While in Morocco in November, we were keen to venture outside Marrakesh, but we didn’t want to travel too far as it was supposed to be a rare trip solely dedicated to relaxation.
It being our first time in Africa, we decided to visit a desert of sorts, but soon realised the Sahara would have involved an ambitious 8 hour trip each way, and so opted to visit the moonlike expanse of the Agafay desert in the Mid-Atlas Mountains instead.
The scale of the rocky, lunar landscape is truly awe-inspiring, and the unique position of our camp afforded breathtaking views of the Atlas Mountains, which hung over the horizon in a haze.
We arrived shortly before sunset, and were greeted with mint tea and Moroccan pastries at the bar, before we enjoyed a walking tour of our desert camp.
The resident gardener – who utterly humbled me with his sheer kindness and passion for hard work – explained to us with beaming pride how he had nurtured an organic farm in the tough terrain over the past year and a half.
The results of his work were astonishing – despite the unforgiving environment and having only recently finished his horticultural studies, in a year and a half he’d managed to raise vegetables including courgettes, cabbage, peas, potatoes, herbs including rosemary and thyme, as well as fruit and nut trees like fig, olive and pomegranate.
The variety of shades in the sky and over the mountains as the sun set was simply stunning. The sky developed through a number of shades of pastel colours, before eventually settling on a soft mid blue, which the stars twinkled down from.
Glamping in the Agafay Desert
For the duration of sunset, we simply drank in the stunning view and enjoyed the quiet.
As night fell, we settled down on soft, handcrafted cushions in the main tent for a beautiful meal of traditional Moroccan dishes, including beef and prune tagine with couscous, and fresh, organic fruit. Soft music drifted out into the camp from the main tent, and fire a lamps lit the way to the sleeping area.
After dinner, we were delighted to discover our first Moroccan glimpse of the Milky Way overhead. We stayed up chatting and star-gazing, identifying constellations with the help of our iPhone app.
When morning came, unfortunately, we had to get an earlier transfer than planned – and said our goodbyes with heavy hearts.
I’m not going to lie, I left with a lump in my throat – something that has only happened to me twice before (once ending our South East Asian adventure, and once when we left Iceland).
I’m not entirely sure what it was about that space-like oasis that touched me so much – whether it was simply how humbling the landscape was, or whether I was deep down desperately craving the stillness, quiet and slow pace it afforded – but the Agafay Desert left a big impression.
Cactus camp is one incredible glamping spot. Despite my usual aversion to camping, it truly stole my heart.
The tents were stunning and by no means unimpressive. Each has its own electricity supply which, although conserved for mainly evening use, was a huge relief for the reluctant camper in me.
They also have beautiful marble-look bathroom with a shower, sink and western toilet, complete with orange blossom-scented Naturom cosmetics.
Rather than camp beds, each tent contains a sumptuously comfortable king size bed covered in a Moroccan wedding blanket and the sofest, warmest bed linen I’ve ever slept on in a tent, as well as a chaise longue and a pop-up wardrobe.
Just a 25 km outside Marrakesh, it is a dramatic contrast to the congestion and freneticism of Morocco’s capital city.