Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco. Your trip begins in Ouarzazate, which is situated at the confluence of three valleys and on the threshold of the Sahara Desert. Settle into your hotel and perhaps take a stroll to acquaint yourself with the town. This place was originally a staging point for trans-Saharan caravans and later became garrison for the French Foreign Legion. If you arrive early and have time, perhaps pay a visit to Atlas Studios, a major Hollywood outpost in Morocco, located just a few kilometres from town. There will be a group meeting at 6pm this evening.
This morning you will explore the town of Ouarzazate and visit the hundred-year-old Taourirt Kasbah. A potent symbol of the Glaoui clan's power, the kasbah gives a glimpse of how these feudal lords lived. You will then have the chance to buy an essential piece of desert kit – a shesh. This is a long piece of cloth, a bit like a scarf, that's wrapped around the head to keep the sun off. The loose end can be pulled across the face to keep the sand out. Continue your drive across the Tizi-n-Tiniffift pass and through the Draa Valley, following the southern slopes of the Djebel Sahro to Nkob and on to the Oasis of Tazzarine (approximately 4 hours). The nomad tents are part of a permanent camp.
In the morning, travel to Iferd (approximately 30 minutes). Here you will meet your camel caravan and the camelteers who will journey with you into the desert. Then ride your camel all the way to camp (approximately 2 hours). Each person will be on their own camel, forming a typical desert caravan. There will be additional animals to carry your baggage, camping equipment and most importantly your water. The gait of the camels soon lulls you into a strange rhythm – one that's been the same for centuries. Time seems to dissolve as you are surrounded by the soft haze of the desert. Arrive at your Bedouin camp, set up, and no doubt enjoy a glass of sweet mint tea. Watch as the scenery around you changes colour with the setting sun. After dinner, if you are lucky, your camel drivers may decide to play drums and invite you to join them for an evening of traditional songs. Your camp for the night is fairly basic with bedding, mattresses and toilet facilities provided. During the winter months of November to March it can get very cold at night, so it’s a good idea to bring base layers and a warm sleeping bag.
Early risers will be treated to another amazing display of changing colour and light. Cross your fingers for clear weather! After breakfast you will have a short walk through the dunes to make the most of the views on offer. How far you walk will depend on the ability of the group as well as the conditions. Walking through sand can be tough, and makes you realise how hard life here would be without the camels! Remounting your camel, make your way slowly out of the desert, back towards the hills and valleys of the Atlas (approximately 2 hours). Bid farewell to your travel companions and camels and rejoin the vehicle for the return trip to Tazzarine (approximately 30mins). We arrive into Tazzarine by lunch time. The afternoon is free for you to relax and unwind after your camel safari!
Head towards Agdz, through the Draa Valley, and eventually to Ait Benhaddou (approximately 5 hours). The Draa Valley area is very fertile and its terraced farmlands are fed by an intricate system of irrigation channels. Continuing via Ouarzazate, you will reach Ait Benhaddou, one of the best-preserved fortified kasbahs in the country. With its dramatic red-earth walls and slit windows, this is a magnificent example of a stronghold. The surrounding villages are well worth exploring too. Not far away there are the film studios of Ouarzazate which have been used for many epic films, from classics such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Jewel of the Nile' to the more recent 'Hidalgo' and 'Alexander'. Consider an optional visit to these studios.
In the morning, cross the riverbed to visit Ait Benhaddou to wander around the site with your leader. Take the opportunity to explore some of the ruined buildings. Climb to the top of the hill where the agadir (grain store) offers spectacular views down over the village and the surrounding countryside. You can also enter one of the houses and share a glass of mint tea with some of the residents to gain a better understanding of how they live their lives. In the afternoon, drive north across the High Atlas mountains en route to Marrakech (approximately 4 hours). The road, completed by the Foreign Legion in 1936, winds up over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass (2,260 m) and offers stunning views of the mountains before descending past Berber villages to the plain surrounding Marrakech. Arrive in Marrakech and settle in.
Enjoy a walking tour of the city centre, taking in the main sights on your way to the sprawling souq and main square. The souq is a great place to sharpen your bargaining skills, and you are almost certain to be tempted by some of the extraordinary variety of merchandise on display – perhaps a pair of traditional Moroccan slippers or some exotic spices. The adjacent main square has the atmosphere of a medieval fair. Snake charmers and jugglers are among those who vie to entertain you. In the evening, wonderful smells waft by as food stalls cook up their local delicacies. In the afternoon you will have time to wander and make your own discoveries. If you'd like to take a traditional bath, ask you leader where the nearest hamman is. Alternatively, the tanneries around Bab Debbagh are great to visit.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning.