If you can only do one thing in Morocco you HAVE to do a Sahara trip. The amazing sand dunes in the Sahara desert are unbelievable. We choose for a 3 day private trip starting and ending in Marrakesh. Because we did a private trip we could visit more things than with a group trip.
The first day we were supposed to be picked up at 07:30. However at 07:30 there was no driver to pick us up. We called Mustapha who arranged the tour for us. In French he explained me there were some problems. After several phone calls, we started to worry at 08:00. There was still no driver and who knows maybe we were been cheated.
Luckily at 08:15, Zaid, the brother of Mustapha, arrived with his car. Originally we would go with two Italian people but they one of them were sick, so we had a private tour now.
The first destination is Atlas mountains. To reach this place our 4×4 was following the main road. This sounds as a pleasant trip, however for people that have problems with car sickness be prepared. The roads are curling around the mountain and this result in a lot of turning.
There are some amazing viewpoints along the way. End you will go through the 2,092m-high Tizi n’Test pass. The highest point in Atlas Mountains is the peak Toubkal with a 4,167m high. The highest point of North-Africa.
La Casbah de Telouet
After the comfortable asphalt road through the Atlas mountains, the 4×4 went on a dirt road. This dirt road was the first road from the Sahara desert to Marrakesh. This was the route the caravan was taking.
At 1,800m we found La Casbah de Telouet, a Kasbah from the El Glaoui family. A Kasbah is nothing more than an old palace where this so called Lord of Atlas lived. Besides his 4 wives, he also lived here with 600 servants and 600 courtesans.
The Casbah is way less impressive as Palais de la Bahia in Marrakesh. However the combination between the very old ruined section and the new section that is in good shape, makes it a very interesting place to visit.
The entrance fee to the Casbah is 20 Mdh per person. Be prepared there is a person offering you a guide and tells you that you can pay him whatever you want. We paid 10 Mdh in the end because it was a very short tour. However he will get angry if you pay him less than 50 Mdh.
After a long way on the dirt road, we finally met the asphalt road again. Here we joined our way where normally the group tours are going. We had a quick lunch before we visited Aït Benhaddou.
Aït Benhaddou is an ighrem (fortified village) next to the original caravan trade route. Because of its strategic location this was a very important place during the caravan trades. Most of the people know this place from movies such as Gladiator, Prince of Persia and Game of Thrones (Yunkai location).
The city is amazing to explore. Buildings are magnificent; you can stroll through the small alleys before you slowly ascend to the top of the village and have an incredible view around the area. Be prepared that the wind is really strong at top of the mountain.
This area around Aït Benhaddou is famous for its movie shootings. One of the studios you are able to visit is Atlas studios. Unfortunately it is Ramadan, so opening times are a bit different in that period. When we arrived at 16:00 the studio was already closed.
However you are able to enter the hotel for free by pretending that you will book a room in the hotel. By doing this you are also able to see some part of the studio from the distance and see the hotel that is located within the studio grounds.
For the people that have their own car and some time left, it would be a great opportunity to find some abandoned film sets in the desert. Here is an amazing story from Bob Thissen who explored the film sets in the dessert by finding them on Google Earth.
Oasis and Kasbah Amridil
From the Atlas studios we drove shortly afterwards off road again. This was a lovely off road path, going through a very big oasis. The change of environment of desert and oasis in the background to actually being in an oasis is fabulous.
Everything was green, we learned a lot in the meantime about the different crops they grow before we reached Kasbah Amridil. This one is a bit hidden and smaller than Casbah de Telouet.
However this one is way better to explore. It looks as a small museum with a beautiful garden. You can climb up the walls and have a bit of view. Because you have the whole place for yourself it is a perfect place to do some photoshoots. For an entrance fee of 10 Mdh per person it is definitely worth to enter it.
The final place we ‘visited’ was rose valley. We didn’t really visited it but just drove through it. The season for roses is April / May so we were too late for that. Besides that we were not interested to buy any rose oil or fragrance so we decided to just continue driving to our hotel.
Hotel La Kasbah, Tinerhir
Around 20:00 we arrived at Hotel La Kasbah in Tinerhir. A decent hotel, were we had our dinner, chicken tajine and Moroccan salad. Rooms were clean, shower leaked a bit but it was just for a night so more than fine.
In the next post I will tell you about day 2 of our Sahara trip.
Interested in Morocco, find here a guide about Morocco.