In March of 2023, Matt and I took a week long trip to Morocco. This was yet another trip we had originally planned in 2020 that was obviously canceled, but I am so happy we finally made it happen. It was one of the destinations at the very top of my travel bucket list, and it did not disappoint. I wish we could have visited a few more cities throughout the country, but with a one-year-old back home with the grandparents, we decided that focusing on Marrakesh and the Sahara Desert experience was best for this trip. Our first few days in Marrakesh, we stayed at Riad Houdou. From there, it was a short walk to the City Center where we spent most of our time shopping and eating.
During our stay at the Riad, we realized we were fairly close to Marrakech’s House of Photography so that became a high priority for me – and Matt loves any museum we get to visit.
Being there in March of 2023 meant our trip fell during Ramadan. From our experience, the local business owners continued to embrace foreign clientele during the day, and we ultimately tried to keep our eating and drinking from sunrise to dusk limited to restaurants and inside our riad. We also loved how lively Ramadan made the market at night (once everyone had broken their fast).
After time in Marrakesh, we were picked up by our tour guide to begin the trek to the Sahara Desert. We used Top Desert tour group to plan our trip to Erg Chebbi – known for the size of their famous dunes – and opted for the “luxury” tour option. Since we were confined by the amount of time we had in-country, we felt a tour group experience was best rather than driving ourselves, and Top Desert coordinated our travel, accommodations, and additional stops of interest along the way. It takes about 9 hours to get to the Sahara from Marrakesh (the number of hours can vary a bit based on where you are driving to, from, and through.) Our drive out there was a little longer because we had multiple stops and a hotel stay along the way.
During the drive out, we got to stop quite a few times to see ancient palaces, Atlas Studios, and the area pictured above (Ait Benhaddou), where multiple movies and shows have been filmed. This specific location is well known for its appearance in Game of Thrones.
The tour company arranged all of our meals and the hotel stay on the way out to the Sahara Desert. We stayed in the Dades Gorge area.
Once we arrived to the edge of Erg Chebbi, we rode dromedaries (essentially camels but with one hump) to our campsite for the few nights we were staying.
It took a couple of hours to make our way through the dunes and arrive at our campsite. After watching the sunset, we got settled in and met the site staff. They were some of my favorite “hotel” staff yet, which is another reason we highly recommend the company we used – Top Desert tours of Morocco. The campsite we stayed at was specifically curated by the company and was beautiful and well thought-out, down to the tiniest details.
During one of the evenings, our campsite got to have a campfire together led by the site staff. It mostly involved performances by the staff, but eventually it led to some singing and dancing on our parts too.
During the day, the tour company took us to a nearby town so we weren’t just essentially sitting in the hot Sahara all day. We spent most of the day at a hotel pool with some local sightseeing in between.
During the times we were back at the campsite, one of our favorite things to do was sand boarding on the dunes.
Once arriving back to Marrakesh, we stayed at Riad El Borj, and I wish we would have had a week here just to interact with the staff alone. We were only here for one night before waking up the next day to head back to the airport. In the small amount of time we were there, I could truly tell how much their guests meant to them. They even surprised us with a full breakfast to go, to have in the taxi on the way to the airport.
Morocco was incredible. Filled with lots of tagine dishes, cultural rituals, kind humans, beautiful riads, bright colors, rich textures, and out of this world experiences.