A Taste of Desert in Merzouga
We also have a photo gallery dedicated to the Tafilalet region with pictures of Merzouga and Rissani.
High on the wish list of many tourists travelling to Morocco is experiencing the Saharan desert. We were no exception and after consulting our guidebook and several blogs we decided to head for the Tafilalet region, easily accessible by public transport and home to the highly photogenic sand dunes of Erg Chebbi.
We arrived in the early morning in Rissani after a night spent in the bus from Fez. Some shared taxis were already waiting for passengers and off we went to Merzouga.
The first impression was not overwhelming as the driver dropped his passengers one after the other, first in Hassi Labied then Merzouga at various resorts, hotels or guest houses: rocky desert, flat plain with some dunes in the distance, scattered tourist accommodation, it all seemed a bit bleak…
When we finally reached Merzouga's taxi stand at the end of the road, it was only the two of us left in the car. We had followed the advice of bloggers and booked a room in advance, which can be a good idea as hotels are a bit scattered and it would not have been a great early morning occupation to wander from one to the other to find a suitable place to stay. The place we had chosen was in walking distance of the few eateries and shops which line the main street and very near to the big sand dune: a perfect location for us as we didn't want to be stuck in a resort and wanted to be able to go into the village for food and entertainment in the evening. We were very happy there, the room and shared bathroom were clean and spacious, the owner was friendly and welcoming and we really appreciated the fact that he did not even try to sell us something, be it a camel trip or an evening meal.
The dunes were indeed very near and after settling in we couldn't wait and went out to have a look. And of course, typical for us, we ended up climbing the big dune in the full midday heat. The very thing every guidebook warns you not to do! But we were just too impatient… And yes, the sand was really burning hot (not something to do barefoot or in flip flops) and we sweated profusely as we made our way up. However, we did not take the direct way along the crest which was very steep but approached in a long curve, this was much easier. We were utterly alone and the feel of adventure was nearly perfect, if not for the annoying and disturbing roar of motorbikes and a few squads far away in the distance which tried again and again to climb up the dunes. So much for desert romantic…
This was quickly forgotten when we reached the top (a climb of 160m!) and discovered an outstanding panoramic view of the surrounding desert.
We spent a long time alone at the top before we finally commenced the fun and exhilarating (but much too rapid) descent, running down the steep crest of the dune.
We felt we had done enough for the day and so, for the rest of the afternoon, we strolled through Merzouga. The place was dangerous for us : we discovered a shop selling fossils (one of our favourite souvenirs) where we were made welcome and ended up buying two nice pieces to add to our collection at home. There are many similar shops-cum-museum in and around Merzouga, all more thrilling than the other. They display and sell all kinds of fossils found in Morocco, ammonites, trilobites, orthoceras, crinoïdes, precious stones and have also beautiful fossilised marble encrusted with fossils out of which they build tables, bathroom tops, fountains, wash basins… Incredible.
We wandered back to the foot of the big dune and awaited the sunset, watching as the dunes changed colour. The spectacle of columns of tourists suddenly arriving in jeeps from seemingly nowhere and making their way very slowly up the crest to watch the sunset was also very entertaining… We finished a great day eating a harira soup and a berber omelet at Ali Baba, a small eatery along the main strip, where we returned the next day.
We spent our second day exploring the area around Merzouga. We simply made our way eastwards, where more beautiful dunes were to be seen and headed in their direction as far as we could, marching up and down the slopes. The going was tough and it was again very hot, so it was no wonder that we didn't get very far, but we enjoyed the outing very much. We marvelled at the sand structures, the finely cut crests of the dunes against the blue sky, the ever changing colours according to the time of the day.
For some pictures, don't forget to check our photo gallery dedicated to the Tafilalet Region with pictures of Merzouga and Rissani.
We enjoyed Merzouga very much. Yes, the place is very touristy but except for the evening loads of tourists at sunset, we hardly saw other travellers around as we strolled through the village or ate our meals on the main strip in the evening. We think that many preferred to stay in their hotels (often with pools), relaxing and enjoying the scenery, while the ones on camel safaris would rush to their next destination as soon as they came back. This is a pity as Merzouga is not as dead at it seems with men hanging around in the evenings and children playing on the streets.
$updated from: Blog.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:28 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$