Wildlife & Nature
Sahara Family Holiday
Experience the wonderful contrasts of Morocco on a family holiday, by getting away from it all in the Sahara, joining a camel train and camping out under the starry desert sky, visiting the UNESCO site of Ait Benhaddou (home to many films) and ending the trip exploring the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. This one week adventure is great value and offers a wonderful opportuntiy for the family to share some unforgettable moments together.
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Fly to Ouarzazate
After your flight, you transfer to your first night’s accommodation and check in. Standing at the confluence of three valleys and on the threshold of the Sahara Desert, the town of Ouarzazate was originally a staging point for trans-Saharan caravans but was expanded during the colonial era as a garrison for the French Foreign Legion.
Hotel (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool.
Tazzarine; valley & oasis
Please meet your tour leader in the hotel reception at 09.00. 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 is wrapped around the head to keep the sun off and the loose end can be pulled across the face to keep out the sand.
Leaving this outpost of civilisation behind you will 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. The total driving time today is approximately three hours.
Fixed camp (CC) Bedouin-style tents communal shower/toilet block - 1 night (BD)
Sahara Desert; camel trek
This morning you start your journey with local taxis (approx. 30 minutes), to get to Iferd where you meet your camel caravan and the camelteers who will journey with you into the desert to tend to the camels. As you set off with one camel per person and with additional animals to carry your baggage, your camping equipment and (most importantly) your water, you form a typical desert caravan. The gait of the camels soon lulls you into a strange rhythm unchanged for centuries. There is no sense of urgency, no sense of rushing to get to the destination, instead time seems to dissolve and you can enjoy being surrounded by the desert. Traditionally the Bedouin living out in the desert wear blue robes. They would dye the material using indigo but unlike more modern techniques they did not fix the colour to the cloth very well and so the blue colour would soak into their skin giving it a bluish tinge. This had the side effect of protecting their skin against the sun and gave rise to their nickname – the Blue Men. Today many still wear blue robes but the colour stays on the clothes!
After setting up camp you’ll no doubt be served a refreshing glass of sweet mint tea and marvel 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. As the music dies down the sheer tranquillity of the desert is unmissable and above you the starry expanse of the night sky is an incredible sight.
Approximate length of camel trek: 2 hours
Basic Desert Camp (C) - 1 night (BLD)
Sahara Desert; camel trek
If you make the effort to be up for the dawn you will hopefully be treated to another amazing display of changing colour and light. After breakfast you have a short walk through the dunes to make the most of the views on offer. Walking through sand can be tough and it is incredible to compare how you fare with the seeming ease with which the camels tackle the same sort of terrain, bringing home how difficult it would be to survive out here without them. How far you walk will depend on the ability of the group as well as conditions. Remounting your camels you make your way slowly out of the desert back towards the hills and valleys of the Atlas. Saying farewell to your Moroccan travelling companions and camels you rejoin the vehicles and drive back to the oasis of Tazzarine (approx 1 ½ hours).
Approximate length of camel trek: 2 hours
Fixed camp (CC) Bedouin-style tents communal shower/toilet block - 1 night (BLD)
Ait Benhaddou; optional film studios
Today you head towards Agdz through the Draa Valley. This area is very fertile and the terraced farmlands are fed by an intricate system of irrigation channels. All the houses are built at the edge of the fertile land so as not to waste any of the land that can grow crops. Continuing via Ouarzazate you reach Ait Benhaddou, one of the best-preserved fortified kasbahs in the country. With its dramatic walls of red earth and slit windows, this is a magnificent example of a stronghold. The surrounding villages also deserve your attention. Ait Benhaddou itself sits upon a lofty pinnacle of rock overlooking a river. Dating from around the 15th century, its importance as a trading post gradually dwindled, and today’s inhabitants eke out a living from farming the meagre soil. However, because of its beauty, it has been used as a setting for films such as ‘Gladiator’. Indeed not far away there are the film studios of Ouarzazate which have been used for many epic films from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Jewel of the Nile’ to more recent releases such as The Mummy’, ‘The Mummy Returns’, ‘Hidalgo’ and ‘Alexander’. It may be possible to visit the studios (optional). Total driving time today is approximately 4 hours.
Hotel La Kasbah (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
This morning you cross the riverbed to visit Ait Benhaddou. You have the chance to explore some of the ruined buildings, and climb to the top of the hill where the agadir (grain store) offers spectacular views down over the village and the surrounding countryside. 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 you’ll drive north across the High Atlas mountains. The road, completed by the Foreign Legion in 1936, winds up over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass (2260m) and offers stunning views of the mountains before descending past Berber villages to the plain surrounding Marrakech. Even today, the name Marrakech conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city, dating from the 11th century, never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. The graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, dominates the skyline.
Total driving time today is approximately 4 hours.
Hotel Amine (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)
The hotel is located just outside the city walls around the old Medina. It is about a 25 minute walk to the main square Djemaa el Fna but close to local shops and restaurants
Marrakech; walking tour & souk
To orientate yourselves, you start with a walking tour of the centre - which takes in the main sights - and make your way into the sprawling souk. As is usual in a souk, individual trades and crafts are concentrated in one street or area, so the shoemakers are all next to each other, as are the jewellers, the potters, weavers etc. This is the place in Morocco to sharpen your bargaining skills, and you will be tempted by some of the extraordinary variety of merchandise. Perhaps a pair of traditional Moroccan slippers, or some exotic spices. The Djemaa el-Fna provides the throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair; it always seems full of life and continues late into the night. In this great open square at the heart of the medina, 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. Each time of day seems to carry a distinct character, so do keep popping back for more!
In the afternoon you have time to wander and make your own discoveries. The tanneries around Bab Debbagh still cure leather in a way that has not changed for hundreds of years, and are extraordinarily photogenic (if a little smelly); they are normally more active in the morning. If you’d like to experience the relaxation of a traditional bath, your Group Leader will advise where to find the nearest hammam - for just a few dirhams, you’ll be steamed and scrubbed until you shine! (B)
Trip ends for Land Only clients. This morning, clients on our group flights will transfer from the hotel to the airport for the return flight to home. (B)
Rosie Millard and family on Saharan Sands family holiday
Camels in the SaharaLeave everyday life behind as you journey by camel on your family holiday, across the sand dunes of the Sahara, experiencing the pace, life and hospitality of the nomads who for centuries have taken trading caravans across the desert.
Dunes & StarsCamping out amongst the dunes you are engulfed by the solitude and dazzled by the stars of the desert sky. As dawn breaks, the camp stirs and the caravan forms once more to move off for your second day's trek.
Ait Benhaddou & Exotic MarrakechLeaving the desert behind, you visit the fortified village of Ait Benhaddou and perhaps take the option to visit the nearby film studios. Crossing the imposing Atlas Mountains your family holiday journey ends in vibrant Marrakech. The main square is like a medieval carnival filled with jugglers and acrobats. The narrow alleyways of the souks feature hundreds of small shops, each like an Aladdin’s cave - perhaps you’ll find a mysterious lamp or a pair of magic slippers!
Read Rosie's Account of this Moroccan holidayTravel journalist and writer took her family to Morocco recently. Read about how her family enjoyed the silence of the dessert and sleeping under the stars. Read about her family holiday in Morocco
Our Saharan Sands trip is just one of our many Africa Family tours. To find out more visit our Africa holidays page.