Long before the Arabs arrived, North Africa was home to the Berbers, a nomadic and farming culture that dates back more than 4,000 years. Most Berbers live in Moroccan Berber camps, but you can also find them scattered throughout Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
Although the Berbers integrated into modern life long ago, their traditional homesteads remain nestled around the rolling Sahara sand dunes. And unlike some tribes, they welcome guests.
Crossing the golden Sahara by camel and sleeping in a communal Moroccan Berber camp is a rare and unforgettable experience. Prospective travelers expect sand and sun at a Berber camp; they may not expect the following:
1. These aren’t your everyday tents. Today’s Berber camps feature modern amenities such as air-conditioning, mattresses and flush toilets. The encampment chosen for our Morocco Cultural Walking Adventure features spacious tents decorated with hand-made fabrics and kilims (tapestries). Tents encircle a common area that’s often covered in thick carpet. Lanterns serve as a beacon in the cool, dark night.
2. You will eat well. The Berbers do wonders with a campfire. As you approach the desert encampment, the smell of simmering, cumin-scented stew drifts through the air. Your host greets you with a steaming cup of Moroccan mint tea. A typical dinner includes bread, Moroccan salad, goat tagine (stew) and fruit. Breakfast may be more tagine, bread or pastries and tea.
3. You will be entertained. Music, drumming and songs are integral to Berber culture. Most Moroccan music incorporates large drums, lutes and sometimes flutes and tambourines. In a Berber camp, you may hear either village music, which is made for dancing, or music from professional musicians. The pros, which often perform in groups of four, belt out traditional tunes for dancing, singing and drumming along. In Morocco, you just go with flow, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised throughout your stay.
4. You will never see stars like this again. You’ve never seen the night sky the way you’ll see it in the middle of the Sahara. Imagine lying on a blanket and gazing up into a black sky lit by millions of bright, twinkling stars. You feel the cool, night breeze and hear — wondrously — nothing. Wake up to an expansive, fiery sunrise over the Sahara dunes.
5. It’s a great place for kids. What teen wouldn’t love riding a camel over mountain-high sand dunes? Discovering that an oasis is a real thing — lush and verdant, too? And winding down the night dancing fireside to drumming? None that we know of!