Merzouga is the best place in Morocco to get a taste of the spectacular Sahara dunes.
Merzouga is a village in the southeast of Morocco , about 35 kilometers southeast of Rissani and about 20 kilometers from the Algerian border. To get there you pass through beautiful landscape and desert rock. We started very early in the morning and we stopped several times to take a ride in different villages with no tourist at all, meeting very friendly and warming people.
The village is most famous for Erg Chebbi, a Saharan erg, and it is for this reason a part of the itineraries of many tourists visiting Morocco. The erg (sand dune) it’s 50 km long (North/South) by 5 km wide swathe of sand that reaches a height of 350 m. There are the biggest dunes that I have ever seen (you can do sand skiing) but you don’t feel the sensation to be lost in a sand sea because from the top you can see Algerian boarder and mountains. We arrived at 2 pm by car and we organized directly, as touristy as it sounded, a day camel trip into the desert.
There are different options: The dromedaries (or walking) option is the best option (more connected with the environment than the 4×4…it’s very bad to see tracks of 4×4, quad, Paris-Dakar in the sand).
At the beginning most of my time was spent concentrating on balancing myself and my camera on top of the camel as it plodded up and down the dunes. After I decided to walk so I could see in any direction sand, beautiful, fine, red sand, which glowed brightly in the setting sun. The dunes themselves were like nothing I’d ever seen in my life, almost a hundred meters high, they came to a razor sharp peak at the top, and the difference in light from one side to the next was dramatic.
Taking photographs was challenging, since a single footstep could be seen even a hundred meters away, as it would break up the perfect surface of the dune. I had to carefully plan each step to keep from “ruining” the sand.
Anyway we trekked out into the dunes for about an hour and a half with the sun setting behind us. We were headed for a small oasis at the base of a giant dune so we did not need to get up early and climb to the top to see sun rise next morning.
Our guide Mohammed (always enthusiastic, outgoing, and personable I was impressed with his English and knowledge… ) cooked a fantastic dinner while we went to see the sunset by reaching the top of the huge dune. Then we ate and drunk plenty of mint tea of course. The sky was full of stars and after having identified all the stars, constellations and all artificial satellites, we had a funny discussion with Mohammed…just laughing about the “pathologies” of tourists of different nationalities. We slept in tents, with mattress and 1 ton of blankets (during the night in winter it’s really really cold). The silence was complete that night. We were the only people we saw that night in the desert. I woke at five just as it was getting light and climbed half way up the giant dune and sat there watching the sunrise. Again everything was perfectly still and quite. It was the most relaxing time I’ll be having on this trip. We had breakfast and after we packed up camp and went back.
We didn’t have problems but talk in advance what is included and what’s not: food, water, blankets, how far are you going, etc.