Must do’s in Marrakesh – Camel Riding

The city of Marrakesh is a jewel to explore, but with its close vicinity to the Saharan desert, its hard to pass on an opportuinity to take a camel riding tour. So we didn’t.

Morocco is a vast country and as a result the choices on which tour to take were a little daunting. The key factor is time. We had three days in the city. The most spectacular tour involves a three-day safari tour to Merzouga, with camel riding to watch the sunrise and sunset, and a night camping in the Sahara. That was out of the question. The full day tour to the Ouzoud Waterwall was rich in beauty and had wild monkeys. But no camels. The best option looked like the day trip to Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou, which incorporated a camel ride through the Saharan outpost of Ait Ben Haddou, recently famed for its part in Game of Thrones. However the fourteen hour tour over the Atlas Mountains would have dominated our long weekend. Choices choices.

With our limited time our research took us to a morning camel riding tour on the edge of the city. It seemed the perfect solution for our dual-needs, firstly it would only take up a half day, and our second, the need to ride a camel so bad. Did we regret our decision to take the reduced tour? Hell did we. It’s the ideal pick for anyone visiting the red city for a short break and an insatiable thirst to channel their inner Lawrence or Lorna of Arabia.

We booked our tour through Get Your Guide, and the service was provided by Dunes and Desert. Our tour consisted of roughly two hours riding the camel, with a break in the middle for tea at a village. Reviews were strong and reviewers praised how the camels were treated. You can check out the tour at this link, Palm Grove 2 Hour Camel Riding Tour. The tour cost €30 per person and I think was well worth it. For those who need to channel their more adventurous side you have the option of turning up the excitement on the tour and splitting the time between camel riding and quad biking.

Pick up and getting there

Communication was excellent, with emails sent confirming the tour and pick up times. This was further confirmed by a phone call. As our pick up was at 9am the bus was unable to enter the Medina and collection was arranged outside Restaurant Diaffa, about two minutes walk from our Riad. The mini bus was prompt and the ride to the location outside the city took around thirty minutes. We were joined onboard by two Londoners, and six French nationals. The drive through Marrakesh was exactly as I had come to expect, chaotic and busy yet without incident. As we left the city confines behind the roads turned rough. In the distance the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains shimmered on the horizon. Nearer our destination of Palmeraie the road turned to dirt track. Palmeraie is a desert like landscape with palm groves. It’s a sparse area dotted by a few farms and small villages.

When we arrived at the complex we were met by the guides and the camel walkers. We were paired off based on the language of our tour, so we officially met Danny and Lindsey from Kent. Our tour guide was to be Yassine, a really friendly local, who entertained us throughout our tour. He was disappointed to learn that Irish people don’t say “top o the morning to ya”. Hollywood has a lot to answer for. After some mint tea, we were taken inside for an opportunity to leave our belongings in lockers. Once here the guides wrapped our heads in a chech, which is a traditional head scarf. We would be grateful for it in the heat out on the desert.

With the formalities out-of-the-way it was time to meet our camels. We were relieved to see the camels were healthy looking, and if their moods were anything to go by; happy. The camels were desert dromadaries, and mine as it were was called Shema, with Beatas called Fakka. When we headed into the desert we would be tied together in a group of four, with Faka behind me. We certainly got along, I rubbed his head when I could, and unbeknown to me, he licked my back when he could. I’m guessing that’s camel for I like you. They spit when they don’t. Either was I ended up with camel saliva on me. I’ve always been an animal person so I was delighted to now number some camels amongst my friends.

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Our camels chilling
Palmeraie, Marrakesh
What a beauty!

How do we get on this animal?

Whilst the camel ride would prove to be amazing, and a highlight of our trip, one obstacle stood in our way. Getting on the camel. It’s not like a horse, the camel is happy to chill on the ground and wait for his passenger to climb on. Camels can carry up to 300kg so getting up with you on their back isn’t a problem; for them. There are no foot straps but they do have a multi coloured saddle, with a looped handle. Should you do a camel ride, this handle is your friend. It’s what keeps you from landing on your butt as the camel rises. Firstly the camel fully extends its rear legs so you’re convinced you are going to fall forward. Hold on tight. Then it bends its rear legs as it extends its front legs, so now you are falling backwards, before finally coming level by bringing up its back legs again. It really was a see-saw and was a nervy few seconds. It’s high up there, much higher than any horse I have ridden. Thankfully the camels were the definition of calm, and you are given time to acclimatize before taking off.

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Mrs C, in full on fright mode as the camel stands up, She may kill me for this photo.
Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Relieved and happy

The perfect experience

The ride into the desert follows marked trails for the most part. As soon as you are settled its merely a pleasure to sit, watch and enjoy the landscape. We noticed the camels’ feet, they rose in rhythm, and as they touched the ground again, they spread like soft cushions, gently absorbing the impact. It summed up the whole experience; it was a soothing, relaxing one. I had heard that riding a camel was uncomfortable, but that wasn’t our take, we only noticed our thighs a little stretched as we disembarked later.

We broke off into two groups with the four of us English speakers, our camel guide (sorry I don’t recall his name) and Yassine together, and the six French nationals with their guides. It was hot out there, even at 10am. Bear in mind we took this tour in November, so the assumption is in summer temperatures would be over 40. Even in this barren terrain it was amazing to see a shepherd leading his flock from one place to the next in search of any grass that broke through the unfertile soil.

Camels at Palmeraie, Marrakesh

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
the stark area that we rode through
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Incredible to see farming in these areas
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Danny and Lindsey
Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Shadow people

Yassine was more than happy to take some shots of us as we rode the camels. Word of warning though, I nearly fell off the camel trying to get my camera back. I also realised post holiday that I was sitting on the camel like it was a Harley. Bad posture. I looked weird. Beata took to it well and looked the part. A natural.

Palmeraie, Marrakesh

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Miss Natural

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
My strange seating position

The ride took us through the first set of palms which provides some wonderful photo opportunities. Needless to say I took those. The tour company took the opportunity also bringing along a professional photographer to take shots here. When you return from the tour there is a chance to buy the photos in large prints. They are relatively expensive, charging 100 Dirhams for 2 ( €1=10 dirhams), 150 for 4 (which we bought) or 200 Dirhams for all the photos on a USB.

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Palmeraie, Marrakesh

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Shots at the palm grove

Finally we wound up a path to an enclosed village where we would stop. I never discovered the name of the village, and it doesn’t appear on google maps. I did learn that it was an Amazik area, and the people were Arab and not Berber. It gave us the chance to take a break from the heat, and the camels happily took a chance to chill too. Our belief that the camels were well-tended was confirmed, as one of the relaxing camels expelled a massive yawn, showing off all his enamel, the tour leader stuck his hat on the camel. I’m convinced the camel was smiling.

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
The walled village where we stopped
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The scenery to the Atlas mountains beyond

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The coolest Camel
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Desert Selfie

The Art of Mint Tea

We took a break at that village. They don’t have much to live off of, but whatever locals we met, they greeted us with a friendly smile and a carefree attitude. We seated under a canopy on arabic cushions around a table side. So was to begin our lesson on the art of making Moroccan mint tea. It was interesting to watch, the whole ritual involves everyone in the group, with all having an input, on when the tea was just right. Using huge amounts of both mint and sugar, and surprisingly green tea imported from Asia, the tea was poured, and repoured. It must be brewed in one of those magnificent Moroccan teapots. Eventually the foam on top is the determinant, once its good, the tea is ready. Mint tea with no foam is simply bad. I have to say for someone who isn’t a tea drinker, it really was good. It was all the better for the pancakes with almond and syrup that accompanied it. The tour also included a demonstration on how bread is made traditionally out in the desert villages.

Palmeraie, Marrakesh
The art of making tea

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Hanging with the guys

Yassine our tour guide had wandered off a few times during our trek, but we were soon to find out why. He had woven two camel rings from the branches of the palm trees, for Beata and Lindsey. It really was an immense bit of weaving and so impressive.

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hand-woven camel – very cool

The way back took us through a denser palm grove which was reminiscent of an oasis. From there our trek took us back through the barren landscape of the Palmeraie area to the compound. It perhaps wasn’t the most eventful of tours. But then again it didn’t need to be. Riding a camel across this terrain, building an affinity with the animals in your vicinity, and relaxing with some locals over a fresh pot of mint tea, was more than enough for us. In fact it was probably the one thing from Morocco that will live longest and fondest in our memories.

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Me and my buddy Faka
Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Just camel riding at an oasis
Palmeraie, Marrakesh
Making our way back home

If we left you a little inspired to take to the desert the next time you are in Morocco, then please like, pin, or share.

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37 thoughts on “Must do’s in Marrakesh – Camel Riding

  1. Love this! You are right, Beata looks like a natural on her camel! So happy to hear that the camels were treated right. Sounds like a great company to tour with. That camel looks so much happier when he is wearing a hat. That’s gotta be my favourite picture of the bunch! So, a three day camel excursion is what you would go for? (if you had more time, of course). I would feel nervous committing to so much camel time.

    1. I think it’s not three days on a camel. A lot is spent in jeeps and just chilling under stars. I think it’s a clear sky zone (how do you say that- no light pollution) so perfect place for star gazing too. 3 days on a camel would kill you. I think you need to be there for 2 weeks to make that commitment. Would love to do the other tour too, with the game of thrones place. That looks amazing. Next time.

      The camel with the hat is hilarious. I think it showed their relationship was great. They were amazing animals. So calm and friendly. I just wish I didn’t look like an idiot whilst riding.
      Cheers.
      John

      1. Oh, okay! That’s not so bad then! I really want to try one of these camel trips someday. Marrakesh sounds like such an incredible place. Just the name Marrakesh makes me so happy! I love how happy the camels were with the guides – they truly enjoy their life (both the camels and the guides, haha!)

        1. Sorry I missed your reply. I agree with you about Marrakesh. It has a ring to it. I’m trying to write more about the city now but my brain is letting me down.
          Couldn’t agree with you more about the camels and guides it made it all the more special.

    1. Thank you. Was a great little experience. Alas we had to give back the turbans. But then again not much use for them in Ireland.
      Thanks for reading. John

    1. Thank you we did. The camel riding was immense fun, with extraordinary scenery. We loved it. Thank you.
      John

  2. What a great experience! Good pics, too. I once rode a camel in Djibouti, but it was only around a ring. A three day tour would be quite an adventure, but your half day trip sounds nice, too. That unfolding they do to get up and down is a little unsettling.

    1. Thanks. It was a wonderful experience despite its brevity. I could certainly imagine myself on that three day tour. From what I read it’s otherworldly.
      I was sure I was going to end up on my back (or front) as I got onto the camel. I was ready for it second time around though. Still scared the hell out of me though.

      Thanks for reading. John

  3. This looks and sounds like a great experience! Photos are amazing! Shame you only got to do the half day trip but it’s sounds well worth it. Defo made me think about travelling to Morocco!

    1. Didn’t regret one bit doing the half day. We weren’t sure how it was going to be so we only made a short break to Marrakesh. Wish we knew what we knew know, would have stayed a week. And done the longer tour. I will when I return.

  4. What about the hive of activity in Jemaa El Fna Square around sunset into the night, snake charmers, Moroccan gastronomy, and vendors of every kind? I loved the camel rides and the time I spent in Merzouga. An experience like none other. Thanks for taking me down memory lane. Loved it.

    1. I’ll be working on an all in Marrakesh blog for my next one, so I’ll be including all the above in there. Lot to write about so it might take me a month. Lol. I’m delighted to have evoked some good memories in you. Thanks for dropping by. John

  5. This looks great, I’m glad the camels look happy and healthy. I saw some whilst I was in Dubai that were definitely the opposite. That straw hat on the camel – lol!!

    1. It’s a relief when the animals are well looked after. The horses and monkeys in the city were not, which was a shame. I think the straw hat summed it all up, it was just a happy uplifting experience

  6. Great posg,I’ve visited Ouarzazate several times before and loved it,the cinema studios,Taourirte kasbah…I’ve also did camel riding but in Mhamid elghizlane and it’s still one of my favourite experiences ever.
    Todaysouhaila.blogspot.com

    1. I’ll have to return to see Ouarzazate it looks amazing. I’m glad you enjoyed the camel riding as much as I. Thanks for reading. John

  7. You have definitely left me inspired to take to the desert the FIRST time I’m in Morocco! I must say you look a little uncomfortable seated on your camel, and perhaps this was karmic payback for taking a picture of your wife she might not like? I assume she hasn’t killed you so I guess it’s okay. Had no idea Moroccan mint tea was made with green tea imported from Asia! Huh! Another fascinating post on Morocco and just making me jealous some more!!! I really want to go there 😉

    1. This is Johns wife. He is no longer alive to answer comments. Is what she would be writing if she had seen that photo but she somehow didn’t. I couldn’t resist putting that photo up, it really was part of the story. I would happily have put one of myself, I was the same and but I left out the string of expletives I uttered as the camel rose up.
      I felt comfortable but I looked weird. Don’t know why. Maybe I say on the wrong hump.
      It’s an interesting one about the tea. I doubt they have always used that, but I didn’t enquire.
      We have to make each other jealous or else it doesn’t inspire us to travel. Thanks for taking the time to read.

  8. Sounds like a great trip and photos to remember it. I rode a camel in Tunisia many many years ago, and as you say, have fond memories of the experience!

    1. Thank you. I imagine those fond memories will linger with us for a long time too. Thanks for reading. John

  9. I love that these camels are happy and well taken care of – smiles, teeth, hats and all! That is always my top concern when an activity involves animals. I also love the local village component. I like less touristy things like that. I can’t wait to read more on morocco, so glad I found your blog!

    1. Its was a pleasure to see the animals were in top condition, they were so calm I wanted to hug them. I restrained myself though. I have more material to come on Morocco, but bear with me. I’ll have it out before you get there anyway. 😉

  10. What a wonderful experience! Riding a camel is 100% on my list of things to do in Morocco whenever I make it there. Hopefully I take to camel riding as well as Beata appears to have! (On a separate note, I must say I’m severely disappointed you don’t use ‘Top o’ the morning to ya’ as a standard greeting… curse you, Hollywood! 😉😂)

    1. It was immense. I didn’t realise I looked so awkward until the photos. I felt comfortable if that helps. But Beata sure looked the part.
      No top o the morning is pure fiction. We also don’t still use horses and donkeys. Our homes have electricity and we don’t talk like Tom Cruise in Far and Away 😉.

  11. What an amazing experience! You photos are fabulous! I would have thought that camel riding was uncomfortable – it’s good to know it’s rather relaxing. I would have loved the lesson on making mint tea, things like this truly are an art 🙂

    1. It was fantastic. I expected it to be uncomfortable but after the disarray of the first few minutes it was fine. Just a truly heart warming experience

  12. Looks like you had a wonderful time. The photos look great. I must say though your wife looks regal whilst riding a camel. Elegance must be her superpower.

    1. Sorry I’ve been offline here for a few days. I certainly did. You’re not wrong about my wife. She’s very natural there. Perhaps she had a past life in Saharan royalty. Thanks for stopping by and commenting

  13. Wow! This short trip would probably only make me wanna spend a night in the desert. But I do feel kind of worried about getting on the camel after reading this. Never really thought of how this would look like.

    1. The night in the desert sounds a brilliant way to spend a few days, doesn’t it. That is the ultimate Moroccan tour.
      You will be fine getting on the camel cause you are in the know. I guess I expected it to go up like an elevator. Which isn’t possible. So that’s why it’s scared the s#|+ out of me when it didn’t. Just hold on and lean in the opposite direction, and you will be fine. Thanks for stopping by again.
      John

    1. You are so welcome. It was a great activity and it was simply blissful. Can’t recommend trying it highly enough.

  14. Loved this post so much! I was actually planning on going to Morocco earlier this year but unfortunately it fell through! Really hoping to go next year and do the tour you guys did! The tour sounds idyllic and it looks like all the staff make an immense amount of effort and the camels were happy! Thank you for sharing 😁

    1. It was simply great. I would suggest to make that trip to Morocco happen in 2019. It was a great trip and we will surely return. Thanks for dropping by.
      John

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