Camel Trekking – A Very Humpy Ride

Merzouga, Morocco

See part 1 of our desert adventure.

Going camel trekking in the desert has been something I’d dreamed of doing for many, many years (see #4 in this post). And finally, here in Morocco, I had a chance to make it happen.

It wasn’t quite how I had imagined.

After handing out 700 Dirhams to our hostel owner in Merzouga, we went to meet our two camels and our ‘guides’ – both named Mohammed. Big Mohammed is 18 year old while small Mohammed is 13. ‘Shouldn’t you guys be in school?’ I asked. They laughed, they haven’t been in school for years.

I had little expectation that we’d learn anything much about the desert from our ‘guides’ and I wasn’t disappointed. Still, they were fun kids.

Our desert trek guides in Merzouga
Small Mohammed and Big Mohammed

What’s riding a camel like?

Camels are interesting creature. I always think that they can easily topple over. They don’t look too big – but they’re taller than you’d think. I’ve heard of people getting seasick from riding them because they sway so much.

Getting on and off a camel is always an interesting and exaggerated affair.

You need a groin of steel to ride a camel for a long time. After 10 minutes into our camel trekking, we became aware that what we had between our legs was a hump that is neither fluffy nor is it easily diguised under a blanket or two (or 20).

(By the way, do you want to learn how to draw camels for good cause? Check out our friend, Phil’s How to Draw Camels site.)

Camel trekking in Erg Chebby, Morocco

The sand dunes of Erg Chebby desert are amazing!

We had never seen anything quite like it – soft, undulating sand dunes as far as they eyes can see. And such colors! Even under the harsh mid-day light, the rose/orange color of the dunes was mesmerizing.

Camel trekking in Merzouga, Morocco The dunes of Erg Chebby Playing around in the dunes of Erg Chebby

We stopped to watch the sun go down and play around in the dunes.

When we got to our camp for the night, I expected someone there to greet us and take care of us. You know, like a hotel in the middle of the desert. But the dark and the abandoned look of the camp upon arrival told us otherwise.

Our encampment in the desert
Our encampment in the desert

Jack elbowed me, ‘Dude, it’s just going to be us and the kids in this place!’

Not sure which concerned me more, the fact that we were going to be alone in the middle of nowhere with a couple of kids, or the fact that my husband just called me ‘dude’.

We wondered briefly if the ‘kids’ needed our help. But it seems that they mature faster here in the desert because soon they were serving us ‘berber whiskey’ and dinner of tajine, making our beds, and cleaning up after us. You know, doing the sort of things that Jack and I are barely capable of doing ourselves.

Our dining tent in the desert
Our dining tent in the desert

At night, Jack and I laid down on the warm sand and watched the stars. At that time, it was easy to imagine that we were the only people within miles around. So quiet and so surreal was the moon-lit landscape around us.

Erg Chebby encampment
Erg Chebby encampment

In the morning it was apparent that the feeling of solitude we felt was just it. A feeling. A short climb up a dune revealed a series of camp nearby that other hotels have built.

The trash also revealed itself. The Moroccan’s view of the dune is quite aptly captured when I asked Big Mohammed where the bathroom is –

‘Madame, the whole desert is your toilet,’ he said.

Of course.

Don’t get us wrong – camel trekking in the desert is so worth it because there’s something about the desert that just so captivating. Though we wouldn’t call an overnight camel trek in Merzouga a trip to the wilderness, it’s surely a preview of what awaits beyond a couple of hour rides from town.

Sneak peek into Erg Chebby dune
A sneak peek into what awaits. Erg Chebby, Merzouga.

BUT if you’ve made it as far as Merzouga and crave for true wilderness, go for a multiday camel trekking where pristine dunes await. There you will truly feel like you’re the only one out there.

As for me? I’d still love to venture further into the desert. And yes, on camels. Raw inner thighs and all. Not this time and maybe not in Morocco. But another time, another place.

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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16 Replies to “Camel Trekking – A Very Humpy Ride”

  1. Riding a camel in the desert is something that I've always thought about doing — intrigued, but still a little uncertain about it. Getting closer to saying "just do it"! Fun post about your ride and camping experience.

  2. Great pictures! I rode the camel in Rajasthan. It does feel a bit artificial in that you don't really 'escape' the world but we did go far enough to get some I the best star gazing of my life. How was the night sky. Any light pollution?

  3. Dude! I only rode a camel once and for a very short time in Turkey, but I remember how awkward it was. I am glad you were able to keep your sense of adventure though it wasn't what you expected. It's a great story and I enjoyed the photos too.

  4. Camping in the middle of nowhere, deep in the heart of the desert, sounds very interesting! I always like being in a quiet place. So, I guess I'll like the idea of camping surrounded by dunes.

  5. Dude, I totally want to try riding a camel! =P

    I would think that using the desert as a toilet is perhaps, well… risky? To put it delicately, I don't relish the idea of discovering sand in certain areas.

  6. Yeah, as much as I love camels, they are not the most comfortable form of transportation. Thanks for the shout-out! I actually did a bit of camel drawing on my trek in Morocco. One of the guides was already an expert! I, too, would like to go further into the desert, away from the encampments and the group treks. Southern Libya is supposed to have incredible dunes that will hopefully become more accessible now.

  7. Sounds like it was beautiful! Just curious, how was the weather like at night? What kind of clothes are needed for a night(s) in the desert? Also, do you bring all your gear with you for a small overnight trip like this, or is it possible to leave your luggage with the hotel/hostel you were at? Maybe I'm being naive:)

  8. Looks like yall had a grand time… I agree with what you said at the end "As for me? I’d still love to venture further into the desert. And yes, on camels. Raw inner thighs and all. Not this time and maybe not in Morocco. But another time, another place." That's how I felt after it… it gave me a new love for deserts and now when I am in Egypt will make sure I go in deeper.

  9. Great photos! Morocco has been near the top of my list of Mist-See Destinations for years, and we're hoping 2012 may finally be the year. Thanks to your advice, I'll make sure to bring a steel-reinforced codpiece for camel-riding purposes!

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