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Authored by Heather Halpern

Morocco is one of those dreamy destinations that pull you in with vivid images of colorful souks, exotic culture and a diverse geography.

It has always been high on my list of places to visit, and once I was there it did not disappoint! From the fabulous shopping stalls in a maze of ancient medinas, to the strange sight of goats perched high in trees munching on argon seeds, this is a place which will captivate and amaze, and there is truly so much to see and do.

Though being an experienced traveler doesn’t guarantee a flawless experience every time. Even though we travel to the far corners of the earth alone and return home in one piece, this doesn’t mean we always walk away unscathed. I invite you to hold my hand and join me in a few of my Moroccan mishaps into the Sahara Desert!

Moroccan Mishaps in the Sahara Desert

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Destination: Merzouga – This is a ten hour drive from the magical, yet chaotic town of Fes. As we started on our drive, the heavens decided to open up and we were caught in a complete downpour.

We were driving in a standard minivan that definitely did not have off-roading capabilities. The vehicle handled most of the roads pretty well, but when it poured as hard as it was I definitely questioned its capabilities of getting us to the next stop in one piece. The roads were literally being washed away but our driver ‘white knuckled’ it and continued driving!

At one point we came across a bridge that was completely submerged by the river.  The river was moving quite fast and all the cars were stopped on either side…there was nowhere to go.  There was discussion as to whether we would go back to Fes, though you could tell that our driver was determined to get us through.

As we parked at a standstill for quite some time one van decided to plow through. We held our breath because it seriously looked like the van was going to be swept away. Alas, it made it across the bridge. Seeing this success, our driver inched forward…and as we crept toward our imminent death one of the Aussie’s in the back started screaming and pleading to stop.

Girl in Morocco

We closed our eyes and held our breath, and when we got to the other side still in one piece we all let out a roar of gratitude. A few hours later we almost became part of another near road accident. We drove through a heard of sheep and I could have sworn we were mere inches from hitting at least one of these fluffy animals. These poor sheep almost became kebabs right in front of my very eyes!

Almost a Sahara Statistic …

After all the stress and commotion of this very long drive we found ourselves in the middle of the desert. At around 6 pm we packed ourselves up and mounted our trusty camels. My camel seemed a bit clumsy right from the very beginning.

I am not sure if any of you have been on the back of camel, but it’s a long way down to the ground. Camels are tall. Very tall! My camel kept tripping so I knew that I had to hold on tight!

The Sahara Desert is a spitting image of your Windows screen saver – sweeping sand and absolutely gorgeous!! Though the massive dunes make the desert steep and difficult to cross. At one point my clumsy camel named Gunther almost made me a Sahara statistic.

I wasn’t prepared like the others who brought a trusty backpack. Instead I had to carry all my things in a tiny, yet cheaply made fabric purse. Carrying a 1L water bottle in this bag, I decided to tie it around the handles of my saddle.  As I was marveling at the fact that I was riding a camel in the middle of the desert I was quickly jolted back to reality when the purse strap broke, which caused the water bottle to fall to the ground… and at that point caused poor Gunther to trip over it!

In an instant the next thing I knew I was being thrown over the camel’s shoulder.  I envisioned myself getting trampled by Gunther and I sure wasn’t up for a Moroccan hospital stay so I held on for dear life by wrapping my arms and legs around his neck. Here I was hanging upside down like a puppet from this poor camel! I guess all that gymnastics training as a kid did serve some purpose!!

This One Time … at Bedouin Camp

We made our way to the heart of the desert where a Bedouin camp awaited us. We were treated to traditional music and delicious food, and when our eyes couldn’t watch the stars twinkle any longer we settled down in a tent for the night.

When we closed our eyes, it seemed like we would have a sound slumber, but as you know things don’t always go according to plan. The wind picked up throughout the night which eventually led to rain, and then an extreme downpour.

Morocco Desertman

The Sahara rarely sees rain. How lucky we felt to experience this rarity! The tents we were sleeping in were built to withstand the wind, however apparently rain is not something it can fight. As I slept, one drip turned into two, which then became a constant pour, and before long it was raining inside and my bedding was completely drenched!

After moving to a relatively dry part of the tent I finally fell fast asleep only to dream about what other Moroccan adventures lay ahead.

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A Canada native, Heather caught the ‘travel bug’ many years ago, and hasn’t been able to quench the thirst for seeing more of the world. Even though she lives a pretty regular life with a full time job, she tries to take at least one overseas adventure a year.

This means she skimps, saves and tries to live the happiest life possible throughout the year so that she can experience her one true love…travel!  Her hope is that through her blog she can help bring a little piece of the world to readers through her art, adventures and blunders!

Follow Heather at TheUrbanGypsy.org, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photo credits: Woman in Morocco by Erik G. Trigos. Sunset Camel by Ferran Cerdans Serra. Berber Concert by Dimitry B.

    25 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for having me as a guest! :)

    • Thankyou for a brilliant set of stories!

    • Thanks Meg, that means a lot to see your reply!

  2. No matter the mishaps I would still love to visit Morocco. I ma not sure about the camel though, as you said they are too tall!

    • Morocco is simply fantastic! The topography constantly changes from desert, to mountains, to lush green valleys…please make sure to go Chrysoula!

  3. The image of you falling off the camel, heather, and clinging to its neck is priceless! I could totally picture it. So great to share this side of travel. Instagram and Facebook make everything look so perfect, but it’s the little moments with minor mishaps that people worry about but actually make a trip unforgettable. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • You are so right Jackie…the mishaps are what truly make travel unforgettable. I wouldn’t want it any other way that is for sure! Have you had some funny mishaps? Check out my blog for more of my blunders – I seem to always walk straight into them. :) http://www.theurbangypsy.org

  4. Thrown from a camel?! The drama! Yipes! Glad you’re okay. I’ve been wanting to go to Morocco for FOREVER, and ALMOST made it there in 2010 when I was in southern Spain, but couldn’t continue on the journey because my passport expired! Next time…

    • Hey Lillie! I really hope that you will be able to make it to Morroco one day. There is so much to see and the land changes so drastically wherever you go. Where will your next trip be?

  5. This is good timing for my Morocco holiday next month. I love to experience teh camel ride and camping at the dessert too.

    • Hey Anneklien! I am excited for you and your upcoming trip to Morocco. It is an amazing country with so much to see. Camping in the desert was amazing and the little desert towns you leave from are like right out of a movie set. Have an amazing time!

  6. Oh Heather, what an experience. one I am sure you weren’t expecting. I would have never envisaged rain in the desert, though it does happen. Well done on the camel gymnastics too!

    • Thanks Sara! For someone who used to have a lot of coordination, I do tend to find myself in bizarre situations. :) It all makes for an even more memorable experience! Thanks for the comment!

  7. Great story Heather!
    I was in Merzouga two years ago and as yours, my trip was far for being perfectly organized… But the memories I have from the desert, the sunset, and the sunrise make up for all the troubles and the fleas I got from the camels. Yes, it’s true, I got fleas from the camels… Nothing can be worst than that…
    Cheers and happy travels!
    Nat

    • Hey Natalie! You got fleas from the camels? Oh my gaaaaawwwwdddd! Now that is a story and a half! Love it!

  8. We went to the sahara with a tour company and had actually had quite a rough experience. If I were to go back I would try and do it on my own or hire a local guide. Loved reading your story though too!

  9. Hey Natasha, that is too bad. I am not sure if you have ever tried G Adventures, but they are a really great small tour company. Thanks for reading my story.

  10. Things don’t always go as planned, but now you have awesome stories to tell! And good job not falling off of the camel!

    • The mishaps sure make for better stories isn’t that right Vicky and Buddy! :)

  11. Oh my goodness what stories you have of Morocco! You’re absolutely right that know matter how experienced a traveler you are sometimes things just go wrong. I’m still keeping Morocco high on my must-visit list!

    • Hey Sue…please do visit Morocco! The topography changes so drastically and it is so beautiful. Definitely a must-do!

  12. Of course no one is safe from troubles and mishaps when travelling even the most experienced travelers, but with time and experience we learn how to deal with them and not panic, get mad or worry when things don’t go smoothly. I really want to go to Morroco but there are some things that worry me about safety so I will plan ahead. This was really interesting to read in order to know what to expect. thanks for sharing.

    • Hi there Sia! You are totally right in that with experience you learn how to deal with the troubles a little bit better. Or many that comes with age. What are your worries about Morocco? Have you ever thought about doing a small group tour like G Adventures?

  13. Nice Blog post! Morocco is the one of the most popular travel spots in north Africa.I visited last month with my friends and did the desert tours through the help a good tour operator named Anaam Tours
    , it was a great experience, especially with the Camel trekking in Morocco, with helpful and made it enjoyable.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Kiaan, and had a wonderful time in Morocco yourself! Sounds like you had less mishaps than Heather, glad to hear you had a fab trip :)

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