'We want our tea in the Sahara with you; we want our tea in the Sahara with you ...' It has been 22 years since I first heard The Police singing those lyrics, but it's funny what comes to mind while sitting atop a 200-metre, reddish sand dune. Reaching the Sahara from Marrakesh in Morocco is surprisingly easy. Touts offer trips to the desert, but my companion, Toko, and I booked with the highly recommended Pampas Voyages, which put together a fine excursion at short notice. We signed up with three others and paid 900 dirham ($760) each for a two-day/three-night return package that includes vehicle, fuel, driver, breakfast, dinner, one night in a hotel, a camel ride and camping for one night in the ochre-coloured dunes of Merzouga. The price for just two of us would have been 1,800 dirham each. We leave in a large van at 7.30am with a Brazilian couple and a Slovenian man. After spending a full day taking photos of the majestic High Atlas mountain range, staff at the quaint Hotel le Vieux Chateau prepare a terrific meal of cous cous, chicken and vegetables. A corner fireplace provides a cosy atmosphere while teenage boys play music and sing. We drive all the next day, with fewer photo stops, and it is nearly 5pm when we turn off the main road and begin to drive for real in the flat, rocky Sahara. Thirty minutes later, we glimpse for the first time the spectacular reddish Erg Chebbi dunes near Merzouga, where we will be spending the night. This vast pile of sand that stretches east into the Algerian Sahara has dunes that measure upwards of 50 metres in height. We come across a line of small concrete hotels built like Foreign Legion outposts or small kasbahs and stop at the last one. We take photos, pack small overnight bags and buy some water. 'There's no water in the Sahara,' one of the locals reminds us. Camels - with a reputation for being dirty and uncomfortable - are required to reach the campsite. The dozen in our caravan are not like that at all and, once we are perched on their backs, they lurch to their feet and we ride through the dunes for about 90 minutes. The campsite has two traditional long and narrow Berber tents, which can fit at least 10 people. Noticeably absent is a toilet, but when nature calls, a lone tree provides privacy. As we dismount, we meet a Berber man. 'Does anyone have a mobile phone that works in Morocco?' he asks. 'My phone isn't working. The battery is dead. We forgot the bread and it will take me two hours to go fetch it and return. I will call my friend and ask him to bring it in one hour.' We offer our phone to secure the bread - an integral part of Moroccan meals - then scamper up the dunes to watch a brilliant orange sunset. Some Moroccan children from a camp on the other side of the dune try to sell us trinkets and rocks with fossils inside, before taking plastic bags and sliding on them back down to their camp. The bread shows up. We drink Moroccan tea - Chinese green tea with lots of fresh mint and sugar - and eat by hand a memorable meal of roast chicken with vegetables as we recline on thick Berber carpets around a fire. Our Slovenian travelling companion pulls out a bottle of Scotch and passes it around, to the delight of all. We lay back and gaze at the clear night sky full of stars, satellites and possibly more. Our campsite hosts tell jokes, sing and play music. As the wood runs out and the fire begins to die down, some of us retire to their tents to stay warm under a pile of Berber blankets. The Brazilians sleep outside despite the cold. I awake in the middle of the night and go outside, where I am treated to the sight of a perfect crescent moon hovering just over the dunes. It is like a dream, except for the cold. I scurry back into the tent, where the stars can still be seen through the thin material. At 7am, the clear sky seems bright, but our hosts suggest we climb the dunes again to watch the sun rise. Afterwards, we load up our gear and ride the camels towards the outpost where our driver is waiting, as is breakfast. We fill up on bread, butter, jam, coffee and English tea before climbing back into the van. Toko and I decide that instead of going all the way south and west to Marrakesh, we will hire a taxi along the way to take us through the picturesque Ziz Valley to Fes in the north. We join the Brazilian couple, bid farewell to the Slovenian and van driver and take a 1972 Mercedes taxi for 1,100 dirham, split four ways. The drive from Rissani, near Merzouga, to Fes takes about seven hours. It takes in a pleasant stop for lunch at a dusty roadside town in the snow-capped mountains, where the superb fare ranges from grilled camel meat to bread. Ride a camel one day, eat one the next. After two rainy days in Fes, we set off for Meknes, which was founded in the 11th century, and the Roman ruins of Volubilis. We can only spare the capital, Rabat, a couple of thoroughly enjoyable nights - but that is another story. Getting there: Emirates ( www.emirates.com ) flies to Casablanca from Hong Kong, via Bangkok and Dubai, with stop-overs allowed. Air France ( www.airfrance.com ) flies from Hong Kong to Casablanca via Paris. European cities offer many direct flights to smaller cities in Morocco such as Marrakesh and Ouarzazate, which are closer to the Sahara than is Casablanca. A trip along the trans-Saharan camel caravan trade route from Marrakesh to Rissani, with desert Berbers, combines Land-Rovers and camels and takes 12 days. See www.morocco-travel.com and www.destinationmorocco.com for more information.