2015 Israel & Morocco trip No.16 Tent stay in Merzouga, Sahara Desert

Israel and Morocco Travel 2015 GW
Israel and Morocco Travel 2015 GW

Visit Date: May 4, 2015

Staying in the desert was one of my aims!

Transportation by camel

We will continue to ride a camel and move leisurely. We arrived at the entrance of the desert in about 5 minutes from the hotel. It’s finally the desert.

I was a little worried about the swaying, etc., since it was my first time, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I wouldn’t say it was a comfortable ride, but I didn’t feel any discomfort at all. I would say it was generally good. The only time I felt a little scared was when going down a dune. I felt more G’s going down than I expected. I had to hold on to the handrails (attached to the saddle of the camel) to maintain my balance or I would fall off. It took me a while to get used to this. It took me a while to get used to it, and the railing is too narrow, which also makes it difficult to maintain my balance. In any case, I managed to hold on and avoid falling.

After about 10 minutes of steady progress, the entire area around us was already a sandy landscape. And the sun was gradually slanting down and was about to greet the evening. The sand dunes, which were beautiful and golden even in the daytime, became even more beautiful in the evening sun.

By the way, I think the wind was a little strong that day. As a contact lens wearer, I was a little worried, but fortunately it wasn’t so bad that the sand was flying around, so as long as I wore my sports sunglasses, I didn’t have any trouble. But even so, I had to use my iPhone in a waterproof case to prevent sand from getting into my electronic devices. I also wore a strap to take pictures while riding the camel, because to be honest, it was not safe.

To the desert tent.

We finally got used to the camel ride and after about 30 minutes, we arrived near our destination tent. Rumor had it that it took about an hour, but our tour was not that long. It’s relatively easy and you won’t get bored if it’s this long. My hips didn’t get sore either.

It seems to go to the tent on foot after getting off the camel. But it is about 100 meters away. Therefore, I parted with the camel once. It is said that it leaves it in this place. Even so, how does he leave it when there is no place to tie it with a string? As a matter of fact, a camel stands up when its legs are tied in a sitting position. If it is said in a human, it is like wrapping both thighs and ankles in a circle while sitting on the floor. It is said that camels are kept in this place overnight to take advantage of this property.

What an obedient animal. But I feel a little sorry for them…. By the way, our host, Hassan, says, “Here is a camel’s parking. Quite an interesting expression.

We said goodbye to the camel and started to walk towards our tent. We arrived at our tent just as the sun was setting and the night was about to begin. This is where we will be staying for the night.

It’s a tent, but it’s more like a small house covered with a very fine cloth. It consists of three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Tonight we were the only group staying in the tent. Our host prepared our bedroom for us.

In the meantime, we observed the Sahara Desert around our tent. All around are sand dunes. We were moved by this experience for the first time in our lives. Then, a 4WD car happened to pass nearby. It was so cool and looked so fun. I might get motion sickness, but I’d like to try this sometime.

Eating in a tent

After enjoying the safari desert for a short time, we came back to the tent and found our host preparing a meal. I was curious to see what he was doing, and he said, “I’ll teach you how to make tajine,” so we both decided to watch. There was no fancy kitchen, though. I’m interested in learning how to make tagines, but I’m also curious about how they make the food in such a limited space.

We do not use a cutting board for basic cooking. They used small knives to cut the ingredients like peeling vegetables. It was a brilliant move. I think this will be a good reference for camping.

Then put the cut onions on the bottom of the pan first.

Next, put the meat on top of it. It’s like putting a whole chunk of meat on it. I didn’t use a knife. They might have brought the already cut one. By the way, this is lamb. They usually use cheap chicken. They eat lamb only when tourists come.

Then spread more vegetables on top of it.

This is what it looks like when you put them all on. You can see the atmosphere.

Finally, add the sauce. Add a good amount of olive oil to a cup, paprika powder, cumin, I feel like I put a lot in this area. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I think that’s about it. To be honest, I didn’t know how much I put in (laughs). I don’t know if I added anything else. I’m sorry for being so random. But the smell of cumin gives it a very Moroccan flavor. If you eat it every day, you will get tired of it…

Now, heating is done with a gas stove. There are several gas cylinders in this tent, so you can put the lid of the stove (or is it this?) on the end of it. If you put the lid on the stove, it turns into the gas stove we’re all familiar with from home. Then you put the tajine pot on top. This is what the cooking area looked like.

These gas cylinders are also used for lighting. So the people of the desert are also receiving the benefits of current civilization (although it’s not so new). But there is no signal here, so we are out of range.

By the way, we used mineral water for tajine sauce and soup (which we made separately), and a large tank of water for washing dishes. I think this is the local tap water.

Now, until the cooking is ready, we had a chat with our host in the tent. Here I asked him about his background and how he started this lodge and desert tour. First of all, he was born in the area a little more south than here. He was born in an area a little south of here, and seems to be a quota of black and Berber. In the past, black people were brought to this area as slaves of the Berbers. I couldn’t ask him how he grew up in this area or what kind of education he received. I didn’t hear how he grew up or what kind of education he received, but he came of age and started working as a hotelier in the city (Casablanca, I think?) or somewhere. I heard that he learned the hotel business there. However, he wanted to work in the nature of his hometown, so he left his job a few years ago and came back to his hometown and started this hotel and tour.

Recently, it has become easier to promote the hotel using the Internet, and due to this, the number of guests is not bad. I’ve heard that Asians from Japan and other countries are also coming to stay here. I also found out about this place through Airbnb. It’s wonderful that we can easily get to know each other even if we are far away from each other in the desert. However, I was also told that the number of tourists has decreased drastically since last year due to the influence of the Islamic State (IS) and that they are in trouble.

And while we were talking about it, we had a meal together in the tent.

It was very delicious. It was already dark, so we had a candlelight dinner.

And dessert after dinner. Full of fruits. This country is really full of fruits.

After dinner, we played together on drums, a Berber folk instrument that I don’t really understand. Unfortunately it was too dark to take a picture of it, but it was shaped like a bongo, with one side playing the high notes, the other the low notes, and occasionally the rim would be struck for effect to create a rich rhythm. I tried to play it as an imitator, but I wanted to have the score. My hands started to hurt after a while, so I cut it short and lay down on the outdoor mat to look at the starry sky.

The moonlight was too bright to see much of the starry sky

A night in the Sahara is a night under the stars, but despite the beautiful weather, we were not able to see much of the beautiful sky.

The reason for this is the moon. It is too bright. It was just the time of the full moon. The moon was indeed beautiful, but it made me feel somewhat disappointed. If you are staying in the Sahara Desert, you might want to avoid the full moon. The moon is too bright, though, and I think that’s a luxury.

Plus, I didn’t bring my DSLR to the desert tent for fear of malfunctioning, so I couldn’t even get a good shot of the beautiful moon. I could barely take pictures with my mirrorless SLR. This is also very disappointing…

As I lay there looking at the full moon and the starry sky, I found myself falling asleep. But after midnight, the temperature dropped even lower, and it was getting cold in short sleeves, so I woke up at 2am and moved to a bed in the tent. It was very cool at that time, so I wrapped myself in a blanket and had a comfortable sleep.

Desert dawn, sunrise, and breakfast

And I woke up in the tent at around 6am. I think I woke up naturally as usual. I put on my disposable contacts and left the tent to watch the sunrise.

Still before sunrise, the moon is in front of us. It is still clearly visible.

But little by little, the surroundings are getting brighter. It’s very quiet.

And the sunrise. Oh, I knew I wanted to take pictures with my SLR…

Of course, there is desert all around. It’s a wonderful morning. The weather is also great.

We will spend some time enjoying the desert scenery reflected in the morning sun.

Then our host brought our breakfast to the top of a small sand dune. There is a small chair and table on this hill. We had our breakfast here.

It was rather solid for a breakfast in the desert. I got used to feeling very refreshed.

I’m riding a camel back to town.

After breakfast, we walked around again for a while, admiring the desert scenery, and then a little over half an hour later, we left the tent and headed for the camel parking.

I’m relieved that the camel didn’t escape. Then we rode the camel back to the city of Hasilabit. I’m already used to the camel, and compared to yesterday, there was hardly any wind, so it was a comfortable way back.

When we returned to the hotel, we were allowed to take a shower in the hotel room as we had done when we arrived the day before. This was very helpful since there was more sand on my body and shoes than I expected. This seems to be the standard at the lodges that offer desert tours in Merzouga and Hasilabit.

Prices for desert tent accommodation

Now, let’s review about this desert tented tour.

First of all, there is an optional fee of 300 Dirhams (or 30 Euros) for the hotel accommodation (which we actually only used for the shower room and large luggage storage). This includes all tents in the desert, as well as transportation by camel, a bottle of 1.5 liters of mineral water, dinner and breakfast. I brought my own 500ml bottle of water separately.

The desert season at night

The season was early May, and I had heard that the temperature in the desert varies greatly between mornings and evenings, but as expected in May, the temperature drops as much as it does during the daytime, but it is still about 15 degrees Celsius, and it never gets that cold. So, if you are going on a tour in an area close to a city like ours, you can basically wear normal daytime clothes (sunscreen, hat, long sleeves, etc. are of course necessary) during the trip, and bring a long-sleeved jacket for when the temperature drops at night. Of course, it depends on the weather of the day, so it is always better to consult with your host about what to wear.

Even if it gets colder, there are beds and blankets in the tents that most tours use, so you should be fine. I thought the blanket was still too hot when I tried to sleep at about 1 o’clock in the night, but it got a little cold about an hour after I started sleeping, so I decided to sleep wrapped in the blanket. Maybe by 3 or 4 o’clock the temperature had dropped to about 10 degrees.

And the wind, I think this depends on the day. I think it was a little strong in the evening when we went. But it was not so strong as a sandstorm. The night and the next day were calm, almost no wind. So I thought I could take my SLR camera with me as long as I took some measures to protect it from sand. It is impossible to take a picture with an SLR camera while moving on a camel, but it would be wise to judge whether to use it or not by looking at the wind when you arrive. If there is a next opportunity, I would like to take it by all means.

Enter your ratings into TripAdvisor on the spot and go!

While I was relaxing in the hotel lobby after taking a shower, my host asked me to enter my rating on TripAdvisor. I thought I would take my time to write it down after I returned home, but most people don’t bother to write it down later because it’s too much trouble, and I guess that’s why he asked me to do it on the spot. He handed me his laptop and I tried to type, but the keyboard was French, which I was not used to, and the keyboard of the PC itself was quite shabby, so I used my iPhone app to log in and type. However, the input was in English, and I managed to do my best to write it while occasionally using Google Translate.

After that, we packed our bags and finally left. We say goodbye to our hosts and get into the car for the first time in a day.

One last look at the Sahara in Merzouga. This day, we moved toward Fez. Our trip is finally coming to an end. However, it’s quite a distance from here, so we plan to spend the night in a city along the way. (To be continued)