Dear friends,

After our stay in Fes, we had a long drive southward through cedar forests, home to barbary apes, and up into the Atlas Mountains.  We followed the Ziz River for some of the way and then stayed overnight in Erfoud. The following day we changed transport and took four-wheel drives into the desert for a two night stay in our private camp.

Barbary apes in the cedar forests. The Barbary macaque, also known as Barbary ape, is a macaque species native
to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, along with a small introduced population in Gibraltar.

Curious eyes of these apes as yet another tourist group visits them

This ape has a vantage point from the trees

Just like us, young and old like to hang out in pairs

Mother and baby

Then it was back on the road to continue our journey south, with just a couple of stops for lunch and snacks and to stretch the legs, and for toilet breaks carefully orchestrated so we were never in need!

Driving southward through some barren countryside

But there were plenty of flocks of sheep foraging for feed accompanied by their shepherds

A berber encampment set against the mountains behind

Dramatic landscape as we move closer to the High Atlas Mountains

Gold and grey looking across tussock flatlands towards the rocky mountains

A streak of sunlight focusses attention on a green oasis near to the Ziz River

Remarkable up-lifted rock formations at the base of the mountains above the valley of the Ziz River

The muddy Ziz River winds it way around a rocky outcrop 

The road we took along the river gave us plenty of great views up the valley

Wherever there is a river, there can be irrigation and crops flourish

The remains of a kasbah close to an oasis with mighty mountains beyond

A striking contrast between the rocky terrain and bleak mountains and the line of green vegetation along the river banks

The mud brick houses in the town of Lkheng blending into the landscape

A warm welcome to our lodging for the night – Kasbah Xaluca – in the town of Erfoud

And while we waited for our room keys we were offered a cup of refreshing Moroccan tea

The red carpet awaits as we cross the courtyard with the swimming pool on the way to our rooms

My room was both colorful and comfortable

Next morning we traded our trusty bus for 5 Four-wheel drive vehicles and headed into the Sahara desert, firstly across gravel plains and then into more sandy dunes with tussock and just a few low trees.  And there the camels awaited us, for a continuation of the journey into the desert

Driving in convoy across the gravel plains 

First sighting of camels foraging for food in the dunes …

… and most just wandering along, following their owners

We passed a berber tent, home for a family of seemingly the middle of no-where

Our handsome blue-robed Tuareg men waited for us …

… together with their camels, ready to be ridden 

And we made ourselves ready too, well covered and with our water bottles for the hour-plus ride to the camp

Hamming it up for the cameras

Ready to go, roped up and each group led by one of the camel drivers

My view from the second camel in our line. It wasn’t entirely comfortable, but easier than I thought 

Off into the distant sand-dunes

The red carpets awaited, again.  This time laid throughout our luxury camp, a welcome sight after the camel ride

Off went the camels until we needed them again for the sunset ride

After a delicious lunch and an afternoon siesta at the camp, the camels returned to take us into the dunes to see the sunset

They have such a haughty look, don’t they?

I decided not to ride a camel for the evening into the dunes, but rather to walk alongside so I could be free to take photos, but I have to admit maybe also because my derriere was a little sore after the morning trek. It was quite hard going in the sand but I managed pretty much to keep up with the pace of the camels and click away to my heart’s content. So below are plenty of camel pix which I hope you will enjoy. There could have been a lot more but thought better to be a little restrained!

Off they all go into the dunes

The wind-blown patterns in the sand were very beautiful too

A lovely play of light and shadows in the dunes

A little stand of trees throw their shadows although don’t provide much shade

The lengthening shadows as the light fades

There always has to be an impression of the camels without the camels, so here it is

Dismounting and ready to walk up some of the highest dunes to get the best views of the setting sun

Relaxing while their riders climb the dunes

One of our handsome camel drivers allowed me to do a portrait of him 

Looking down from the dunes to our camels with the desert stretching away into the distance

Another from a higher climb – needed a pause to catch my breath – and loving the line of camel shadows

The evening colours across the desert and a huge rocky outcrop

Looking into the sunset, such a clear line between the sand and the sunset glow

Some of our group were already ‘on top of the world’

A couple from another group had also climbed a neighbouring dune to see the view

One of our camel drivers just calmly waiting for us to descend from the dunes.
This probably should be captioned ‘the sands of time’

I spotted a black desert beetle scurrying up the dune and wondered what on earth it ate

Some needed a little encouragement to slide down the dunes and so one of our drivers obliged by pulling us down

And then coming back up to help me …

… grabbing me by the legs and running backwards – what fun!

Always the clown – our driver celebrating the moonrise

Back at the camp, the lamps were lit, and the tables ready for our evening meal to be served 

Our wonderful guide and leader, Mohamed relaxing in camp

My solitary home for two nights – what luxury

Inside my tent – note the hat-stand

The ensuite bathroom, with flush chemical toilet hidden to the right

The others in our group were in tents all groups around a well little courtyard 

Lighting the way in the darkness of the desert

I will continue the story of our stay in the visit in my next story, but as you can probably tell, this was perhaps my favorite part of the whole trip.  I have loved the deserts in Namibia and Oman, and now the Moroccan Sahara – magic.

Please send me some comments of questions if you want, and I will respond by email

Until my next journal entry, look after yourselves

All the best,