Friday, May 30th 2014
Do you ever dream of stillness? The magical, unfamiliar, but weirdly nostalgic kind where you are transported far away to a mythical land, an ancient other world where the crazy demands of a modern life don’t have you wanting to run far away and never look back.
Marrakech, while mesmerised by the crazy effervescent rainbow of inspiration, majestic soul and vibrant clash of the old and new can wear you down. After you have thrown too much cash to the charming rug sellers in the Medina, eaten way too many chicken tagines, sweltered in the 45 degree heat and got lost in the mad maze that is the Medina, a nomadic soul and gypsy heart starts to seek the next mystifying adventure.
True gypsies, never in the same place for too long, forever drawn to and intoxicated by the excitement of new places – the smells, the colours, the feast for the eyes and the sensory overload; after a week in Marrakech we were pulled by the rolling red sea of sand dunes of the Sahara Desert and the Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp to shoot The LANE’S next editorial.
A 10 hour trip (12 with stops) across desert terrain and the mountainous cliff faces of the Atlas Mountains, through the tiny Kasbah villages of mud-walled houses and then the rolling red dunes of the Sahara, in a too small for 7 people 4x4, sweltering in 40 degree heat and miles of cosmic nothingness in between stops; this is a journey for the true nomad. With cramped legs and an overplayed playlist, it is one that makes you question why you set of on this crazy adventure and makes you realise why few have braved the journey before you. Only those looking to explore the most far-flung, untouched and unreachable corners of the world are patient in their wait to arrive, as the dreamiest lingering light seems to guide you closer to the camp.
Arrive at Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp, 20km from the Algerian border and seemingly as far away from home that one could possibly travel and you feel like you have been transported back in time, to the middle of the earth, to an ancient otherworld where time has stood still, stillness prevails and the magical spirit of true nomadic people has survived. A place where what you have lost can be found and what you no longer need can be left.
Step out of the 4x4 and onto the aisle of layered Moroccan rugs decorating the sand and you are mesmerised that such a place exists. A dreamy campsite of Berber tents that seems to appear from nowhere, set in the rolling red sea of dunes. This is glamping in the most serene and mythical destination we have ever seen. A nomadic bohemian's wildest dream as camels roam freely, the days pass slowly and the sun romantically refuses to say goodbye to the day.
Be greeted by staff and a tray of traditional mint tea and from the very moment you arrive until the moment you leave you feel as though you have been welcomed into the home of a local family. While this is camping with luxuries it is also an authentic cultural experience, from the food, people and location you are immersed in nomadic traditions.
After spending time reveling in the breathtaking beauty of the camp, be lead to your Berber tent which is complete with an ensuited bathroom, solar powered lighting and a king size bed adorned in Moroccan wedding blankets. Imagine a colourful boho Moroccan bedroom with eclectic touches like layers of vibrant soft furnishings and a romantic bathroom with silver buckets for washing, a freestanding sink and a seated dressing table! It really is complete gypsy luxury! Our afternoon is lost easily to drinking rose and watching the sunset from an open sided tent that feels like the lounge room of a stylish bohemian beauty.
Racing the sun on its mission to turn the desert red, we rise early to shoot our editorial in the most ethereal and romantic light and watch the dunes be gradually lit up by a magical sun. By day stillness prevails. We laze in canvas hammocks, stare out to the red vastness of the desert and ride camels through the breathtaking landscape of rolling red dunes. As you are adorned in traditional headscarves and lead on a 2 hour camel trek through the vast rolling dunes, there are no words for the serenity and mystical power of this experience. You are overcome with a feeling of deep peace that you will treasure long after you shake out the last of the desert sand. A wild sandstorm that throws the camp inside out and turns up treasures lost long ago in the sand makes for a thrilling tale of adventure and one that will be shared over excited and rambling conversations about travel.
The camp really comes to life at night. Guests gather for a group dinner of traditional food (think Moroccan soup, aubergine salads and chicken tagine) in the tented dining room before migrating around a blazing bonfire in the centre of the camp. Sitting on Moroccan rugs and pillows layered like magic carpets under a glistening blanket of stars while listening to the echos of traditional Bedouin music in the desert vastness really gives you a newfound understanding of the Moroccan people and their culture, warmth and gentleness. More nights should be lost to fire lit darkness and dancing with strangers.
If you are considering Morocco as a honeymoon or holiday destination or are just looking for the most serene escape filled with culture and soul, you have to visit Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp (run by the amazing Nick & Bobo!). It is the perfect place to escape and unwind after the whirlwind that is your wedding. The Sahara Desert is one of those places that will change you and have you looking at the whole world differently, one that will stay with you long after you shake out the last of the desert sand. Two nights is the perfect amount of time to relax and experience the camp and location. Prices are approx. 225 euros per person per night, with all food, drink and activities included. Transport can be organised to and from the camp from Marrakech as an addition to your package.
Our Travel Tips
We researched a number of Sahara desert camps, but chose Erg Chigaga as it really is the best you will find for a holistic and authentic experience in the most breathtaking location! A lot of the other camps are also not as easily accessible. Some are reached by a 2 hour camel ride after a grueling drive! Also be sure you book Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp run by Nick & Bobo (there is another camp who had unfortunately copied their name!)
The trip is long, but forgotten the moment you arrive. We wanted to do the drive in one trip due to scheduling but the camp owners often recommend an overnight stay at a Maison D'Hotes en route to the desert.
Make sure you leave early enough to arrive in time for the incredible sunset. The light really is like nothing we have ever experienced.
Surprisingly the days are hot, but the nights are cold! Make sure you pack long sleeves.
2-3 nights was the perfect amount of time to stay.
Road stops on the way are few and far between. Stick with food and drink from busy and visited restaurants. Talk to your driver, who will know the best stops. We ventured off the trodden path and one of our team got a bad case of food poisoning.
Be prepared for wild winds and sandstorms. We had an afternoon of the most insane sand whipping, eye watering weather. Don’t expect to stay clean, but like any camping experience it just makes your tales of adventure more fun!
Find out more about the camp here.
Photography: Karissa Fanning & Taegan Reid