Really Get Away From It All at a Chic Moroccan Camp in the Middle of the Sahara
by Liza Foreman
Looking to really get away from it all? How about a few nights at an all-inclusive designer camp in the middle of the Moroccan Sahara? Intrepid traveler Liza Foreman makes the trek.
Finding Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp is like finding an oasis in the desert. Located in the Erg Chigaga area of the Moroccan Sahara near the Algeriam border, the retreat offers discerning travelers an opportunity to explore the desert in the confident hands of Bobo, a local nomad who has always called the desert home. The luxury tented camp, co-owned by British hospitality exec Nick Garsten, makes for a great four-day excursion from Marrakech.
What's on Site
After a two-hour drive from M'Hamid, the closest town, we reached the main camp. It's a scene straight out of Lawrence of Arabia consisting of ten off-white tents for sleeping grouped around a campfire, an open-fronted lounge tent with a help-yourself bar, a dining tent, and a covered seating area for relaxing. Breakfast is served under a canopy at the back of the main camp near hammocks; a more remote camp has a second set of sleeping tents. The private desert camp, for groups or honeymoons, is a ten-minute drive away from the main camp. During the summer months, when it is too hot, visitors can sleep outdoors on beds under the stars.
Claim to Fame
For those who don't like tents or hammocks, Bobo has built, from the ground up, an enclave of designer desert cabins with cool interior decoration on the edge of the Sahara just beyond M'Hamid. Email for details, as they are keeping this as quiet as they can.
The cuisine is definitely a highlight. A team of chefs in a kitchen near the main camp make delicious Moroccan dishes — a full array of tagines, couscous, soups, and salads. Breakfast of eggs and fresh baked bread is served with tomatoes, olives, freshly squeed juice, and tea or coffee. We had an outdoor banquet around the fire one night, followed by dancing and live drumming. On another occasion, I had dinner for one outside my tent, watching a giant moon rise after an equally incredible sunset. One lunchtime, I hopped on the back of a desert buggy with a young guy dressed just like Lawrence and went to visit a nomad for tea. We then journeyed on to an oasis, where we had a desert BBQ for two of delicious marinated skewers, salad, and breads. When the nomad and some goats wandered over, we hopped back on the buggy and jolted over desert sands.
In the Room
The beautifully appointed desert tents come in a few different sizes, but the setup for each is the same: sumptuous and exotic. Most tents in the main camp are one bedroom dominated by a vast bed decked in glittering throws. The decor includes a well-proportioned velvet armchair with a footrest, hand-carved side tables, and, the piece de resistance, a glamorous bathroom that consists of a compost toilet, antique furniture, and a wash area situated behind a silk screen. Standing inside are two big silver buckets, one for hot and one for cold water. The buckets are refilled when left outside the tent. The idea is that you throw water over yourself to wash. It feels lovely.
Room with a View
The best place to stay is the private desert camp, which features new tents, more elegant decoration, and privacy. It is a ten-minute drive or an hour by foot to the main camp.
What to Do
Think endless sand dunes, stars, extraordinary sunsets, no neighbors for miles around, and the odd carnival of camels passing by and shrieking at 5 a.m.
Erg Chigaga organizes lots of fun activities, which is good because the civilization is a few hours away. Highlights include trekking up the sand dunes surrounding the camp, drinking champagne while watching the sun set over the endless ripples of sand, and sandboarding down the dunes. Also: camel excursions, four-wheel buggy rides, tea time with desert nomads, desert BBQs, outdoor banquets, and, best of all, making firm friends with strangers in no time, on account of being the only humans within miles.
This Place Is Perfect For
People who like star-gazing, awesome sunsets, camels, sand, and total relaxation.
This Place Is Not So Perfect For
Anyone who gets cabin fever.
Rates from €235 per person per night. Click here for reservations.