Marrakesh and Sahara Desert camel safari!

I had never really thought of going to Morocco, but when it was highly recommended by a friend of mine I decided I should go and see what she is talking about. So here I was with my cousin Emily in Madrid waiting to board a plane to Marrakesh, Morocco with a hostel in Marrakesh booked for three nights and not much else planned.

We landed in Marrakesh at 8am local time, then got off the plane and made our way to customs. We filled our arrival cards in and got the clear to enter into the country. We then made our way to the baggage collection and waited for our bags to arrive. Emily’s bag came through first, once all the bags had come through we realised my bag was not there. I started to panic and my mind was racing with the worst case scenarios. Maybe someone has mistakenly picked up my bag, or it had been stolen, maybe it is on a completely different plane. We went and looked and found someone who looked to be an official, I told the man that my bag was missing, the man said “did you check where the bags come in. “No, “I had been watching and my bag had not come through” I said. He said, “go check where the bags come in, on the ground”. I started feeling a bit fed up he was not going to take me seriously. “Fine, I’ll go check”. I walked to where the bags come in and looked around on the ground, nothing. I walked a bit further around the bend. Low and behold laying on the ground was my bag! I was so happy to see my suitcase lying there!

When we finally made it outside the airport a strange man come up to us, he was dressed in casual clothes. He asked Emily and I if we needed a taxi we both hesitated at first unsure of who this man was. He said “Come I’ll take you” and we both looked confused. In our experience it’s not custom for taxi drivers to come directly up to you and ask if you need a taxi, especially where I am from anyway. He told us that he was a taxi driver, so we asked how much it was to get to the Medina and he told us the price. Which we had to work out the exchange rate to make sure he wasn’t over charging us. The price seemed correct as we had previously looked on Google to see how much it would cost. We followed the man to the car park to a row of yellow taxis and he lead us to this old yellow Toyota Corolla hatchback. I would have guessed it was an 1980s model as I had one very similar when I first got my licence, except mine was brown. We got in and there were no seat belts, which made me a bit nervous. On the drive to our hostel, I remember us being in the only car on the road everyone else was riding scooters or motorbikes. I saw what seemed to be a family squeezed onto one scooter; there was a woman, man, two kids and a baby and once we even saw a man carrying a full grown sheep on the front of his bike. 

It took us about 15 minutes to arrive at Jemaa el-Fnaa Medina of Marrakesh this is where our hostel was located. The driver dropped us off near the centre of the Medina. We were staying at the Kaktus hostel which was about a 4 minute walk from the Medina. We had Googled the location before arriving in Marrakesh but both of us thought the other one was going to save the directions. But it turned out neither of us did. We had some idea of where it was but not as well as hoped. We managed to get a little lost, we had turned left instead of right plus we both had really heavy suitcases. Everyone one was watching us probably because we looked very lost. This man came up to us and he asked where we were going, we told him and he said “Yes, I know where that is, this way”. He nodded towards the direction we had just come from. So we started to follow and my fear began to kick in when the man started leading us off the main road and down little back allies turning left then right and the a couple more lefts and rights. Eventually we came to this big door, the man who had led us knocked and another man came and answered. They spoke and we went in.

I saw a sign saying Kaktus hostel and I instantly felt relieved we walked through the door and inside there were other people sitting and chatting. We thanked the man and he left. We checked in and were shown our room, the host brought us some lovely mint tea which was very refreshing. We were feeling quite tired from the morning’s travels, plus I had a nasty cold and asthma at the time. We decided to just relax for a couple hours and connect to the WI-FI, message our family and catch up on Facebook. Later that afternoon we went and checked out the Medina. If you have never experienced the Morocco Medina it can be overwhelming, as there is a lot going on; there are hundreds of stalls, people playing drums, snake charmers, women doing henna tattoos and people on scooters ( which you have to watch out for) . Most of the stalls sell similar things so they really try hard to get your attention by yelling out to you. Be careful of scammers, I was walking along and an elderly woman grabbed hold of my hand and tried to draw a henna tattoo and then ask for money. I quickly pulled my hand away. Emily and I decided that that was enough for the day, so we found a takeaway shop ordered some food and went back to the hostel. It was definitely a culture shock for me at first.

The next day feeling refreshed and having a bit of knowledge of what to expect we decided to go and try to buy some souvenirs. We both wanted to find some souvenirs for our families, we had been told by other travellers that you have to haggle to try and get the price down. I found haggling very hard at first but after a few goes I think I got the hang of it. I became more confident and managed get some good bargains. I got a new leather handbag for myself for 250 Dirham ($35 Australian dollars). Also, a scarf for my sister, earrings for my mum, a kaftan for my dad and a fez for my brother (I can’t remember how much I paid for the other items).

We stayed at Kaktus hostel for 3 nights in total, the manager was very nice and seemed to look after everyone. It was at times a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the Medina. We made a few friends and spent the last couple of days exploring the Medina, hanging out with other travellers at the hostel, eating plenty of Moroccan food, drinking mint tea and just relaxing. We decided to book a Sahara Desert camel safari for 1 night which we found through Trip Advisor and it had good reviews. We communicated through email with the company and they were very prompt to reply. We told them where we were staying and they said it was no problem for them to pick us up from our hostel.

Here are some photos from the Medina and Kaktus hostel

On 7th September we left Marrakesh for our overnight Sahara Desert safari the tour guide came to our hostel to collect us and we walked to the Medina to where our car was waiting. There was two German men on our tour with us, who were very nice. The vehicle was a 4WD drive which had great aircon! A must on the hot summer day. It was a very scenic drive, especially over the high Atlas Mountains it looked bit Mars at times. We made a few stops along the way to have opportunity to take photos and have food/drink/toilet breaks. 

Here are some photos of the places we stopped at along the way

Later that evening we arrived in the city of Zagora at the edge of the Sahara Desert, we met our guides and camels for the two days and joined up with other people who had come for the overnight safari. We said say goodbye to our driver, mounted our camels and were on our way. It was about a half hour trek to our camp, which was fun, watching the town disappear as we headed to the edge of The Sahara Desert was a surreal experience. We arrived at our camp in the dark, the weariness from all of the travel and excitements of the day was starting to take its toll. The camp was made up of about 15 little huts covered in thick brown wool like material. The floor of the courtyard was covered by small coloured pieces of carpet. There was a building with showers and toilets and a dining room. We made our way to dinner, where we took our shoes off at the door and entered. The floors were covered in carpet and there were lots of chairs with linen draped over them and tables set up. We sat down, and food was brought out. Immediately they served us breads, pasta and salads. Plus tea and water for drinks. Later that evening our guides sang songs and played the drums for the group and then it was then time for bed. It was extremely hot in the huts after temperatures reached 40 plus during the day, so Emily and I ended up sleeping outside under the stars. It was beautiful and the sky was the clearest I have ever seen it at night. The next morning, we had some breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, took some photos of the camp as we didn’t get to see it in the day light the day before. We mounted our camels and rode back to met our driver, who was waiting for us. We started the long drive back which I think was about 8 hours  stopping a couple of times for food, drink and toilets. The driver dropped us off at the airport, and we left on our flight back to England.

Here are some photos from the Sahara Desert camel safari

I loved Morocco and it’s culture. Unfortunately we had run out of time as we had been travelling for 3 weeks prior to visiting Morocco so 4 days was all we could manage in Morocco. If I was to go back I would go in the cooler months and I would go for maybe a week and do another safari but make it for a few days.

Hope you enjoyed reading this.

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