If one could have only one thing, one reason only to visit Morocco, this would be it: a night at Azalai Desert Camp in the dunes of Erg Chigaga. The bumpy drive from Mhamid ( east) or Foum Zguid ( west) offers plenty of contrasts along the way and makes one feel as if you need to deserve these dunes before you see them. Tip: let your driver arrange for a camel ride just before entering the dunes so you arrive in style at the camp, right about sunset. Four large white canvas tents and three slightly smaller ones, complement each other so that one might think he's on his own in the desert. Two VIP tents, further away, come with their own dedicated butler, club leather armchairs and lounge- library. Inside you'll find king-sized wrought-iron beds, quality mattresses, finest bedspreads, mosquito nets and Fes - ceramic water basins. Berber rugs cover the uneven rattan floors. King-sized beds are heavy with blankets and brocade covers – necessary in the winter – and light is provided by tin battery-powered lanterns. Bathrooms are provided with chemical toilets and pump showers with hot water, everything oozing sustainable and ecological, miles away from the concrete floors, plugs and power showers of nowadays camps in Erg Chebbi. Bouchaib, the owner, is an admirer of Out of Africa, hence the Gentleman Voyageur feeling throughout.
Once you returned from the camel ride and settled in, have your dinner in front of the tent, next to the fire pit, under the most beguiling sky. Dinner is served by candlelight, encircled by lanterns placed meticulously around the dune. The four course set menu regularly starts with harira soup, Moroccan briouates, continues with a hearty beef or lamb tagine and ends with a French desert. Then, all there's left to do is get inside the tent, zip the entrance and fall asleep, immersed in a silence so thick, you could cut a strip through it. Next morning, the breakfast is there to match the effort you just made climbing on top of the highest dune to admire the sunrise. Omelette, hard eggs, home-made orange confiture, fresh orange juice, coffee, butter and Moroccan pastry to rival some of the best boulangeries in Marrakech make for a prince's breakfast. In the middle of nowhere. One can only feel for Salah, Mohamed and the rest of the team having to cross two or three dunes for each course to be brought at your table. All of them nomads' sons, they give a new sense to what it means being hospitable. And, before you know it, it's time to leave. And that's the hardest. Best visited from September to June. Alcohol is not available on site but you are free to bring your own.