[THE SAHARA, MOROCCO] — I was sitting there polishing off my second Negroni — a Negroni in the frickin’ Sahara — watching the blazing sun rapidly sink over the darkening horizon when here comes Ahmed, barreling over the lip of the nearest dune, in bare feet (!). Huffing, he says “Monsieur Dan, we have one more surprise for you tonight. Please come. Oh, bring your camera.” As if I needed more surprises that day.
We follow a path along the dune ridges, lanterns illuminating the way. We top the lip of the ridge and I shriek like a little girl. Ahmed giggles with excitement. We’re peering down over a mini-amphitheater of dunes — I didn’t even know this was here — and lining the huge bowl below us is a constellation of dozens…and I mean dozens…of flickering lanterns, all patterned out like someone with OCD would want. It looked like a concert at Red Rocks in the 70s, lighters in the air…but bigger flames and with sand.
Down in the center of the bowl a roaring fire, torching the sand for many yards. Standing silently, two more of Ahmed’s friendly team stood at attention, grinning ear to ear. And there it was, my Table for One.
There are dozens of other tent camps out there, some like mini tent villages, some even more elaborate than this, but Dar Ahlam’s philosophy is that the desert experience should just be for one group — whether a family, a couple of couples or even a Group of One like me. One group at a time. One night at a time. You’re in. You smile. You’re back out to finish off two more nights at Dar Ahlam’s luxurious Kasbah in the desert oasis of Skoura. The perfect amount of time.
Getting to the tent camp in the desert is half the fun, crawling out of Ouarzazate into the canyons, crazy geology passes by, one rammed-earth structure after the other, a building model that has worked for centuries. “New types of construction like concrete require heat or air conditioning. These don’t. Cool in summer. Warm in winter.” Makes sense.
Moroccan oasis from YouShouldGoHere on Vimeo.
Finally, you pass the last town and a triumphant gate at the end of the road, which disappears into a track. It celebrates “that’s where the desert starts.”And from there, it is sixty kilometers of bronc-riding fun, no dunes in sight until the end.
Gettting TO the desert from YouShouldGoHere on Vimeo.
And then you arrive. The Sahara. The wind is blowing, but it is completely silent, like in a recording studio.
Stagecraft. The kind people of Dar Ahlam are masters at it. It’s all about The Setup.
Climbing over a dune or turning a corner and BAM. Whether in their hotel or in their desert camp, it’s all about surprises. And the amazing team they’ve hired are having as much fun doing it as you are experiencing it.
Dar Ahlam’s philosophy is that you should have a camp for your own group, whether a family, group of friends or even just one person, like me. The desert is so amazingly quiet, you don’t want some obnoxious group you don’t know bum your mellow. So here I was, just me, a driver, chef and three other helpers just grinning at the sun and taking it all in. (And they certainly must have lost money on only me, but they stick with their philosophy). Upon arriving, you climb over a dune and this cool table is waiting for you, primed for sunset viewing and ready for a cocktail.
Prepare thyself for lots of sand pics. CLICK ON THE PICTURES BELOW TO PICK UP THE STORY FROM HERE:
Did I mention that Mohamed was a top driver in the Paris>Dakar Rally? As we pulled out of the dunes and onto the hard flat desert soil, we had liftoff….
Flying over the desert from YouShouldGoHere on Vimeo.
Here’s what Conde Nast Traveler had to say about a similar trip, staying at Dr Ahlam. And Travel & Leisure’s article Morocco Beyond Marrakesh Both with much better pictures than mine! And another article in Forbes. And if you want someone to book it, email the best travel agent there is, Ginny Mariano, she put this whole thing together.
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