sleeping in the Moroccan desert : all you need to know
Immensity for the horizon, silence for background music, nature in its raw state for an only companion... Staying in the desert is one of those fascinating experiences that we all (or almost) want to live one day. But what is the reality of this dream? How, very concretely, does such a journey take place? Answer all the questions - practices and others - on the way back from Inara Camp, in the Agafay desert, in southern Morocco.
1. Is the desert far away?
Yes, normally, the desert is far away. Very. In Morocco, to reach the first dunes of the Sahara from Marrakech takes 8 hour's drive, some of which are on the slopes. The travel is long from the international aircraft to Morocco, then from Marrakech to the camp. Even if there are some air connections from Casablanca to Zagora, we hesitate to spend "just" a weekend in the tent.
By taking more time this time. Another asset: the Agafay desert unfolds splendid landscapes, whose ochreous hills resemble the spectacle of sandy dunes. In the background are the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains... Grandiose!
In Morocco, to reach the first dunes of the Sahara from Marrakech takes an 8-hour drive. This is one of the reasons why the Agafay desert has the wind in its sails. An hour from Marrakech, this desert of rocks - this reg, more precisely - offers the same type of change of scenery but is more accessible.
Framed by two large wadis, N'fis and Tensift, this geographical area extends over more than 20 km and benefits from a microclimate where it almost never rains: its climatic conditions are close to those of the Sahara. The more adventurous will be disappointed, but many will be delighted to be able to live this experience and, once convinced, try their luck again in the heart of the dunes of the Sahara...
In the heart of this desert, Inara Camp offers 10 bivouac tents (including 3 "Suites") furnished in a traditional spirit, with local crafts, impeccable comfort, Berber cuisine, and exemplary service. Installed in 2002 in the south of Morocco (especially towards M'hamid el Ghizlane, at the gates of the Sahara), Vincent Jacquet was one of the pioneers of the high-end bivouacs: he has concentrated here more than 15 years of know-how in the field.
2. Under the tent, practical questions
Is there electricity? Water? Do I need to bring a flashlight? We imagine the desert, we dream of immensity, then... we forget all the practical details, and it is panic. No need to be alarmed, in fact, everything is planned. Whether this seems inconceivable, reassuring, or disconcerting - at the choice of the people - the camp is totally autonomous energetically. This means that, yes, there is electricity in the tents - although one appreciates the candle lighting that illuminates the camp at nightfall. Yes, there is water: a shower itself, a sink, and a real toilet. In fact, everything is brought together as in a classic - and refined - hotel room with a double bed, sofa, desk, etc. - except that the walls are canvases. The only concession to modernity that you will make, is the absence of Wi-Fi ...
But it is at least the guarantee of being one-on-one with oneself, one's half, and/or family!.
Keep in mind, however, that the desert is an extreme environment, especially with regard to temperatures: excessive during the day, they drop drastically at nightfall. Each tent is equipped with a wood stove, which you will be lit every evening... Remember to maintain this fire as much as possible, in order to prolong the hours of heat, without which the mornings can be icy.
3. What about the desert with your family?
Everything that has just been described will be more or less suitable for parents, especially depending on the age of their children. Everyone will deduce whether or not the place is suitable for his family. Once again, the desert climate is an extreme environment - even though it has been given all the comfort it wants. For the youngest, do not underestimate the power of the sun's rays during the day, or the cold that can fall at night.
The tents are appropriately spaced from one another on the campsite to protect everyone's privacy, and the reception is completely open to families. All can be furnished with an extra bed and the "Suites" can accommodate up to 4 people. Even, for sufficiently "tall" children, small tents can be set up next to that of the parents: adventure guaranteed!
4. What exactly is the desert experience?
Since finally this desert is easily accessible, and we find almost all the modern comforts ... One might rightly ask: what makes this experience still authentic, still extraordinary? Mmmm... Of course. But, imagine, in the middle of the night, the wind comes to caress your frail tent canvas and whispers you out to get some fresh air. There, an absolutely gigantic sky catches your eyes and loses you in the infinity of its glow... In the distance rise the cries of some wild animals.
No light, no sign of civilization on the horizon, and this immense world of which you suddenly take the measure - and, at the same moment, of yours, of measure, so tiny, almost insignificant. In the darkness, you can see the silhouette of the neighboring tents, and the latter, in fact, reassure you a little. At dawn, you contemplate more serenely this horizon line... Tonight you had an appointment with the world, you made peace with yourself.
5. The desert is ok, but what do we do there?
You can do nothing about it. You have the right to do nothing about it. Perhaps - no doubt - this is the most beautiful experience to do. And far be it from us to explain to you what this can consist of. Because, in the end, it is like when in yoga we seek "the total relaxation of the body": it is the exercise that seems the easiest that is actually the most difficult.
On the other hand, do not think that you are forced to do so. Or that we could get bored! Among a range of activities, from morning to night, here is what can await you. A gentle awakening by a yoga class facing the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. A Berber breakfast was served around an elegant table set up under the tent.
A hike through spectacular landscapes, along rocky trails. A chic picnic in the bed of a wadi, with a table magically set by turbaned men. An excursion on horseback to gallop through the dunes. Discovery of the gullies by quad for thrills. A camel ride to feel the soul of a Bedouin. A massage to help you get rid of the stress leftovers. Since the remodeling is ongoing, even a swim in the pool will be possible soon. And, for those who would not be enough for this program, it is also possible to reach, 14 km away, Lake Lalla Takerkoust where you can practice activities ... Nautical! Finally, Marrakech is 30 km away, it is also possible to spend the day there.
At sunset, we sit by a wood fire, to share an apéritif against a background of traditional music. At nightfall, you can also participate in a stargazing session with an astronomer: in the heart of the desert, the sky is of such exceptional purity that you can observe planets, constellations, or nebulae at leisure.
Served in the tent, dinner will make you discover the flavors of Berber cuisine, simmered over a wood fire for hours (and from products mainly from permaculture).
You thought you would spend a quiet, silent, almost boring evening in the desert? It is a misunderstanding of the hospitality, the joy of living, and the bewitching rhythms of Berber customs! Impossible to resist the rhythms and sounds of the bendir (kind of drum), the Imzad (kind of vielle), the Tamja (flute), or the Azamar (clarinet)... And if by misfortune some Moroccan dancers enter the track, you are lost! Farewell solitude and recollection, you will be forced to participate in the party. And again, stand on your guard, a fire-eater could soon subjugate you with his flames!.