As the Atlas mountains receded behind us, the jeep took us almost all the way back to Marrakech before heading south east and towards the Agafay desert. After another hours drive, the ‘desert’ didn’t look very deserted with palm trees, houses and electricity cables frequent on the road side. Just as I began to think our destination ‘desert camp’ might be an elaborate film set, we seemed to suddenly leave humanity behind and entered an arid landscape of hills with deep rain carved gulleys – the start of the Agafay desert.
The jeep turned off the road and followed a dirt track across the dunes. The reddy-brown colour of the rolling desert continued into the distance until broken by the snow covered Atlas Mountain range stretched across the horizon.
With a final bend in the road, the site of our camp for the night was before us – a small collection of pointed white tents erected with wilderness views all around. We soon learned that in the camp – it is a time to escape from the hustle of ‘real life’ and just relax. There is no wi-fi or television and the toilet is a pump action camper-style jobby – and a night away from it all suited us just fine!
Our host welcomed us and suggested we have some lunch before heading to the tents. We seemed to have the place mostly to ourselves – not that it would have mattered since the camp tables were spread quite some distance apart. Flatbreads, tapas style cold and hot bowls of tasty bits were spread across the table and we just enjoyed the peace, the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze that kept us surprisingly cool.
Our tent was quite luxurious (as tents go!) with a large bed and settee; a writing desk where I felt like Lawrence of Arabia might have written his memoirs; a stove for the cold nights and the obligatory camp-loo behind a curtain.
On our agenda for the rest of the afternoon was to just relax and enjoy the peace. We went for some walks and I climbed the tallest nearby hill I could find but from its peak – I could see nothing but desert in all directions.
In the late afternoon, we had arranged a camel trek and so we headed off to meet our camels and guide. After the ‘near death experience’ of being hurled back and forth as the camel stood up in its ungainly manner – we settled into the rhythmic plod as it traversed the terrain. Although the scenery didn’t change that much – I found it very enjoyable and also relaxing. It made me think of the nomadic lifestyle where one might spend days or weeks crossing vast distances on top of camels and there was a certain romantic draw to it.
By the time we arrived back at camp, the long shadows had turned to dusk but the descending darkness was held back with fire-torches and lanterns dotted around the camp. We retired to our tent to freshen up and remove the smell of camel before heading back to the social area. There was a decent log fire that we sat beside to warm up since by now, the temperature had dropped quite quickly. I felt this would have been a good time for a gin & tonic but alas this was not available!
Dinner was served in one of the larger tents and it was delicious. A set menu of breads, lamb tagine, vegetable tagine and accompaniments was all very good and there was no pressure to go or stay so Rach and I just enjoyed the evening together slowly making our way through the feast.
Finally we retired back to our tent and a camp-helper came by to light the stove which quickly started warming the tent. It was quite chilly by now so this was much needed along with the thick blankets on the bed. I did have to get up a couple of times in the night to throw a couple of logs on but that was worth it.
The next morning, we were still full from dinner but the breakfast looked too good not to partake as the sun rose over the mountains and lifted the damp cold of the night. The camp was a wonderful place to spent a night and re-charge – especially as were looking forward to our next few days in the souk Marrakech which we knew would be anything but relaxing! With a final hour in the desert, our jeep arrived to transfer us back to the city.