Tag Archives: Erg Chegaga

Morocco’s Great Deserts, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Morocco's Great Deserts, M'hamid

Morocco’s Great Deserts, M’hamid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although, compared to neighbouring Algeria, Morocco has only a fraction of the Great Sahara Desert within its territory, yet Morocco offers the safest and best-organized access to the Sahara of the whole of North Africa. Whether you want a quick glimpse of the magnificent dunes on camelback, the thrill of sand boarding down the dunes, an overnight experience under the vast starry skies in a nomad’s tent, or a longer excursion to explore the expanse of the dune complex and the people who inhabit it, Morocco has it all. There is nowhere else where you could be in some of Africa’s highest snow-tipped mountain ranges and in the depth of the sandy expanses of the desert in the same day. And your trip to Morocco’s Great Deserts will take you through centuries-old oases on route. Along the way, you will meet local nomads and villagers whose families have worked this land and survived its hardships for generations.

Morocco lies on the northwesterly tip of the African continent with a long Atlantic coast. This coast runs approximately southwest to northeast. Almost parallel to the coast, behind the fertile plains of Morocco’s principal rivers, are the Atlas Mountain ranges (from north to south, the Middle, High and Anti-Atlas). The Sahara desert begins in the foothills of these mountains on their eastern (interior) side. Sandwiched between the mountains and the Algerian border are the principle dune regions of Morocco. Further south, the Sahara meets the ocean where Sahara cities Laayoune and Ad Dakhla are known for their sandy dunes, unique flora, bird life and beaches.

Erg Chebbi Dunes, Merzouga Sahara Desert

Erg Chebbi Dunes, Merzouga Sahara Desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting in the north, the most frequently visited dune network is at Erg Chebbi, near the towns of Rissani and Merzouga. Erg Chebbi’s dunes are the largest in Morocco, with some reaching around 150m in height. They cover an area of 50km (31 miles) from north to south and are about 5-10 km (3-6 miles) across. This area is easily accessible from Fes (via the Middle Atlas). A longer drive from Marrakech, takes visitors via the spectacular Tiz n’Tichka pass and the city of Ouarzazate or the stunning Dades Valley. This accessibility and the size of the dunes have meant that the infrastructure around the dunes at Erg Chebbi is very well developed, both in terms of desert bivouacs, luxury desert camps and guesthouses and hotels. This is great for those visitors who want a convenient way to see the desert on a tight itinerary, but those with more time or who seek to explore the Sahara in greater depth may prefer a more remote destination.

Further south, and also reached via Ouarzazate (but this time via the beautiful Drâa Valley and its date palm oases and ancient defensive kasbahs) are the desert areas around Zagora and M’Hamid. At Zagora, you can see the famous sign indicating “TOMBOUCTOU 52 JOURS,” (“52 days to Timbuktu”), which gives an indication of the importance of the desert and this region in particular for the camel caravans and trade routes of the past. Today, Zagora is a popular starting point for trips on camelback into the Sahara. The landscape here is flatter, although there are dunes at Tinfo, and near the town agriculture is relatively well developed, giving a different desert experience.

Erg L’Houdi (meaning the Dunes of the Jews) and Erg Ezahaar (the Screaming Dunes) are respectively one or four days’ camel ride from M’Hamid, which is itself around 100km (60 miles) further along the Drâa Valley towards the Algerian border. The paved road ends here. M’Hamid feels much more like a nomadic outpost. Being much more remote, this area is considerably less visited and many of the local sites of interest, such as sacred springs, ancient zaouias (sites of religious pilgrimage in honour of saints) and local Berber and nomadic villages are more easily (and comfortably) accessed in a 4×4 vehicle with an experienced guide. Being such an important region for trade and artisans, the area between Zagora and M’Hamid features some interesting historical and cultural sites, such as the village of Amezrou – base of former Jewish silversmiths with an Ancient Jewish Mellah – and Tamagroute, with its pottery cooperative, zaouia and Koranic Library.

Erg Chegaga Sahara Desert

Erg Chegaga Sahara Desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last of the four main dune networks is Erg Chegaga, between M’Hamid, 50km (30 miles) west of the town towards the settlement of Foum Zguid. After Erg Chebbi, these are the second most popular dune destination. Erg Chegaga has the highest dunes in this southerly area, but they are still considerably lower than the dunes at Erg Chebbi to the north. A favourite activity is to scramble to the top of the dunes in time for sunrise over the Sahara. Running uphill on sand is not an easy task, so this is an activity for early risers only!

Many visitors to Morocco manage to fit in an overnight stay under canvas or in a Kasbah-style hotel at one of the main dunes areas of Erg Chebbi or Erg Chegaga. However, for the more adventurous or those wishing really to escape the distractions of the modern world, the trip down to south to Morocco’s Great Deserts and also to M’Hamid and beyond is certainly worthwhile. For those with less time, however, the larger dunes still offer the chance to get away from it all. And while a journey on camelback is certainly not the most luxurious in terms of comfort, it is unlike anything else! Climb aboard the “ship of the desert” and image the great trains of camels, which once crossed this magnificent sandy expanse, transporting gold, silver, and salt across the African continent!

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Morocco’s Great Sahara Desert Tours

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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Exploring Morocco’s Sahara Desert, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Merzouga Sahara Desert, Erg Chebbi Dunes

The Sahara Desert is a region worth exploring in Morocco. Morocco’s Sahara Desert is vast and  extensive comprising of four peak desert dunes referred to as Merzouga, Zagora, M’hamid and Erg Chegaga.  Each part of Morocco’s Sahara Desert offers travelers a unique experience. Merzouga is known for it’s vast and golden Erg Chebbi Dunes that are hundreds of meters high. The regions of Zagora and M’hamid are known for longer, rolling more rustic and earthy colored dunes. Their sister Sahara Desert, Erg Chegaga has a legend of being primarily for the die-hard Morocco adventure traveler who wants to say they made it to one of the last regions. Regardless of which dunes are visited on a Morocco Sahara Desert trip any traveler is guaranteed to be enchanted with the region they choose to visit.

With a limited amount of time available for a Morocco holiday, the best way to explore Morocco’s Sahara Desert region is to begin by starting in Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate is one of the leading provinces in Southern Morocco and a former French protectorate administrative center. Ouarzazate is also considered the door to the Sahara Desert and used as a starting point for all Sahara Desert trips and excursions.

To maximize a Sahara Desert regional experience a six day Morocco adventure is most advisable. Travelers can start their desert trip in Ouarzazate with a visit it’s famous Kasbahs. Ouarzazate is known for it’s UNESCO World Heritage site Ait Benhaddou Kasbah along with the Glaoui Kasbahs  called Kasbah Taourirt and Kasbah Tamadaght. Kasbah Tifoultilte is another Kasbah that is worth visiting for tea and a sneak inside at it’s magical interior.

Not to be missed when exploring Morocco’s Sahara Desert region of Ouarzazate is the Atlas Film Studios. The Atlas Film Studios is where David Lean filmed Lawrence of Arabia in the early 1960’s. Since then many famous directors have followed in his footsteps to exploit the magnificent scenery. International blockbusters shot here in recent years include: the French version of Cleopatra, Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky, Scorsese’s Kundun, Gillies MacKannon’s Hideous Kinky, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Black Hawke Down, Oliver Stone’s Alexander The Great, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, and Penelope Cruz’s Sahara.

Camel Trek Sahara Desert

The finale of any Sahara Desert trip is a camel trek on the back of a dromedary into the either the Merzouga Erg Chebbi dunes or those located in Zagora, M’hamid or Erg Chegaga. Each region has several excellent bivouac camps both luxury and budget for an overnight stay. All those who visit the Sahara Desert are guaranteed a Tuareg guide or a Berber guide who will assist a Sahara journey across the silent, mystical dunes.

If time allows then a few other places not to be missed on a Sahara Desert exploration are the Rissani, Erfoud and the Berber Village of Ait Ouzzine. The Souk, the Madid Ksar and fresh bread called  Madfouna are three things not to miss doing in Rissani. For Erfoud, a pitstop to this capital of fossils is a must. For those who truly want to see the “real Morocco” then considering a bread baking lesson, henna time and lunch in the Berber  village of Ait Ouzzine with a Moroccan family is a must.

For more information about Morocco’s Sahara Desert region

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration

Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration in the USA at 1 (800) 787-8806 or in Morocco 1 (212)618-88-26-81 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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