camel sahara desert moroccoLet’s say this up front: Riding a camel is one of the most uncomfortable experiences you can imagine.

Now that that’s out of the way, I should also tell you that riding a camel is fantastically fun and bound to be one of your favorite memories from your trip to Morocco. Not much can top watching the sun set over the Sahara as you make your way to a Berber tent astride a camel or listening to the waves crash against the rocks in Essaouira as you meander down the beach, swaying atop your steed. You’ll probably hum the theme to Lawrence of Arabia. It will be amazing.

It will also be uncomfortable.

The width of a camel’s body, coupled with the precarious place you must take upon its back, the near waddle of its gait as it sways back and forth, and the general disdain the animal usually has for its passenger all work against your efforts to cultivate an essence of relaxation and comfort. This is okay, though, because you’re on a camel in the Sahara Desert, one of the most unlikely and wonderful things you’ll find yourself doing. Being a little off-kilter is more than worth it.

It’s best to know certain things before you embark on your journey, however. In an effort to educate the future camel-riders of the world, we present the following list of tips, in no particular order, on how to survive a camel ride:

1. Do what your guide tells you. Camels are not horses.  Mounting a camel is entirely different from mounting a horse, and it’s just as awkward to dismount. The best thing you can do is whatever your guide advises. Ignore him at your own peril.*

2. Wear long pants and socks. The motion of the camel causes your pants to creep slowly up your calves, exposing your legs to the sun, sand and camel. Make sure you’re slathered in sunscreen, and wear socks to prevent any contact itchiness that may occur.

3. Bring a camera and/or iPod, but make sure they’re tethered… You’re on a camel so of course you want pictures. If you want to travel with an iPod, it should be queued up to the Indiana Jones soundtrack. Make sure you’ve got both tied to you, though. While it’s simple enough to stop so you can retrieve a fallen camera, camels are tall creatures, and any fall will be a long one.

4. Don’t forget the aspirin. While half an hour on a camel may not sound like much, it can be a lifetime on your hip joints or your knees—especially if they’re weak or prone to injury. Camel rides certainly won’t do any lasting damage, but the contorted stance they force may cause some minor discomfort if you ride for more than 30 minutes. Carry a light painkiller like Tylenol or Aspirin with you just in case.

And now that you’re prepared, go ride a camel! We’d love to hear about your experiences atop a camel in the comment area below.

*You’re not in any real peril. You’ll just feel that way if you make a hasty dismount.

Written by Margaret Jackson.

Photo by callmetim.