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.
- 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