Counts the leyend that when a wealthy family refused hospitality to a poor woman and her son, God was offended and buried them under the mounds of sand called Erg Chebbi. So goes the legend of the dunes rising majestically above the twin villages of Merzouga and Hassi Labied, which for many travellers fulfil Morocco’s promise as a dream desert destination.
The erg Chebbi or so-called Merzouga desert dune system consists of a N-S oriented sand deposit, about 156 km2.
The system is a free aquifer. The entry of the water system is limited to direct infiltration of rainwater meanwhile the discharge of the aquifer is produced by evaporation natural drainage in the springs and wells extractions from khettaras.
In places, the dunes of the Merzouga desert rise up to 150 meters from the surrounding hamada (rocky desert) and altogether it spans an area of 28 kilometers from north to south and up to 5–7 kilometers from east to west lining the Algerian border.
Erg Chebbi has a desert climate with continental nuances and average annual temperatures around 20 ° C, although the temperature contrasts between day and night are high. The maximum temperatures are around 50 ° C in the months of July and August, with a minimum of 5 ° C in the month of December. Annual rainfall is between 28 mm and 129 mm depending on the hydrological year considered. The low rainfall usually occurs between the months of March and May, although it is necessary to highlight the specific rainfall changes, cyclonic storms, which cause lightning avenues.
CTM Company. It leaves Fez at 9:30 p.m. every day in the direction of Rissani. The stops are Meknès, Azrou, Midelt, Errachidia, Aoufouss, Erfoud and Rissani. From Rissani you can take a taxi for about 25dh. SUPRATOURS.. It leaves Fez at 8:30 p.m. every day, direction Merzouga. The stops are Meknès, Errachidia, Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.
CTM Company.. Departure from the Marrakech bus station at 08’00h every day with Rissani direction. The stops are Agouim, Ouarzazate, Skoura, K Mgouna, Boumalne-Dadès, Tinerhir, Tinejdad, Goulmima and Errachidia. From Errachidia you can take a taxi for about 60dh. SUPRATOURS. company. It leaves from Marrakech at 08:30 every day, direction Merzouga. The stops are Ouarzazate, Boumalne-Dadès, Tinerhir, Tinejdad, Goulmima, Errachidia, Aoufouss, Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.
You can choose to make your trip by 4 × 4 with local driver.
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This is without any doubt the most requested activity by those who visit the dunes of Merzouga. The activity a dromedary ride (for those who do not convince them there are other means of access) at sunset. The Berbers of the camp offer tea upon arrival and then free time to settle in the jaima and enjoy the desert. The typical Moroccan dinner is served and then there is a Berber music show around a campfire. At night you can contemplate the stars, something unforgettable. In the morning, those who want to see the sunrise are called early and depending on the camp, breakfast is served or they return to town to have breakfast at a hotel. You can find more information about the whole experience in our link “sleep in the desert of Morocco”
Most visitors to the desert of Merzouga choose to spend a night in a camp of jaimas in the desert. In most cases, tourists arrive at this dromedary camp (not camel). For those who stay in one of the villages that are on the outskirts of the sand desert you can hire a camel ride. It is highly recommended to do it at sunset or at dusk. If you are going to take a camel it is recommended to wear comfortable clothes, protect yourself from the sun and carry water by hand.
For those adventurers in love with the engine and adrenaline there are several options. You can rent quads, buggies or motorcycles. If you prefer comfort and enjoy the scenery, you can also opt for a 4 × 4 with a driver to take you through the dunes. One feels in the Paris-Dakar.
This activity is carried out in the months of July and August. It’s about burying your body except your head in the sand and staying there for as long as the specialists consider. It is a highly recommended activity for rheumatism and other health problems. It is also considered good for the skin and as detox. For the most part, it is people from Morocco who come every summer to take sand baths, mainly because foreigners don’t know him.
This activity has the laughs assured. In the desert camps as well as in many shelters you can get tables to try to throw you down the dune.
In the first place it is recommended to walk through one of the villages beside the dunes. The inhabitants of these villages are Berbers who live in mud-brick houses. Many of them, especially men speak Spanish and / or other languages and will probably greet you as they pass. Remember that “alelamum salam” is answered “aleikum salam”.
Hassilabied square, neighbour village of Merzouga
Depending on the time of day you can see the men go to the mosque, the women doing their shopping or going to look for water at the source. Although there is running water they like to drink the water they collect from the one that accumulates under the dunes. Men spend many hours in cafes (but if you are a woman you will be welcome in them anyway). Women spend most of the day at home. The children go to school and spend a lot of time playing in the street.
Although most of the desert inhabitants do it in adobe houses in the villages, there are still families with their nomadic lifestyle. They live in stores and usually have cattle. You can visit them and they will probably invite you to tea. Berbers are well known for their hospitality.
One of the villages on the door to the Merzouga desert is Khamilia, known in the region as the “gnawa village”. Its inhabitants, in the majority are the descendants of slaves brought from black Africa and emancipated in this town. They have kept their traditional music gnawa and the town is closely linked to it. If you approach you can visit one of the houses of music, in them there are always musicians of different ages prepared to show their art to those who approach. There you can enjoy the show with a tea and see how the elders teach the children so that the tradition continues.
Music house in Khamilia.
A must see if you are in the area on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday is RIssani. In the village (larger than those surrounding the dunes of Merzouga) is one of the oldest markets in Morocco. In it you can find a lot of things: from cattle to cosmetics, haggling, they will come out at a great price. Many of the people in the area still come to the market on a donkey so there you can see a parking lot for donkeys.
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