We traded the bustling city of Marrakesh for a road less traveled towards the small city of Zagora. For the first time in our lives we were going to sleep a night in the dessert, this was so exiting! Through the regional hub of Demnate we accessed the High Atlas Mountains and drove down into the Ouarzazate valley. While on the road it is unbelievable to see how the landscapes change within minutes! Every hour you will be surprised by the diversity of the chalky musculair mountains, the snow on several peaks in the area (+4000m), the wheaterworn canyons and valleys. Driving towards the city of Ouarzazate it is magnificent to literally experience all four seasons in just one day, while knowing many of these areas were not even accessible until a few years ago.
Mudbrick Kasbah’s (Berber villages) seem to pop-up out of the blue and their lack of facilities and ancient architecture makes you feel like you have traveled through time, back to the 11th century. It is therefor not a surprise to find out that one of them, ‘Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou’, is Unesco protected and has been the setting of many movies like ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, ‘Jewel of the Nile’ and ‘Gladiator’. This village is definitely worth the tour. While we were strolling through the narrow streets with our tour guide, we met a few of the remaining residents who try to make a living selling souvenirs and carpets to visitors. If you visit this magnificent kasbah, find your way up to a ruined ‘Agadir’ at the top and you will be rewarded with amazing views on the surrounding area.
It was after an 8,5 hour drive, when we have already passed through the small city of Zagora, when our tour guide suddenly stopped the car on the side of the road, in the middle of know where, next to a group of camels. In a minute our luggage was strapped upon the camels who would carry us for the last 1,5 kilometers to our nomadic tent camp in the dessert. While our new animal friends slowly transported us through the sandy dunes, with nothing but sand around us, there was a mild sand storm, night was falling, and the temperature started to drop drastically.
The sun was starting to set when we arrived at a the camping site with 12 tents and 6 very friendly hosts. Half an hour later, after drinking our mint tea, a group of small people arrived and diner was served shortly after. A night full of laughter, drinks, great people and djembe music gave us some unforgettable warm memories to hold on to. A slightly colder memory was the actual night that we have spend in the tent. The storm got worse and the temperature dropped to 0, so the flapping tent cloths and freezing air kept us awake that night. But it didn’t matter, we were super pumped that we were in a tent in the dessert, it was a once in a lifetime bucket list experience. Sleepless or not, our positive mindset was hard to kill!
In the morning, right after breakfast, the camels brought us back to the main road, where our tour guide (who slept like a rose in his hotel) was waiting for us with a big smile to take us back to Marrakesh. Still amazed by the incredible landscapes and over knight experience, we stopped for lunch in the city of Ouarzazate. For centuries, people from the Atlas Mountains, Dráa and Dadès valleys traveled to this former kasbah as a central business point. Throughout the years, the kasbah grew towards small city measures, but the authenticity is still very present in its vibe and architecture. Since king Muhammed VI started visiting Ouarzazate and fixing up the roads, the city has developed itself with new residential areas, modern hotels and slowly starts to attract tourism. And I’m telling you, its definitely worth visiting.