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  • Writer's pictureKate Woodman

Le Maroc :  Une soirée et nuit dans le désert Agafay (an evening and night in the desert)

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

Après le déjeuner avec la famille Berbère, on a quitté les montagnes pour le « désert. » J’écrit « désert » parce que le soir dernier, quand Carol et moi avons dit au concierge Aziz qu’on est allé au désert la prochaine journée, il a souri et il a dit : « Agafay ? Ce n’est pas le vrai désert. C’est près de l’aeroport. C’est comme un tournage ! » Mais plus tard, quand je l’ai répété au propriétaire Cyril, il m’a dit : « Au contraire Kate, l’Agafay est un vrai désert…pas tournage….vous allez voir. »

After our lunch with the Berber family (well, not exactly WITH the family…at the family home), we descended from the mountains and headed for the “desert.” I say “desert” because when, the previous night, we mentioned to concierge Aziz that we were going to spend the following night in the desert, he smiled and said: “Agafay? It’s not really a desert. It’s right by the airport. It’s a movie set!” But later, when I jokingly repeated what Aziz had said to l’Orangeraie owner Cyril, he seemed quite offended and said: “Oh no, Kate, Agafay is a real desert, not a stage set….you’ll see.”

Atlas Mountains in back

Et franchement, l’Agafay est un désert….il est petit et il n’y a pas de sable comme le grand Saraha (les huit heures de route de Marrakech), mais c’est vraiment un désert. On dit qu’il est un désert en pierre. C’est un sauvage paysage stérile qui s’étend sur des kilomètres. Il y avait plusieurs « camps » dans la même région, mais notre guide Hasan, a trouvé Desert Camp Agafay où on a réservé. Mohammed nous a accueillis et il nous a conduit à notre tente. Carol a donné du repos tandis que j'ai fait une promenade.

And honestly, Agafay IS a desert…it’s small and not a sand desert with sweeping dunes like the grand Sahara (an eight-hour drive from Marrakech), but it is indeed a desert. It’s called a stone desert and its barren deserted terrain extends for miles. There are several tented camps all in the same area (and all looking relatively the same); the first one we stopped at pointed us to the next one. Though it looked close by, the circuitous and only road took some time to get us there. Also, it wasn’t easy to distinguish the road from the rest of the terrain….all the same reddish-brown hard-packed dirt. No wonder no one lives there ! We were greeted by Mohammed, a long desert tunic covering his jeans and leather jacket and his head swathed in a "tagelmust," the traditional turban worn by Tuareg Berber men. He guided us to our tent. Carol rested while I set out to find the camels and explore the terrain.

Hats are not my thing, but just had to try this one out....largest sunhat I've ever seen! Even THAT brim couldn't keep me from closing my eyes....sigh....

Loved our bathroom sink!

View of dining area from our tent

Camels! But no ride for us (our choice...humane grounds):

Il y avait seulement une autre invitée dans le camp….une famille suisse avec un fils qui avait 10 ans. Le mari était anglais et tous parlait l’anglais aussi que le français. Il faisait froid, donc il y avait un grand feu chaud, autour duquel on s‘est assis et a pris une verre. Après un moment, tous l’équipe a venu au feu et ils ont joué des instruments et ils ont chanté aussi.

Although the camp has 10 guest tents, only one other family was there that night….a Swiss family with a 10 year old son. The husband was British and they all spoke English as well as French. After the sun set, it was quite cold and Carol and I put on every piece of clothing we had brought with us. Fortunately, Mohammed made a roaring fire in the dining area where we joined the Swiss family for a glass of wine before dinner. After chatting a bit, the staff joined us with their drums and delighted us with traditional Berber music and song. The dining area was beautiful…glowing orbs, torches and candles provided light, as well as the campfire. We each dined in our own tent by candlelight. Mohammed served us a delicious cous cous feast! He lead us back to our tent by torchlight after dinner. No roaring fire in our tent, so we quickly changed, washed and bundled up in bed…me with 2 douvets!

Carol in her desert cape trying to stay warm!

Pre-dinner entertainment

Mohammed with us at dinner

The next morning, after a huge breakfast in our dining tent, our driver picked us up to take us back to Marrakech. It turned out we were only about a 5 minute drive from the highway (we had come from the opposite direction the previous day) and 15 minutes from the airport….Aziz was right!

Instruments from previous night's entertainment

Shepard tending his herd

"Real" movie set pointed out to us by our driver on way back to Marrakech....guess Aziz was right about that too!

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