You may have camped in a forest, on a mountain, and by a river. But you should also definitely experience camping in the warm bosom of the 2.5-million-year-old mother called the Sahara Desert. You’ll be in a desert which spans across the borders of many countries on the African continent from Morocco to Mali, Tunisia to Libya, Sudan to Chad.
Although the bustling cities in western Morocco, one of the countries that host the Sahara, have amazing experiences to offer, I was drawn to another destination, one lesser known than Marrakesh. I’m talking about the Sahara, a fascinating and exotic place in the Moroccan nature. I arrive at the Sahara, which captivated me as a child, via Merzouga. I head for Erg Chebbi, one of two major ergs, or sand dunes, in Morocco; the other being Erg Chigaga. I trek into the desert in the traditional way - on camelback. It’s hard to ride these animals through such an arid environment and not be reminded of the difficulty and history of traders making the unforgiving trek across North Africa in search of markets for spices and seeds.
Though Merzouga offers a variety of auberges and riads, I opt for a unique Saharan experience: sleeping in a traditional Berber hut. And it does not disappoint: after a full night’s sleep under big and bright stars, I am greeted by an early morning sunrise that lights up the sands with color.
Another camping site is the city of Douz in Tunisia, called the “entrance gate to the Sahara.” With a journey of off-road vehicles and camels, you can visit the region used as a natural plateau in the movie Star Wars. Here, the International Festival of the Sahara, the most spectacular show of the desert, takes place in late December. At the festival attended by thousands of North Africans, you can stay in tents and spend days filled with traditional activities, desert weddings, and Eastern tunes. Ksar Ghilane is another camping site, an oasis with spring hot water. Those who stay in comfortable and air-conditioned tents during the months of cold desert nights also have the chance to try bread baked in ash.
Libya, neighboring Tunisia on the border, also has camping sites such as Ubari and Sabha. Although the opportunities the Sahara offers camping enthusiasts vary from country to country, there’s one constant truth for desert campers: life is a unique oasis even in a sand-covered land!