Walking with the Bedouin: a camel-riding experience across the Moroccan dunes

One hump or two?

Erg Chebbi is one of several ergs in Morocco – large seas of dunes formed by wind-blown sand (that’s the technical description). As part of our hyper immersive Moroccan itineraries, you can traverse this surreal landscape by camel; walking alongside the Bedouin tribes who have plied these ochre waves for centuries. Check out the full itinerary here.

During a recent trip to North Africa’s most curious nation, the Black Tomato production crew followed Becky – one of our intrepid Travel Experts – as she crossed this wild and pre-Saharan landscape, checking out new routes and opportunities for our clients along the way. This is our equivalent of quality checking. Watch the video below, or read on to find out more about what this truly authentic itinerary actually looks like.

Camel experience Morocco
Camel experience Morocco

From Marrakech to Zagora: the gateway to the desert

Typically, this ten-day itinerary kicks off in Marrakech; among the sprawling palatial surrounds of the Villa des Orangers; city tours; and fine eating in Jemaa el Fna square. You’ll eventually leave the city (bitter-sweet, isn’t it) for the towering peaks of the Atlas Mountains, stopping off at the ancient Glaoui kasbah in Telouet, and up to the craggy hilltop fortress of Ait Ben Haddou.

The next steps in your Moroccan expedition will see you travel through the date-palm lined Draa valley, visiting the historic kasbahs at Tamnougalt, learning about the history of local mosques, before arriving at mighty Zagora, the former fortress of the Amoravid people – and the gateway to the desert beyond (and your camel-riding experience). It is here that you’ll find a bit of affinity with the desert landscapes, and prepare yourself for an adventure worthy of Cavafy, the famous North African poet. After all, it was he who said: “pray that the road is long.” Because who wants a short journey?

Zagora Morocco

Forget about cars.

Across the dunes of the Sahara

Your journey across the sands comes about after travelling south from Zagora to Tamergroute; home to one of the largest Sufi brotherhoods in the world. Here, you’ll visit the Zaouia Islamic cooking school and Koranic library. Eventually, you’ll reach the end of tarred roads at M’Hamid. This is when you jump into a 4×4 and go off-road, speeding toward your luxury desert camp at Erg Chigaga. After a resultful night of tented sleep beneath the stars, your camelback journey will begin – and you’ll make your way across the ancient sands. 

Traditionally, the Bedouin – from the Negev to the Sahara – have depended on a form of semi-nomadic pastoralism for their livelihood. Camels have been a central part of this lifestyle – from using them for pack carriage to transportation and ploughing. Over the years, and with the rise of urbanization, these roles have shifted, albeit slowly. Vehicles have become more dominant, albeit integrated into the traditional lifeways of these historic people. Despite modernization, however, the camel retains vital – some would say intensified – cultural and symbolic importance among the Bedouin.

Next steps

After your dramatic desert crossing (think Lawrence of Arabia and you have the right idea), you’ll cross the fossil fields and dried-out lakes of the hamada stone desert, before appearing on the other side and forging ahead to the famous town of Tazenkahat (known for its woven carpets) and the walled city of Taroudant. This is an opportunity to relax at the Grand Palais Claudio Bravo, before joining a local guide among the leather tanneries and souks filled with Berber silver, antiques and local crafts.

Your journey will end with a return to Marrakech, where you’ll climb aboard a vintage WWII sidecar for a wild tour of the city’s medina and the palm oasis which lies beyond the city. It’s a far cry from the slowly pacing camels, obviously. But it is extremely fun.

What should I know before I go?

  • Each of our trips are bespoke, meaning you can alter the above itinerary to your heart’s content. Just ask.
  • Camel riding is suitable for most ages and people. Ask us for more details and we can adapt the experience for your particular needs.
  • Why not pair your Moroccan adventure with a journey into Portugal and Spain, experiencing the former extent of the Moorish empire that spread across North Africa and the Iberian peninsula?

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Whether you want to ride the dunes or take flight in a hot air balloon, we can show you Morocco’s Saharan wilderness like nobody else on earth (except the Berbers, that is).

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