Saharan Sands - Family holiday Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

highlights

  • Wander in lively bazaars of Marrakech
  • Run down the dunes in Tazzarine Valley and camp in the Sahara
  • Meet a Berber family at the kasbah of Ait Benhaddou

Experience the wonderful contrasts of Morocco on a family holiday, by getting away from it all in the Sahara desert, visiting the UNESCO site of Ait Benhaddou and ending the trip in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.

trip-grade

Standard

Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for a fun, informative experience.

  • A number of included activities
  • Tourist class, family-run hotels
  • Various meals included throughout
  • Public & private transportation

This tour is operated by our partners The Adventure Company

daily-itin

Day
1

Tour starts

The tour starts at the Ouarzazate hotel. Standing at the confluence of three valleys and on the threshold of the Sahara Desert, the town of Ouarzazate was originally a staging point for trans-Saharan caravans but was expanded during the colonial era as a garrison for the French Foreign Legion.

Ibis Hotel (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool

Day
2

Tazzarine; valley & oasis

Please meet your tour leader in the hotel reception at 09.00. This morning you will explore the town of Ouarzazate and visit the hundred year old Taourirt Kasbah. A potent symbol of the Glaoui clan’s power, the kasbah gives a glimpse of how these feudal lords lived. You will then have the chance to buy an essential piece of desert kit – a shesh. This is a long piece of cloth a bit like a scarf that is wrapped around the head to keep the sun off and the loose end can be pulled across the face to keep out the sand.

Leaving this outpost of civilisation behind you will drive across the Tizi-n-Tiniffift pass and through the Draa Valley following the southern slopes of the Djebel Sahro to Nkob and on to the Oasis of Tazzarine. The total driving time today is approximately three hours.

Fixed camp (CC) Bedouin-style tents communal shower/toilet block - 1 night (BD)

Day
3

Sahara Desert; camel trek

This morning you start your journey with local taxis (approx. 30 minutes), to get to Iferd where you meet your camel caravan and the camelteers who will journey with you into the desert to tend to the camels. As you set off with one camel per person and with additional animals to carry your baggage, your camping equipment and (most importantly) your water, you form a typical desert caravan. The gait of the camels soon lulls you into a strange rhythm unchanged for centuries. There is no sense of urgency, no sense of rushing to get to the destination, instead time seems to dissolve and you can enjoy being surrounded by the desert.

Traditionally the Bedouin living out in the desert wear blue robes. They would dye the material using indigo but unlike more modern techniques they did not fix the colour to the cloth very well and so the blue colour would soak into their skin giving it a bluish tinge. This had the side effect of protecting their skin against the sun and gave rise to their nickname – the Blue Men. Today many still wear blue robes but the colour stays on the clothes!

After setting up camp you’ll no doubt be served a refreshing glass of sweet mint tea and marvel as the scenery around you changes colour with the setting sun. After dinner, if you are lucky, your camel drivers may decide to play drums and invite you to join them for an evening of traditional songs. As the music dies down the sheer tranquillity of the desert is unmissable and above you the starry expanse of the night sky is an incredible sight.
Approximate length of camel trek: 2 hours

Basic Desert Camp (C) - 1 night (BLD)

Day
4

Sahara Desert; camel trek

If you make the effort to be up for the dawn you will hopefully be treated to another amazing display of changing colour and light. After breakfast you have a short walk through the dunes to make the most of the views on offer. Walking through sand can be tough and it is incredible to compare how you fare with the seeming ease with which the camels tackle the same sort of terrain, bringing home how difficult it would be to survive out here without them. How far you walk will depend on the ability of the group as well as conditions. Remounting your camels you make your way slowly out of the desert back towards the hills and valleys of the Atlas. Saying farewell to your Moroccan travelling companions and camels you rejoin the vehicles and drive back to the oasis of Tazzarine (approx 1 ½ hours).
Approximate length of camel trek: 2 hours

Fixed camp (CC) Bedouin-style tents communal shower/toilet block - 1 night (BLD)

Day
5

Ait Benhaddou; optional film studios

Today you head towards Agdz through the Draa Valley. This area is very fertile and the terraced farmlands are fed by an intricate system of irrigation channels. All the houses are built in the desert wastes at the edge of the fertile land so as not to waste any of the land that can grow crops. Continuing via Ouarzazate you reach Ait Benhaddou, one of the best-preserved fortified kasbahs in the country. With its dramatic walls of red earth and slit windows, this is a magnificent example of a stronghold. The surrounding villages also deserve your attention. Ait Benhaddou itself sits upon a lofty pinnacle of rock overlooking a river. Dating from around the 15th century, its importance as a trading post gradually dwindled, and today’s inhabitants eke out a living from farming the meagre soil. However, because of its beauty, it has been used as a setting for films such as ‘Gladiator’. Indeed not far away there are the film studios of Ouarzazate which have been used for many epic films from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Jewel of the Nile’ to more recent releases such as The Mummy’, ‘The Mummy Returns’, ‘Hidalgo’ and ‘Alexander’. It may be possible to visit the studios (optional).
Total driving time today is approximately 4 hours.

Hotel La Kasbah (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)

Day
6

Marrakech

This morning you will cross the riverbed to visit Ait Benhaddou. You will have the chance to explore some of the ruined buildings, and climb to the top of the hill where the agadir (grain store) offers spectacular views down over the village and the surrounding countryside. You can also enter one of the houses and share a glass of mint tea with some of the residents to gain a better understanding of how they live their lives. In the afternoon you’ll drive north across the High Atlas mountains. The road, completed by the Foreign Legion in 1936, winds up over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass (2260m) and offers stunning views of the mountains before descending past Berber villages to the plain surrounding Marrakech. Even today, the name Marrakech conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city, dating from the 11th century, never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. The graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, dominates the skyline.
Total driving time today is approximately 4 hours.

Hotel Amine (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)

The hotel is located just outside the city walls around the old Medina. It is about a 25 minute walk to the main square Djemaa el Fna but close to local shops and restaurants

Day
7

Marrakech; walking tour & souk

To orientate yourselves, you start with a walking tour of the centre - which takes in the main sights - and make your way into the sprawling souk. As is usual in a souk, individual trades and crafts are concentrated in one street or area, so the shoemakers are all next to each other, as are the jewellers, the potters, weavers etc. This is the best place in Morocco to sharpen your bargaining skills, and you’re almost certain to be tempted by some of the extraordinary variety of merchandise on display - perhaps a pair of traditional Moroccan slippers, or some exotic spices. The Djemaa el-Fna provides the throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair; it always seems full of life and continues late into the night. In this great open square at the heart of the medina, snake charmers and jugglers are among those who vie to entertain you. In the evening wonderful smells waft by as food stalls cook up their local delicacies. Each time of day seems to carry a distinct character, so do keep popping back for more!

In the afternoon you have time to wander and make your own discoveries. The tanneries around Bab Debbagh still cure leather in a way that has not changed for hundreds of years, and are extraordinarily photogenic (if a little smelly); they are normally more active in the morning. If you’d like to experience the relaxation of a traditional bath, your Group Leader will advise where to find the nearest hammam - for just a few dirhams, you’ll be steamed and scrubbed until you shine! (B)

Day
8

Tour ends

The trip ends after breakfast. (B)

included

Transport - Transport- Minibus, camel, on foot.

Accommodation - Comfortable Hotels (4nts), nomad tents (2nts), tent (1nt)

Meals - 7 breakfasts, 2 lunches & 3 dinners.

Overview

The Sahara – the name evokes a thousand images of sun-baked earth, drifting dunes as far as the eye can see, magical oases and camel caravans snaking their way across the inhospitable landscape to trade. Forming your own camel caravan on your family holiday, you’ll head out into the dunes to spend a night camping beneath the awesome stars of the desert night sky and to marvel as dunes change colour with the rising and setting of the sun. There is also the opportunity to explore the incredible fortified town and kasbah of Ait Benhaddou before entering the exciting and exotic Marrakech. Discover the winding alleyways and backstreets of the medina, the numerous Aladdin’s caves of the souks and the carnival-like main square – the Djemaa el-Fna – today filled with snake charmers and acrobats but traditionally a place of execution!

fitness

Desert conditions are rustic and there are few facilities at the overnight desert camp. Hotels in Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou and Marrakech are clean and comfortable but are not luxury accommodation. All three hotels have swimming pools. No real physical activity is involved; you can choose to walk alongside, instead of ride, your camel. There are opportunities for activities such as walks but none are compulsory. Any healthy child or adult should be able to take part. It's more a case of preparing mentally for Moroccan life. Seasoned travellers are unlikely to have any problem with this. Whilst it can get hot during the day in the desert it can also get cold at night and you should be equipped appropriately. Minimum age: 5 years.

what-to-take

For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase). A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc

other-important-information

Don’t try to change money in the street in Morocco - it is illegal.Mineral water in Morocco is usually referred to by brand name, Sidi Harazem, Sidi Ali or the naturally sparkling Oulmes. They're really cheap and you can get them anywhere.Moroccan meals can consist of up to five courses! If you eat a little of each, you may just have enough appetite left to find some room for dessert which is well worth saving some space for!

SOME INTERESTING READING:

Your Child’s Health Abroad - Matthew Ellis and Jane Wilson-Howarth, (Bradt publications)

Travel with Children – Maureen Wheeler (Lonely Planet)

Lords of the Atlas – Gavin Maxwell

The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowle

sA year in Marrakech – Peter Mayne

By bus to the Sahara – Gordon West

FOR YOUNGER READERS:

The Bachelor and the Bean – Shelley Fowles

Duel in the Desert – Walter Dean Myers

Tales from Morocco – Denya Johnson

DaviesTravelling Solo to Morocco – Bettina Guthridge

Useful phrases:

French is widely spoken throughout Morocco, but if you’d like to try some Arabic, here are a few phrases to get you started:

God willing - Insh ‘Allah

Thank you - Shukran

Yes - Aiwa

No - La

Do you have vegetarian food available here?

Hal Ladaika taam nabaty?

Thank you; I would like to have tea with you - Shukran, ana owad an ashrab al shai maak

Which Arabic sweet or cake would you advise is the best? Ma how tabak al hilo il mofadal ladaika?

I’m looking for the souk - Ana badawwar ‘ala as-sooq

Rooming Arrangements

For most trips prices are based on sharing a twin room. Therefore, if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be paired with someone from the group of the same sex, unless you decide to pay a single room supplement. Details of this supplement can be found on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website. Occasionally we use multiple-share or dormitory accommodation – particularly when stating in remote places.

Rooming arrangements – Family trips

If you’re a family of 2 you’ll be accommodated in a twin room. If you’re a family of three you will usually be accommodated in a triple room. If you’re a family of four you’ll probably be accommodated in two twin rooms and we’ll do our best to ensure they’re as near as possible. We cannot always guarantee a triple room. If a triple room is not available, an adult from your family will automatically be roomed with a fellow adult member of the group of the same sex. If you prefer to have a room of your own we can sometimes offer a single room for the entire trip or on selected nights within a trip. However a single room supplement applies, look on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website or ask our Travel Consultants for details.

local-payment

Local Costs - Morocco

Average costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.

  • Coffee/tea 8-15 MAD
  • Soft drink 10-20 MAD
  • Medium beer 20-40 MAD
  • Bottle of wine 80-220 MAD
  • Bottle of water 8-20 MAD
  • Local snack lunch 60-100 MAD
  • 3-course dinner* 80-220 MAD

*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant.

Sleeping bag hire 60MAD/night

Please note that there will often be a certain amount of repetition in the types of food available. Tagine and cous-cous are both examples of very common dishes that you will encounter, and you should be prepared that meal times may become a bit monotonous.

 

visa-information

 

Visas & Permits - Morocco

Holders of UK & IRL passports do not require a visa. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the end date of the trip. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Information can also be found on www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.

Please note the British Honorary Consulate in Marrakech is closed until further notice. Should you require assistance you should contact the Consular Section at the British Embassy in Rabat. Email: rabat.consular@fco.gov.uk. British Nationals with a genuine emergency outside normal office hours may call the Embassy switchboard on +212 (0) 537 63 33 33 where the Global Response Centre can assist you. Please note that only emergency calls can be handled out of office hours. Visa enquiries can only be dealt with during office hours.

Medical---prep

Vaccinations - Morocco

The following are recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Polio
  • Typhoid
  • Tetanus

For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk. Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information. A specialist travel clinic should also be able to advise regarding any special vaccination requirements for your children.

Please note - Henna tattoos are commonplace in Morocco. You should be aware that some henna tattoos contain the chemical para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause a painful allergic reaction, including swelling and an itchy rash in some people.

International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.

single-room-sup

A single supplement is available for this trip priced from 39 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.

 

responsible-travel

At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.

Responsible Travel is twofold. It's about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.

Our Aims

  • It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
  • We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
  • Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.

Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.

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