Anyone who has ever spent time in a desert area will tell you it’s captivating beyond words — a silent, sand-filled place of little apparent life and few, if any, people, yet still spellbinding and alluring in a way that other parts of the world simply are not. And if you’re inclined, there’s a lot of desert on planet Earth to see: barren sandy regions take up around a third of the globe’s surface, ranging from hot and cold to subtropical and cool coastal desert regions.
If you’d like to experience a desert and get a glimpse of the sheer beauty of these wide and seemingly endless stretches of sand, with their towering dunes that snake their way to the horizon, the Sahara Desert is probably your best bet. This enormous sandy area is the world’s largest hot desert and covers much of the northern half of Africa; altogether it takes up around 9 million square kilometres — or around 31% of the enormous continent’s landmass — encompassing Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia.
If you’re wondering which country to visit so you can see what the Sahara is like, Morocco is surely best placed, and especially if you’re travelling from Europe — it is not, after all, all that far away. Colourful Morocco is reached by a few hours
Choosing Your Sahara Desert Experience
Going out on a tour of the Sahara Desert is not as simple as it might seem, and, actually, there’s lots to do and see. Many tourists who are based in some of Morocco’s key cities, such as Marrakesh, Fez, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier and others, take short guided tours of the Sahara that might last a day or a few, while others, seeking to more deeply immerse themselves into the desert experience, opt for a week or more. Clearly, it depends on your budget and how much time you have to devote to one part of the country on your holiday, but the longer you can stay in the Sahara, the richer your experience will be.
These days, tour companies based in Morocco organise all manner of desert trips in the country, and many also tailor-make their Sahara experiences for clients around the world. They also have the local knowledge and expert guides to ensure your time in this harsh desert climate is well spent and that you enjoy the environment to the full.
In practice, this means being ferried into the desert areas and around the mighty dunes on sturdy 4×4 vehicles that have interior climate comfort and are able to tackle the most challenging of terrains. And when you’re out there and gazing at rare oases or taking in the expansive panoramas of dunes and wide, open sandy areas without a building in sight, expert guides will look after you throughout — whether you’re clambering up a large dune on foot or by camel. Seeing it all from the raised vantage point of a “Ship of the Desert” (a camel) is certainly something not to be missed.
Spending The Night In The Sahara
After a day wandering around the desert and taking it all in, where will you spend the night if you’re on a trip for a few days or a week or so? Most likely, it will be at a luxury camp set up for you by your tour company, complete with a roomy tent, comfy bed and all the bathroom facilities you need. Plus, you’ll have your meals prepared for you, so there’s little to do other than sit by the fire and gaze up at a sky so starry — no light pollution out here — you’ll be mesmerised.
It’s essential to pack properly before heading out on a desert trip in Morocco, because the temperatures range from one extreme to the other. During the summer months, the mercury can climb to 40C and above, and yet at night it plunges down to around 15C or lower because there’s no cloud cover to insulate and keep the day’s searing heat in. Being out here at night in shorts and a t-shirt is definitely not recommended and could ruin your desert trip entirely.
Finally, refreshed after an unforgettable night in the Sahara Desert, you are ready to continue your nomadic adventure around these timeless, meditative sands, just like the native Berber people did and still do — and now you too.