if you think that this means roughing it up, think again. Soft cotton sheets, luxurious bath products, running hot water, wood burning stoves and even a wifi hot point offer all the necessities you may need. Protecting the environment, but not suffering for it. 

la pause marrakech landscape

A few miles away, tucked behind mounds of moon rocks, you will find a 12- tent camp. Spacious white canvas tents accommodate comfortable beds. In one suite tent, an antique globe sits atop a stack of vintage leather suitcases; in the reception pavilion a zebra skin graces the floor next to a folding campaign table piled high with well-thumbed expedition and photography books. Iron candle-lamps are suspended on posts; hammered-silver urns trickle fresh water into basins in the bathroom tents. The interiors seem to come out straight of ‘Out of Africa’ and you may be forgiven for thinking that you are somewhere in Kenya and not less than an hour drive of bustling Marrakech.

la pause marrakech pool

If having a romantic dinner and night in the middle of nowhere, take in the immensity of landscapes and disconnecting from a busy lifestyle is not enough for you, worry not. From guided treks along the oasis to yoga sessions with nothing in sight at 360°, there is plenty to occupy your time here. Horse riding , quad biking, camel riding, reiki massages, mountain biking are but some of the ways to explore the Agafay desert and can all be arranged locally. 

scarabeo camp general view

Better still, why not make staying one night in Agafay desert part of a 2- day private 4x4 tour and discover the diverse area just south of Marrakech ? The desert, the High Atlas, the Kik Plateau, the local waterfalls, Lalla Takerkoust lake – so many contrasts just in two day. Perhaps start with the Ourika Valley, hike up into the High Atlas, have lunch with a Berber family. Freshen up by the local waterfalls, see how the argan is turned into oil into a local cooperative. Discover the 12th century mosque of Tinmel, have a tea by the Lalla Takerkoust lake, lunch at Richard Branson's High Atlas retreat or trek in the Atlas mountains. And, after all the lushness of the High Atlas, have a little bit of desert. Arrive in the Agafay desert by the afternoon and, after settling in, have the most romantic dinner by candle light under the starriest sky, out in the open. Spend a night inside an adobe bungalow or white canvas tent and explore the surroundings next day by foot, camel, horse of mountain bike. 

camel agafay desert

Private tents at Scarabeo Camp available from 201 €/ 161 £/ 274 $ per night per tent with half board;
Private bungalow at La Pause available from 300 €/ 250 £/ 335 $ per night per bungalow with half board;
2 day private 4x4 tour to include a night in the desert available from 300 €/ 250 £/ 335 $ per person.

To book or enquire about any of the above, please send us an enquiry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or fill in the form on our contact page