My wife and I did a lot of research on your companies that will do excursions to the Sahara. Eventually, we decided on Rough Tours because it offered guides with local knowledge and avoided the many tourist traps along the route between Marrakech and the Sahara. Some other companies will provide drivers (with little or no English) and stop only at tourist sites where you are hassled by vendors. Rough Tours avoided all of that and at a very reasonable price.
Our guide picked us up at our Riad in Marrakech in a Toyota Land Cruiser and drove us to Boumalne Dades. On the way, Youssef provided a lot of interesting details about growing up Berber in Morocco as well as history of the region. Youssef was deeply knowledgeable and able to answer all of our many questions. He did an amazing job of locating restaurants that were delicious and clean but not overrun with tour buses. After a full day drive with stops at some very interesting kasbahs, we ended at Boumalne Dades for the night.
Early on day two, we drove on towards Merzouga and stopped at some beautiful spots along the way. Youssef was such a delight, very cheerful and engaging. We especially appreciated that he introduced us to Tinariwen, a famous Berber musical group. We ended the day with a 90 minute camel ride out to the camp site, led by Hamid our jovial local camel wrangler. Before we reached the camp, we paused at some of the larger dunes to watch the sunset. Visitors should be prepared to see numerous four-wheel vehicles crisscrossing the desert which does somewhat diminish the exoticness of the desert.
When we arrived at the camp site (Majestic Camp), the host (Mohammed) greeted us with tea, nuts, and dried fruit. We met the other groups that would be staying at the camp that night (Mohammed speaks Portuguese) and were assigned our luxury tent. Being January, it was quite cold as the sun went down so it was nice to find refuge inside the warm tent. Dinner was sufficient if not extravagant before everyone gathered at a camp fire for traditional Berber music. Travelers should be advised that there are lots of other camp sites very near to each other so it is possible to hear music from next door.
The next day, we woke up early to see the sunrise before jumping back in the car with Youssef to drive to Fez. Along the way, we stopped in the Alpine mountain town of Irfan and in the cedar forest to feed some wild monkeys. From there, we travelled on to Fez where Youssef deposited us at our Riad.
We cannot say enough good things about Youssef, our guide. He was so nice and easy going, amenable to our desires to pull over and take pictures or change the itinerary as needed. His personal story of growing up a Berber was a unique experience and a wonderful window into a cultural piece of Morocco that can't be appreciated in a medina or souq. Booking with Rough Tours was very easy,
We will definitely recommend Rough Tours and Youssef in particular to our friends in the future. Thanks!