As I lay down on a hand woven rug, head propped up on thick wool blankets, I starred above me at a sky that was lit up like a Christmas tree by thousands of stars twinkling against the dark black solar system. As it got darker, the Milky Way and the countless constellations I couldn’t name started to appear. Then, the show really started; not one, but dozens of shooting stars darted across the sky. 

Surrounded by a 215-meter high sand dune about 40 kilometers from the Moroccan Algeria border, I was living the dream.

A multi-day overland trek through the Sahara desert had been on my bucket list for years. Experiencing the vast and endless rolling dunes, the slow camel rides at sunset, and sleeping under the stars on another continent were all part of a desert tour that I desperately wanted to do. It should be no surprise then that my desert trek with Authentic Morocco Tours my absolute favorite part of my 10-day trip to Morocco.

There are several ways of experiencing the Sahara desert. Two that I highly suggest are the luxury camping cabins, with hot running water, and the rustic deep desert Berber tents, isolated from everything. Both experiences offer special, one of a kind memories of the Sahara, and both can be included within one larger tour of the region. 

What to expect: Luxury Camping vs. Deep Desert Camp

Luxury camping is exactly that- an extravagant affair from the dinner and wine to the pretty tile in the on-suite bathroom.  The lavish set up of the tents, raised up on a three-foot platform with stained wood floors, and the opulent four course tagine meals spoiled us from the moment our three waiters placed our luggage into our rooms until we left the next morning.

Inside each bedroom tent there was a private bathroom and shower, with hot running water. The bedrooms were sparse but beautifully designed with all the luxuries you could need- including a couch and chair and small coffee table, if you wanted to relax in your bedroom instead of outside. Each item was made in Morocco and in the area around the desert. The carvings on the coffee table told the history of the wood carver and the leather was from camels, instead of cows.

We didn’t quite understand how beautiful everything was or even what the desert looked like though until morning. We woke early with the sun and after taking a shower, popped outside the tent to get our first real view of the desert landscape around us. It still gives me chills just thinking about it.

The desert, with its orange sand dunes and still air, surrounded our tents, making it feel as if we were all alone in the middle of nowhere.  The bright white luxury tents glowed against the sand and the stark contrast really showed the beauty of the desert and the tents. The rugs in the middle area were hand woven and gorgeous, something that people in America would spend thousands of dollars on for their living rooms.

We were treated like royalty as our breakfast was brought to us and our teacups were filled. 

In direct contrast to the luxury camping is the deep desert experience.

The deep desert camp is similar to how a traditional nomadic Berber family lives. There is small basic tents set up with rugs stacked on top of each other for the mattress and pillows and big thick wool blankets to keep you warm. In the center of the small tents is one big common area, where all the campers will enjoy dinner and a fire with musical entertainment afterwards.

Basic and rustic are the right words, but even still, it’s hard to fully articulate what being in the deep desert is really like. While we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere at the luxury camp, we were really away from everything in the deep desert. The sand dunes were endless and massive, and our small tents set up at the base of the highest one I could see- even after climbing to the top. 

The minimal amenities and no Wi-Fi means you really take in all of your surroundings and your senses reach overdrive. The sounds of the musicians carry much further than they would in a big city. The light breeze moves the sand over the dunes effortlessly, erasing any sign of our hour and a half camel trek. You feel your heart beat out of your chest as you hike to the top of the sand dune. And even the water tastes better knowing that there is a limited supply until you return to the tour guide at the edge of the desert.

After dinner and after the fire had burned out, the stars lit up the sky in a way I had never seen before. One by one by a hundred, more and more stars starting populating the dark abyss above us.

Both experiences will set Facebook on fire with likes and comments. Somehow a world away from the Internet and America, I still knew I was living the dream, living my dream that I had thought about for so many years. This was one of those travel experiences that totally lives up to the expectations you create when looking at pictures or see in movies. As the stars exploded above me and shot off into different directions, I wish I could have filmed my friends and I taking it all in. The simple but substantial moment will be a memory I cherish forever.

Sponsored by Morocco Tourism