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“Serene beauty of the desert on our lovely overnight experience” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Ali & Sara's Desert Palace

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Ali & Sara's Desert Palace
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Erg Chebbi Dunes | Nr Merzouga Village, Erg Chebbi 52202, Morocco   |  
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Top Contributor
94 reviews 94 reviews
41 hotel reviews
Reviews in 43 cities Reviews in 43 cities
79 helpful votes 79 helpful votes
“Serene beauty of the desert on our lovely overnight experience”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 19, 2013

We spent one night at the Desert Palace and we agree with all of the great feedback here... Ali and Sarah’s Desert Palace is a fantastic experience.
When we were planning our vacation, a night in the desert was high on the “to-do” list, but the distances and time requirements kept us vacillating. We had three main concerns –the time commitment, we didn’t know if we “needed” a camel ride, and we didn’t want a “party-group” experience in a camp. Our desire was to experience the calm nature and reality of the desert. I was reassured by the many e-mail exchanges that I had with Sarah, and when we finally committed to the trip we received a very detailed information package with all the details we needed. The only detraction at all was the fact that Sarah herself would not be able to be at the camp on the days that we would visit. She mentioned this in advance with apologies, but we knew we would be in good hads with Ali and his guides. …In the end we need not have been apprehensive… Ali+Sarah’s was exactly what we wanted, and it surpassed our highest expectations!
So… First, Yes, it is a long way from Marrakech,… We took 4 days to do the trip with much driving and the middle night in the desert… but the countryside on the drive is varied, interesting, and very beautiful in so many ways. As we got closer to Merzouga, with glimpses of the high golden dunes in the distance we knew the drive was already worth the time.
The desert is a very special place. The contrast between the harsh sun, and the cold nights combined with the ever changing shadows, colours, and shifting dunes means that the experience will be different and personal for everyone.
When we arrived at the meeting point in Merzouga we were early and had to wait for the heat to lift and the sun to drop in the sky. The Auberge meeting point was cool, comfortable, hospitable, and had free wifi – so we caught up on contacts while waiting.
Once the sun was low enough we met the camels dromedaries, got our heads wrapped with a headscarf (cooler – really!) and then we mounted up and started walking. The riding was actually much more enjoyable than we would have thought, and the dromedaries are funny, but nice and each has its own district character. At our request we avoided the other camp tours so that our trip was quiet, peaceful, and personal.
After an hour of riding we stopped to watch the sun-set. It was beautiful, colourful and doubly special as the full moon was rising in the opposite sky at the same time.
From there we chose to walk the last 20min, bare feet in the sand to the Desert Palace.
The camp itself is clean, exceptionally comfortable, and everything said previously in other reviews holds. Sturdy individual tents, good beds, excellent WCs, and a very comfortable and nicely decorated dining tent. There is electricity from a generator both for inside power (lights – camera chargers), but also some outdoor general lighting.
Because we arrived late (again mid-summer sun), dinner also happened very late, but this gave us time to climb the surrounding dunes and watch the bright desert in the light of the full moon. Dinner was plentiful multi-course and featured a very fine tagine (vegetarian at our request) with a full selection of drinks, and lovely cut fruit for desert – perfect for the desert.
After dinner the guides offered us a spectacle of music and drumming, but we and the other guest couple declined, as we were tired and they went to bed. This decision was perfect as we could hear distant drumming and singing from the other camps drifting over the dunes.
The following morning, early, we were woken by clapping outside our tent – Ali letting us know that the sun was about to rise. The wind had picked up overnight, sand was blowing and the peaks of the dunes were slowly shifting. We watched a much less impressive sun-rise, and then went to visit the dromedaries before breakfast.
One of the main differences between A+S’s and other tours is that breakfast is also served in the desert at camps, (most others go back to Merzouga for B’fast at a hotel), so one may spend additional time in the morning there as well. We chose to have a late breakfast, and while the other guests rode back to the Auberge in the 4x4, we rode back with the dromedaries.
Breakfast was excellent! A delicious egg tagine dish was the highlight (best breakfast of the whole trip! – thanks Mustafa!)… along with fruit, bread, yoghurt, and traditional Moroccan sides. Afterwards we packed up and rode back for 80min to the Auberge – where there are full facilities for a shower before departure.
The overnight experience in the desert was clearly the highlight of our trip, and Sarah and Ali’s was the perfect choice for our needs. It would have been nice for both my wife and I, to have met Sarah while there, but other than this the stay was exceptional, and highly memorable. Sarah and Ali clearly have a very special approach to their desert tours. The camp is purposely small, the experience is natural and personal, …and we truly appreciated this.
There are many desert excursions offered from Merzouga, …however if you are looking for a very comfortable, personal, calm, and even romantic experience, just tinged with a bit of adventure - I can highly recommend Ali and Sarah’s Desert Palace.

Room Tip: There are 4 very solid and comfortable tents... these are not simple camping tents - but rather a no...
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, November 12, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review your stay with us.

We try our hardest to provide a unique, quality experience for each of our guests and we’re very happy indeed that you enjoyed yourselves so much. Our intention has always been to remain small, natural and personal, and the fact that you liked this is important to us.

Ali and I very much appreciate the further helpful feedback that you provided, we’ve gone some considerable way to making the improvements you suggested to make it an even better experience for our guests.

Thanks for sharing such lovely photographs.

Regards, Sara
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42 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
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English first
Leeds, United Kingdom
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 27, 2013

We could not have wished for a more incredible experience. The desert palace is just that, but perhaps what makes it so special is Ali and Sara and their wonderful staff. We were lucky enough to be the only two people staying for the night and Sara made the experience so special for us. The tents felt like a royal palace, the food was devine and I was even treated to a cold beer as we watched the sun set... The Desert Palace is a true labour of passion for Ali and Sara and anyone who has the pleasure of staying will never forget it. Thank you so much!

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, June 6, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review your experience of staying with us.

When you spend time in the desert it should be a sublime experience, so It’s just perfect for us that you had such a special time.

I’ll pass on your thanks to our hard-working and wonderful team, they're an essential part of what makes the desert palace unique.

Regards, Sara
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San Francisco
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 14, 2013

After seeing the English Patient many years ago and countless times since, a stay at a desert camp in the dunes of the Sahara has been at the top of my Travel To-Do list.

When you have conjured up and built up such lofty expectations for an experience, many times the experience will fall short. Sara & Ali's Camp totally hit the spot and I couldn't imagine another option coming close.

Like anything with my Morocco trip, I spent hundreds of hours on the TA forums looking for the best place.

My criteria was:

1. Camp wasn't located right outside of the town
2. Could accommodate solo female travelers.
3. Affordable
4. Flexibility with schedule (i.e. not having to depart right after sunrise)
5. Safety (having private tent)

Sara was very helpful in answering and addressing any comments and concerns that I had about the experience (namely about doing it alone as a woman) and I really looked forward to the experience and to meeting Sara & Ali.

I spent a total of 3 nights at the camp in late April. It was supposed to be 2, but I enjoyed my experience so much that I requested to stay another night. With that being said, I CANNOT imagine coming all this way only to spend an overnight as many people do. If you're going to do something like this, you really owe it to yourself to match it with a time investment.

What I got from Sara and Ali was a real behind the scenes look at Merzouga and a lot of exposure to the locals and the day to day living in the area. Not to mention that Ali is the real deal when it comes to being a nomad, and it was fascinating to learn about his life and his background.

Location- The camp itself is at least 7 km from the village so I was satisfied that I couldn't see the trace of a town or village and I got the isolation that I was seeking. Rode a camel a few times, but it was so fun driving the camp LandRover over the dunes.

Decor & general- was above and beyond anything that I expected. The camp was decorated more than some of the riads that I've stayed in. Very nice clean bed linens and plenty of blanket options for the chilly nights. Electricity (from a generator) and plenty of hot water for a shower were nice surprises. Overall, it was very posh and far from "roughing it."

Food- excellent and way too much. Everything was freshly prepared by Ali & crew, very tasty and much more than I needed. I had the pleasure of accompanying them to the markets on a few occasions, which was very cool!

Hospitality- Ali & Sara raise the bar. Riads and camps like this really are a labor of love and I cannot imagine the amount of hard work that goes into making it successful; it's definitely a dawn to dusk initiative. It's very clear that Ali & Sara's Desert Palace was built on a lot of love!

The entire 3 days/nights was really an out of this world, right out of the pages of National Geographic type of experience, and I feel very lucky to have experienced it. I really hope that I can return again for a longer stay.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, June 3, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review your experience of staying with us.

I’m happy that we ticked all your boxes and especially happy that as a solo woman traveller you felt comfortable and relaxed.

We’re constantly learning and making improvements and I very much appreciate the feedback you provided during your stay.

Regards, Sara
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UK
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
13 hotel reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 13, 2013

I think we really got lucky thanks to trip advisor! I was looking for the best place to spend a night on a trip in the desert and chanced upon Ali and Sara's Desert palace! Had an amazing time and dont think any other Riad or hotel we stayed in Morocco comes close. Sara not only gave me invaluable advice on Morocco and the surrounding areas but also helped plan the whole trip. The camp was unlike what we have experienced in places such as Jordan given the personal touch added by Sara and Ali. Right from the comfort of the camp with its clean toilets and showers to the fine dining experience with the excellent dinner and breakfast, not to mention the berber pizza we had in Rissani on our tour through Merzouga and its surrounding areas. Shame we didnt spend 2 nights there as Sara had suggested but only one, with the first night being spent in one of the Auberge's in Merzouga, again organised by Sara. The ride on the dunes in a 4x4 to view the sunset was the most outstanding experience ever. Ali is a very skillful driver and unlike other tours which insist upon taking you into the desert on camels without providing a choice, Ali and Sara also provide this option. They also provide a complete tour service to the surrounding areas of Todra, Dades, Skoura, Ourzazate etc and in our case they collected us from Fes and after a tour of 4 days dropped us at our Riad in Marrakech. Full marks on all fronts to them

Room Tip: Best place to spend your time in the desert and experience solitude and calm!
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, June 2, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review your experience of staying with us.

We’re over the moon to know that you had such a good time and also that you enjoyed Ali’s dune driving which really is quite an adventure in itself. It’s heartening to hear that you felt you received service with a personal touch, it really is our aim for our guests to thoroughly enjoy their experience.

Regards, Sara
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New York
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 18, 2013

Look no further. The experience you will have at Ali and Sarah's Desert Palace will not compare to the many other camps in Erg Chebbi. I did a LOT of research on the desert camps, and found that many of them are crowded, with one bathroom for 20 people, etc. Several are owned by Riads in Merzouga and cater to the hoards of tourists passing through.

This camp is different. There is a lot of heart and soul in this camp, and it's evident from the moment you step foot inside. The dining/common area tent is beautifully decorated and the sleeping tents are extremely comfortable and cozy. Real beds, blankets, etc. Not roughing it at all! The bathrooms and showers are wonderful! Ali is a master chef, and we had one of the best lamb tagine's during our two week stay at the camp.

The staff are wonderful, and at night they build a giant bonfire and sing and play music for guests. It's truly a memorable and wonderful experience. All the hard work in researching desert camps really paid off and we were very fortunate to have found this place. Both, Sara (who we didn't get to meet, but emailed with), and Ali, are a wealth of information about Morocco and are wonderful hosts.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, April 29, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review your experience of staying with us.

Yes, we’re completely passionate about our Desert Palace and extremely pleased that you enjoyed yourselves so much.

Ali really appreciates your compliment regarding his cooking, his mother will also be happy to hear this as she taught him to cook when he was about 14.

And you’re absolutely right - our staff are wonderful, Ali and I are very fortunate to have such good people working with us.

Regards, Sara
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singapore
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 13, 2013

I have wanted to visit Morocco especially the Sahara Desert since 2007. Unfortunately I have read many negative reviews like ‘one camp is shared by 6 people, no mattress (got to sleep on the floor), no bathroom facilities, etc, etc’. I do understand that I will need to get out of my comfort zone and rough it out but personally I know I will not enjoy this type of holiday.
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In mid 2012 (after making a time share exchange for a one week stay in Marrakech in spring 2013) I again researched on accommodations in Erg Chebbi and Merzouga. Through the forum and personal messages from tripadvisor, I found Ali & Sara’s Desert Palace.

All emails to them were promptly answered by Sara. Sara assured me that they have beds, clean mattresses and freshly laundered bed linen in their traditional nomad style tents. Bathroom facilities are clean and spacious, shower has both cold and hot water. I immediately send her an email confirming my booking for a 2 nights stay.

We arrived at the camp around dusk after a long day of sightseeing and approx a 1 ½ hour of camel ride. I loved the camel ride but my husband found it uncomfortable. Upon arrival at the camp we saw candles and fire torches, all very welcoming. We were the only people at the camp, so it was a very private and romantic experience. After dinner, the campfire was lit and the staff sang traditional Berber songs with their drums. What an end to a great day!

Early the next morning, our breakfast was served on a table on a sand dune; so romantic! After breakfast we visited a berber family living in the dunes, the local village of Khamlia to hear the villagers play Gnaoua music, the village of Rissani’s bustling souk market and dune climbing. In the late afternoon, we went sand dune bashing and watching the sunset with Ali on his Land Rover. After dinner, we spent time with Ali and Sara, chatting on desert stories, the way of life of the Berbers, etc. We had a great day and a truly unique cultural experience.

The next morning, just before we need to say good-bye, at Sara’s suggestion, Ali drove us together with Sara for more sand dune bashing and climbing. Ali & Sara, thank you for this thoughtful suggestion; it is a fantastic ending to our desert experience.

In summary, this biovac didn’t disappoint, it is exactly what Sara has described. We were very comfortable during our 2 nights at the camp; comfortable beds, good bathroom facilities, good food, friendly and accommodating staff. The visit to the villages provided us with a unique cultural experience. The camel rides, the sand dune bashing and climbing made our stay fantastic in the desert.

This biovac is suitable for everyone, especially for honeymooners.

Experiencing time in the desert is a truly unique experience. It is like nothing else on earth and should be on everyone's holiday list.

Room Tip: This biovac has 4 tents. Our tent has 1 double bed and 1 single bed.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, April 29, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review your experience of staying with us.

Our aim is to share the hospitality and culture of the Amazigh people in this beautiful and natural environment and we’re over the moon that you enjoyed yourselves so much. Your kind words mean a lot to us.

Regards, Sara
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Lima, Peru
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 8, 2013

My girlfriend and I stayed at this camp November 13th, 2012. We were the only people at the camp, so the focus was solely on us. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and would return in a heartbeat.

We arrived late at the hotel in Erb Chebbi, so it was after dark by the time we reached the camp itself. We took the hour-long camel ride to the camp. Myself, I did not mind it. It was not as jerky as I expected. However, hang on when you head down the dunes. We got off the camels just outside of the camp itself and walked in from there.

Our luggage was brought to the camp by jeep, so it was already in our tent. The camp, if I can describe it right, consists of a kitchen tent, a dining tent, a U-shaped series of 4 sleeping tents, and a long tent with the bathrooms and for storage. Everything is in a little valley between the dunes, so you do not see city lights (not that Erg Chebbi is all that big anyway). This camp seems to be away from any of the other camps. We really seemed to be alone.

Upon arrival, we sat down and had a great meal. I think it was a Moroccan chicken dish. Anyway, perfect. Nothing to complain about at all. After eating, we went outside and sat around the campfire that had been made by Ali and some of the workers. We then spend some quality time under the stars, listening to them play the bongo drums and sing. We even took a stab at it. It was then off to bed.

Our tent had a queen-sized bed and a twin bed, if I remember that right. If I would change anything, I would make the bed a little more comfortable. It was mid-November and it was nice to have the blankets. The night passed nicely.

Early the next morning, we got up and climbed a nearby dune, to watch the sunrise. After some photos, we then came back to the camp for breakfast. Breakfast was outside, on a table near the fire pit. Again, nothing to complain about. Plenty of hot, good food.

After breakfast, it was time to pack up and head back to the hotel. Given the other reviews, I had arranged for the jeep ride back. It was definitely an exciting ride. Ali was as crazy as my brother-in-law, when it comes to pushing the limits. And we stopped along the way, to get some photos on the top of the dunes. Then, in a few minutes, we were back at the hotel, where we were met by our driver.

No, this is not a 5-star hotel. But, I think it is a great little slice of Morocco. Well worth the visit, if you are anywhere in that part of the World.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sarabreeze, Owner at Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, responded to this review, March 24, 2013
Many thanks for taking the time to review your experience of staying with us.

Ali and I are very happy that you enjoyed the time you spent at our camp, we really appreciate your kind words and recommendations. Should you return to Morocco you know where we are!

Regards, Sara
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Additional Information about Ali & Sara's Desert Palace

Address: Erg Chebbi Dunes | Nr Merzouga Village, Erg Chebbi 52202, Morocco
Phone Number:
Location: Morocco > Meknes-Tafilalet Region > Erg Chebbi
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Erg Chebbi
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
We created Ali & Sara's Desert Palace with the aim that our guests could experience the beautiful and natural setting of the desert, staying in clean & comfortable surroundings where the focus is relaxation and enjoyment, together with some safe adventure. Nestled well within the dunes, we're about an hour or so from Merzouga village by camel and 20-30 mins by 4x4. If preferred we can collect clients from around Morocco or if travelling independently we can greet you on your arrival in Merzouga village for you to enjoy light refreshments before setting off by the desert ship, the camel to your home for the night. Our aim is to remain as environmentally friendly as possible and lighting is by a combination of candle and solar power. We pump water from our own water well and guests can take hot water showers, with laundered towels and toiletries provided in a large dedicated bathroom which also houses a separate flush toilet. Dining is in under the stars or in our separate well furnished restaurant and food is freshly prepared to suit personal preference, served at a time to suit. We wake our guests to see sunrise although it's not obligatory and breakfast is served at a time to suit, there's no early morning rush or hurry on our part for our guests to depart. Our aim is for guests to have an exceptional and complete desert experience, we take great care of our clients and we pride ourselves on our service, always on hand, but unobtrusive. ... more   less 

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