The time that I… drove 13 hours to ride a camel in Morocco

Exploring unique study abroad experiences from TRU students

Nolan Chapman, second from the front in a blue hoodie, riding a camel in the Sahara.

Nolan Chapman, second from the front in a blue hoodie, riding a camel in the Sahara. (Submitted)

A few days ago I met with Nolan Chapman who is a Study Abroad Ambassador here at TRU. Nolan went to study in Lyon, France during his semester away. While there, he often made weekend trips to different countries. One of his most memorable trips was to Marrakech, Morocco.

“I always thought riding camels in the Sahara would be an amazing experience,” Nolan told me, “so when I learned that a friend of mine knew someone who went on a similar trip, I asked him if he could help me to organize the excursion. He was taking care of it and I didn’t know any details, but it looked promising so a few of my friends and I booked our plane tickets and flew to Marrakech.”

I asked Nolan where they slept. He told me they stayed in a hostel. At first glance it apparently looked like a hole in the wall, but ended up being an elaborate place with weaving hallways and stairwells and a open ceiling on the top floor. The next morning was the day of the excursion. This is how Nolan described the trip:

“We woke up at roughly 4 in the morning and were told to wait for a taxi. We found our driver and were off. During the entire time we were never given any details about the trip. Only simple instructions like “show up here, someone will drive you, pay at the end.” We had no idea how long this drive would be, we thought about 4 or 5 hours but in the end we were driving for 13 hours.”

Nolan told me that it was a strange feeling not knowing where they were going or how long it would take, and that they began joking around and thinking, “are we being kidnapped?”

Eventually, they arrived at a house in a tiny village. They got out of the car, waiting to see what was next.

“The guide then turns to us and says, “walk out to the desert with this guy.” At this point my friends and I are thinking, “oh this is it. We’re toast.” There were no camels in sight, and it was night time now. We began walking across the sand dunes, when suddenly we see a guy standing with 8 camels waiting for us. So I think “OK! this is actually it, holy smokes we waited 13 hours for this.”

Nolan then described the most peaceful experience in his life to me.

“We got on the camels in complete darkness with a huge starry sky above us. It was so incredibly beautiful and zen-like. We travelled for roughly 30 minutes before we arrived at a tented settlement. There were other people who had done the trip the day before. They were from all over the world, and we all shared stories and experiences while we enjoyed a big feast that was prepared for us.”

Nolan admitted that the least enjoyable part of his trip was sleeping in the desert. It got really cold and he woke up absolutely freezing. Eventually, morning came and everyone enjoyed sand surfing on a mini snowboard before riding the camels back to the village.

After breakfast they started the 13 hour long road trip back. Up until now, no one had asked Nolan or any of his friends to pay for anything on this trip. Nolan told me he was anxious about how much it would cost. After all, they drove over 24 hours in a vehicle, rode camels, were given a big feast in the evening, breakfast in the morning, and a place to sleep. In the end, it was only 80 euros.

When you study abroad you have the opportunity to meet new people and create life-long memories. Although Nolan’s trip was originally about riding a camel, in the end meeting the Moroccan people that took such good care of them during the entire trip was just as memorable.