Susan Worner Tours

Morocco – Atlas Mountains, Draa Valley and the Sahara Dunes

08 – 17 October 2018

We combine three contrasting regions of Morocco: lush valleys, the high Atlas Mountain passes and the Sahara desert. Intertwined come elements of history, agriculture, Berber and nomads’ culture, and a chance to experience life in the desert.

April sees life returning after the winter rains; warm during the day with the temperature dropping at night. We spend three nights in the dunes in luxury tents, each with its own simple shower system and private facilities. For two days we discover the dunes with their plants and creatures, a way of life in a tranquil, atmospheric world apart. We are accompanied by a guide and a team of helpers to ensure an unforgettable visit to the desert.

The first and the final nights are spent in the welcoming, comfortable Hotel Le Beldi, near Marrakech. Surrounded by a field of roses and extensive gardens, the hotel rooms are of authentic, contemporary style. In the Draa Valley our riad hotel is in the Palmeraie de Tamnougalt, with excellent cuisine from the owners’ organic farm. On the desert edge our accommodation is a charming riad, to relax overnight before our adventure into the desert. Bab El Oued is a little piece of paradise, located in the middle of the Palmeraie de Tamnougalt, at the foot of the ancient, scenic kasbah. The garden is beautiful and well-maintained, with a nice little pool at its centre. You wake to the singing of birds and the call of the peacock.

The tastefully decorated reception building has books available on the flora and fauna of South Morocco. You do not need (and you do not want) to go out for dinner, as the team cooks delicious traditional 3-course meals, accompanied by Moroccan wines, served either at the pool or in the cosy and colourful watchtower overlooking the grounds. Most importantly, the staff are wonderful. Mathilde and her small team are incredibly polite and attentive. We will be back, for sure.

The group is small with maximum ten participants and accompanied by Susan. We travel by minibus as far as the desert and then by 4×4 vehicles and dromedaries.

 

Itinerary

DAY ONE – MONDAY 08 OCTOBER D

Departure from London Gatwick to Marrakech Menara airport, where you will be met by Susan and transferred to the comfortable, riad-style Hotel Le Beldi on the outskirts of Marrakech. Aperitif in the garden before we enjoy dinner together.

DAY TWO – TUESDAY 09 OCTOBER BD

Early morning start after breakfast. We set off towards the Atlas Mountains, over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass at 2200 metres, and the road to Telouet, to discover the Kasbah du Pacha el Glaoui and its history with a local guide. We continue to the eleventh-century Ksar Ain-Ben Haddou to view the village used in many films (Lawrence of Arabia & The Gladiator). We continue towards Ouarzazate and on to Agdz. We spend the night in the Tamnougalt village surrounded by palms in a delightful riad. We enjoy delicious local specialities at dinner served high up in a watchtower.

DAY THREE – WEDNESDAY 10 OCTOBER BD

After breakfast overlooking the date palm valley, we take a short walk to find out more about the local agriculture and date production. We then head south through the lush Draa Valley, lined with stunning Berber villages along the Anti-Atlas mountain range, which formed the old caravan route from Timbuktu to Marrakech. Many ancient kasbahs line the valley with date plantations. We pass Zagora with its large weekly market and on to Tamegroute, well-known for its glazed green pottery. Crossing semi-desert country, we arrive in the palm-lined oasis village of M’Hamid el Ghizlane. We stay at the most comfortable Hotel Dar Awazad and have a relaxed dinner together in the garden.

DAY FOUR – THURSDAY 11 OCTOBER BLD

A gentle start to the day with a guided visit of the old village and palm groves. We are invited to have lunch with a local family. Late afternoon we set off with our Berber drivers from M’Hamid in 4x4s across the stony desert with vegetation, some of which is harvested by the nomads to feed their camels. Desert rocket is tasty! Tamarisk, acacia (Acacia raddiana) and euphorbia can be spotted. Arriving at our desert camp, nestling in the dunes, we watch the sunset and enjoy dinner under the stars around the camp fire. Late evening the string of dromedaries arrives at the camp with their herdsmen.

DAY FIVE – FRIDAY 12 OCTOBER BLD

Sunrise is for early risers and quite spectacular in the dunes, especially good for photography. After breakfast we make preparations to set off on dromedaries or on foot (optional) across the dunes. Rugs are laid out under a tamarisk tree and the team prepare a delicious lunch. In the heat of the day a rest in the shade of the tree is de rigueur, returning to the camp in the afternoon. Dinner in candlelight around the camp fire with local musicians playing for us.

DAY SIX – SATURDAY 13 OCTOBER BLD

Setting off on foot or on dromedaries into the dunes, our guides show us tracks in the sand, perhaps of a dung beetle, jerboa or where a skink is buried in the sand. We may see some nomads with their livestock. Our lunch is in the shade of a tamarisk tree; the cook uses hot stones to prepare kebabs. The dromedaries snatch at ‘drinn’ grass (Aristida pungens) and the acacia leaves, while we rest until returning to the camp late afternoon. The team prepare their desert speciality – pain de sable – for us to enjoy for dinner. The way from our tents for dinner is lit with candles and we enjoy delicious Moroccan cuisine under a spectacular night sky.

DAY SEVEN – SUNDAY 14 OCTOBER BLD

After breakfast we leave the camp with 4x4s north-west towards Foum Zguid, passing the dry bed of Lake Iriki and Erg Chigaga, the highest dunes in the region, up to 300m and snaking along the horizon for 50kms. Stands of Rubberbush (Calotropis procera) with their purple flowers are eye-catching. Spectacular scenery with a backdrop of mountains. Lunch at Foum Zquid, a small town on the edge of the desert. We re-join the minibus to continue to our riad hotel in Tamnougalt in the Draa Valley. A welcome refreshing mint tea awaits us and we enjoy dinner in the garden.

DAY EIGHT – MONDAY 15 OCTOBER BPD

A relaxed day around the riad with its beautiful garden. A guided visit to the dramatic Ksar at Tamnougalt is fascinating. We enjoy a gentle walk in the Palmeraie to the riad’s farm where crops are grown organically. Dates, fruit trees and mouth-watering vegetables are prolific; poultry, goats and sheep graze. Mathilde, the riad owner, explains the philosophy of their farm. Picnic lunch on the banks of the River Draa under the palm trees. We enjoy typical local dishes for dinner, served in the watchtower with views over palms.

DAY NINE – TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER BD

After breakfast we head north through the mountains to Ouarzazate and over the Atlas to Marrakech, returning to L’Hotel Le Beldi. Our adventure completed, we enjoy the comforts of this delightful hotel and its extensive garden. Delicious dinner together.

DAY TEN – WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER B

Relaxed day at Le Beldi with the possibility to visit their gardens, swim in the pool, visit the spa, before leaving late afternoon for the return flights to London Gatwick.



Map of Morocco

Tour Costs

£2,950 per person sharing
Single supplement £590

Included:

Flights, all land transport, accommodation in hotel/riads, delicious meals where shown. Local guides. Local taxes.

Not included:

Drinks, driver’s tip, tips at hotel/lodge, items of a personal nature. Full cover of fully comprehensive travel insurance.

Hotel/Riads

Rooms at the hotel and riads are well equipped, ensuite with modern conveniences.
Luxury tents in the desert with inside shower, wc and a comfortable bed.

Hotel Le Beldi near Marrakech
www.beldicountryclub.com

Bab El Oued, Agdz
www.babelouedmaroc.com

Hotel Dar Azawad,M’Hamid el Ghizlane
www.darazawad.com

Notes

The climate is delightful – autumn, with warm/hot days ± 26ºC, and cool at night ± 15ºC.

Insects and mosquitos are not evident (dry heat). Sun screen and sun hat essential.

A chech-scarf for the desert can be acquired in Zagora. Lightweight wind/rain proof jacket, sturdy trainers and a fleece for the evening in the desert.

Meals included are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch), P (picnic) and D (dinner).

Wifi is available in the hotels/riads.
The areas we visit are safe; the local people are friendly and appreciate your visit. Apart from Arabic and Berber, most people speak French and some English.

The tour has been well researched personally by Susan Worner.

Activity Level:

Ability to ride a camel for two hours or walk in the desert.