My Night in a Moroccan Luxury Desert Camp

A Night in a Moroccan Luxury Desert Camp


When you’re haggling for saffron in the souks of Marrakech, the solitude of the desert’s expanse can feel a world away. I vividly remember my first night in Marrakech, the first time I travelled there. We had missed our flight and waited eight hours in the airport lounge for a new one. Instead of arriving at 10am, we arrived after midnight. I couldn’t wait to set my head down at our riad and get some much needed rest. There is nothing like staying in a riad in Marrakech. Essentially a palace-style home, with a traditionally Moroccan courtyard, usually with a water feature at its centre, the hospitality in a riad is second to none, They are much more easily accessible than the larger hotels on the outskirts of the medina. However, it was at around 5am when I realised that sleep in the middle of the city was not an option. Woken up by the call to prayer echoing from a minaret not even 200ft away, and the subsequent sound of the city waking up, I had no choice but to get up with the food vendors and tradespeople and start my day.

Fast forward to years, returning for a friend’s wedding, I wanted to see a different side to Marrakech. Just 45 minutes south west of Marrakech lies the Agafay Desert, a wilderness of golden stone which has seen an increase in popularity due to the number of luxury camps that have emerged in the last few years. I arranged a night’s stay at the Agafay Luxury Desert Camp, and included the stay is an air-conditioned Range Rover transfer, which was very much welcomed on the hot June afternoon. As we left the bustle of the city and made our way out onto roads that looked like they led to nowhere, I didn’t know what to expect. We started to hit dustier roads which wound around stone mounds, reflecting the orange hues of the late afternoon light. As we pulled up to the camp, we were welcomed with rose mint tea and sweet desserts. We lounged in the main tent up on the terrace, as we were checked in, wondering which of the tents laid out below us was ours.

After we’d relaxed, we were escorted to our magnificent tent, which was perched over a stone valley so vast, your eyes are isolated from anything or anyone else. Each tent is distant from the other, and is remarkably spacious. The materials and warm colours are not only inspired by the rugged and sandy surroundings, but by traditional North African indigenous Berber culture, with Berber rugs covering the rattan floors. The cushions and furnishings all sport unique patterns and designs, and the tents are lit with lanterns, ensembled to create a chic, relaxing settlement for the night. We dropped our bags, and freshened up in the freestanding bath, ready for our sunset quad bike excursion. Sailing round the winding dusty roads at unspeakable speeds for an open-sided vehicle, we stopped at a Berber home for, you guessed it, mint tea. As we sipped, our host, Drez, explained how Berber culture has influenced the region since the Neolithic period. 

Getting caught up in our conversation, the light soon faded. We zoomed back to the camp, ready for our magical evening of dinner and entertainment. First, we headed up the rainbow-coloured steps to the highest point of the camp. and watched the sky turn purple, making friends with the colossal but gentle beetles we met along the way. We then changed into our evening clothes, and sat down in the lounge tent, where we were served a few glasses of wine and fragrant and delectable chicken and lamb tagines, served in traditional clay pots. It can be hard to know what kind of wardrobe to bring to a desert, due to the extreme contrast in temperature from day to night. Neutral maxi dresses with covered shoulders to protect your skin from the UV and the dust, and of course the Solstice Mule, the perfect desert shoe. Designed with drinks beneath the stars in mind, you’ll impress locals, who wear a similar style of mule with jute soles. As we ate, we watched and joined in the performances of Berber music by local residents. Your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the darkness surrounding the tent. With nothing visible for miles, it can either be mesmerizing or alarming. 

What to wear in Marrakech

When we returned to our tent, it became apparent that the most outstanding feature was the terrace, positioned at the entrance of each tent. We pulled one of the mattresses out, threw down one of the many thick blankets, and lay there, staring up at the river of stars that form the luminous Milky Way. We gave on up trying to count innumerable shooting stars, and instead enjoyed the spectacular astrological show we were so fortunate enough to witness. It wasn’t our intention to fall asleep out there, for fear of waking up with giant beetles on our pillows. The unprecedented heat of the scorching sun, rising up above the desert plains, soon gave us our signal to head inside. 

As the tent got hotter, we couldn’t snooze any longer. We threw on our swimsuits and robes, lathering ourselves in factor 50, and walked over to the pool, which looked like a mirage in the sweltering heat. It was just approaching 8am, but it was already 89°F. The tagine we had the night before was starting to feel like a very distant memory, so after taking a quick dip, we headed back up to the terrace tent to indulge in one of the most inviting breakfast buffets I’ve encountered. With jams, flatbreads, roasted vegetables, and cheeses that surprisingly withstood the heat, we ate ourselves full, ready for our camel-back ride. Boarding a camel is quite an experience! We were provided with wide-brimmed straw hats to protect us from the sun, and slowly humped side to side around the camp. 

When I booked the stay in the Agafay Desert, I felt as though I wasn’t ‘doing it properly’ because it wasn’t the Sahara, but to sleep under the stars in this plush and aesthetically thought through camp was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that I might end up doing twice. 

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