About Sahara for Softies
A relaxed journey from Marrakech across the High Atlas Mountains to the Sahara. ONE night at the incredible Ch'Gagga dunes Bedouin camp and a night either side at the friendly Fibule du Draa Hotel in Zagora.
Activity code: ITCLFD17z
Duration: 4 Days Desert ONLY / 7 Days Holiday version
The Sahara feels like such a distant image from Marrakech but with Rediscover the World a visit to the real desert of Morocco's deep south is a reality. One of the best areas of the Sahara is just a little south of Zagora and it is in this region that this stunning experience offers one night at the fabulous Erg Ch'Gagga Bedouin camp with a night either side at the friendly Fibule du Draa Hotel in Zagora. This is ideal for those of you with a little more time or if you prefer to relax between the long journeys across the Atlas Mountains and the night in the desert; also a perfect option for honeymooners.
From your hotel or riad in Marrakech your journey will begin across the Glaoua Plains and up via the winding road over the High Atlas Mountains through the Tizi n'Tichka (2260m). From this high point you will see a dramatic change in the countryside - from high mountain ranges to semi-desert and oases. You will stop at the magnificently exotic kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, declared a World Heritage Site; here Hollywood has shot many of its films, including, as everyone will tell you, "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Gladiator". After a light lunch you will encounter Ouarzazate and drive down the beautiful Draa Valley to the small kasbah-like Hotel Fibule Du Draa in the oasis town of Zagora. The next two days involve local sightseeing and then off road to Erg Lihoudi for lunch and onwards to Ch'Gagga camp before returning on piste roads to Zagora for lunch by the pool at the welcoming Fibule du Draa. The final day retraces your route over the High Atlas to Marrakech.
You will spend the night out in the desert, in a Bedouin camp at the stunning dunes of Erg Ch'Gagga. The sunsets and sunrises in the rarefied air of the desert can simply take your breath away, this night may be spent in our carpetted, nomadic tents or out in the open under an awesome canopy of the starlit heavens. The other two nights will be at the friendly small Fibule du Draa Hotel on the edge of Zagora (not far from the "Timbuktou 52 Days" sign.
All travel is by air-conditioned vehicle, there is a relaxing camel ride into the desert, an overnight stay in a Bedouin tent in a beautiful and peaceful setting and time to enjoy the scenery at your own pace.
WE RECOMMENDED YOU BRING: day pack (for camera, water bottles, hat, etc.); windcheater (seasonal), broad-brimmed hat (or you may purchase a 'Cheche' before you set out from Zagora); personal toiletries and towel; hygienic wipes (or gel); small First Aid kit; torch with batteries (non-essential); filled water bottle(s); sunscreen, sunglasses; nibbles and/or dried fruit. Drinking chocolate if preferred. Extra toilet rolls could come in handy! For those who wear contact lenses, perhaps it would be a good idea to bring along a spare pair of glasses.
CLOTHING: Comfortable clothes for travelling, loose clothing for the camel ride and warmer layers for the colder desert nights.
Departing from your hotel in Marrakech at 8am, set off south in an air-conditioned Land Cruiser 4WD through the Glaoua countryside and up through exhilarating hairpin bends into the Western High Atlas mountains and Ait Ourir Taddert (1650m) to alight at the top of the Tizi n'Tichka (2260m) to take in the vista dominated by peaks of over 2500m. From here you start your descent from the Tizi to the Assif Telouet and the Glaoui Kasbah where your driver will make a stop for you to visit this dramatic red-earthen eyrie, fast crumbling under the attacks of the elements.
After visiting this fabulous kasbah, rejoin your driver and return to the Tichka Pass and down alongside the Oued Ouarzazate to visit the remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site of the magnificently exotic Ksour of Ait Ben Haddou (local guide not included and not really necessary). Here you can visit these various kasbahs, so closely-knit that they appear to be but one complete building, backed up against the looming mountain in a stretch of unforgiving hammada. The thick, high, sheer, elaborately decorated pise walls, stepped-up housing, turreted, crenellated ramparts, balustrades and arched 'babs' are a sight not to be missed. Obviously, here Hollywood has shot many of its films, including, as everyone will tell you, "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Gladiator". One of the more spectacular sights in the Atlas ranges, set upon a rock above a reed-strewn Assif, commanding the area for miles around, this Kasbah controlled the route to Marrakech until the French blasted a road through the Tizi n’Tichka in the late 1920s, we will take lunch in a local cafe.
On down through the beautiful Valley of the Oued Draa via the kasbah at Tamnoughalt until you arrive at the small, charming kasbah-like Hotel Fibule Du Draa in the oasis village of Zagora, where you will have your evening meal and overnight stay.
Breakfast tucked away Suitably refreshed, set out for a unique adventure towards the south-east deep into a sub-Saharan desert surrounding of many small dunes, interspersed with the black gravelly 'Reg' stretches of the Jbel Tadrart basin. Driving on down the eastern bank of the Oued Draa going as far as allowed to Oulad Driss, once a stop for the trans-Saharan caravans of salt, gold and slaves and where the magnificent Draa Valley finally gives itself up to the Sahara.
As the air has heated up, the winds have risen to make the sand swirl about, you’ll notice that older dunes appear darker, for the iron in the sand there has finally oxidised. Now you are in time to mount your dromedaries for a "meharee" over the small dunes and stony plateaux for a couple of hours until you reach the dunes of Erg Lihoudi for a welcome break to relax and enjoy lunch in true Bedouin surroundings. A brief rest to allow the sun to leave the zenith and then continue across the Hamada du Draa in a 4WD westward across the blasted wilderness of stony plain between the Erg el M'hazil and the wind and sand-blasted Jbel Beni range of hills to the bivouac site set amidst the dunes of Ch'Gagga.
After a welcoming traditional glass or two of mint tea, the Bedouin camp team will have prepared your dinner of vegetable tagine, or of chicken, couscous, mint tea, bread and fruit. Whilst dinner is being prepared, you might take time out to stretch your limbs, set up a photo-shoot for the oncoming sunset as the rarefied heavens turn from bright blue to cobalt, to yellow to gold, to purple to black, (the sands and stones change their colour too, in step with the lowering rays), or take a shower or simply crash out! This night may be spent in the tents or out in the open air if you wish, under the awesome canopy of the starlit heavens to witness the magnificent sunset.
After an awesome sunrise* and a Bedouin breakfast of mint tea, bread, jams and cheeses, your morning will be spent tracing your path towards the east across the desert plain through Moulht Sellah, Oum Laalag and the Oued N'Ame to the last proper village in the Draa Valley - M'Hamid El Bhali. M'Hamid was once an important trading post and dromedary market for the famous 'Blue Men' (Touaregs from the Sudan, Mauretania and Chad) and is still a meeting point for the nomads from the Sahel and deep Sahara.
* Please ask if you wish to be woken for sunrise; as Day One will have been a long day your guide will not automatically wake you. Alternatively, your guide will confirm the local sunrise time for you to set your alarm.
On now for the last 15km of piste driving across the Reg until rejoining the tarmacked road to drive north for some 50km to an unusual tightly-knitted grouping of ksours and kasbahs; this is the ancient village of Tamegroute, a seat of learning since the XIth century. Your itinerary includes a stop to visit the incredible library, with its XIII century illuminated Koran scrolls written on gazelle hide, some works of Pythagoras, some original maps of Alexandria together with some very early mathematics text books; a - voluntary - contribution to the upkeep of the Library is always appreciated. Why not continue your stroll through the alleyways of the underground kasbah to the ancient Pottery Co-Operative, where pottery being produced in the simplest of manners, in the simplest of kilns. If you have been to Fes, or have seen photographs of this Imperial City, here you'll see the famous green glaze associated with its tiled roofs, for the founders of the XVIIth century Abou Ben Naceur 'Naciri Brotherhood' in Tamegroute invited craftsmen and potters to this remote area with the intent to turn it into a thriving caravan hub city. Onwards, ever onwards to Zagora, to enjoy a refreshing shower and a light lunch and a relaxing afternoon by the pool, or time to explore Zagora and then dinner and overnight accommodation.
After breakfast, at around 9am make your way back up north for some 30 miles off-road adventure in the Valley of 1000 Kasbahs and back onto the main road through the Draa Valley, perhaps to stop at the ancient kasbah at Agdz or other en-route points worthy of a photo-opportunity. Just before reaching Ouarzazate your driver will detour along a piste road to visit the magnificent Oasis of Fint. Afterwards you'll stop nearby in Ouarzazate itself for a light lunch and a visit of the Taourit Kasbah and the Atlas Film Studios (small local charge) before continuing ever further north over the Adrar n'Deren range of mountains to arrive around 7pm at your hotel or riad in Marrakech after a really incredible journey into Morocco's Sahara.
Day 1 - arrival into Marrakech; private transfer to your accommodation.
- Stay at e.g. Ksar Anika - 2nts BB
Day 2 - private guided city tour (am)
Day 3 to 6 - on desert adventure as per itinerary above.
- Stay at e.g. Ksar Anika - 1nt BB.
Day 7 - private transfer to Marrakech Airport.