Well, I can cross that one off the bucket list. Took a long ass road trip from Marrakech, Morocco through the Atlas mountains, a Game of Thrones filming site, camel poop city and ended up on a huge sand dune watching one of the most beautiful and peaceful sunsets I’ve ever seen in the Sahara Desert.
If you’re in Morocco or anywhere else that has a desert, all I have to say is this:
What a treat.
For me, the “Sahara Desert,” represents this extremely exotic place I only read about in textbooks when I was a little kid. I never thought I’d actually make it there. But alas, this life is taking me to some amazing places. Al-hamdu lillah.
If you go to the desert in Morocco, there’s basically two spots you can go to see the most badass dunes, Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi is near Merzouga and the easier one to get to, which is what we did. You can drive there from Marrakech or take a bus from though Ouarzazate to Merzouga if you’re going by yourself. If you’re going with a tour, you can just sleep on the bus and not worry about where exactly you’re going.
Erg Chigaga is a little bigger than Erg Chebbi and nearer to Zagora and M’hamid. The trek into the desert from M’hamid (the nearest town) is about 5 hours on a camel, or one hour in a 4×4. We wanted the camel experience but 5 hours seemed a little… much. How do you even sit on their hump anyway? What if they have two humps? Did not seem logical as it was and I was skeptical.
It was nice to drive because we could stop whenever we wanted and take pictures or sight see, not sure if you’ll be able to do that on a bus or with a tour. A place to definitely check out on the way is
, an ancient fortified city built by the Berber people along the trade route between the Sahara and Marrakech. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is pretty cool to walk through. Not to mention they filmed part of Game of Thrones there… what whaaaat. Nerd alert.
The drive itself took us about 8 hours to get from Marrakech to Merzouga, although we stumbled upon a traffic detour in the dark and got utterly lost (this isn’t on the map!!?). So we stopped for the night in Boumaine on the way there. But it WOULD have taken us about 8 hours…
We also took our sweet ass time and stopped pretty often to ooh and ahh and take lots of pictures. But like I said, it would have taken us about 8 hours if we drove straight through. We took the northern route through Skoura, Errachida and Erfoud on the way there and the southern route through literally nothing (except gorgeous roads) on the way back.
The way there was through lots of little villages and very close and good look at life in rural Morocco. Donkies everywhere, women bent in half with HUGE load of mustard greens on their backs, shepherds and their sheep on the side of the road. It was definitely a nice change from the daily chaos of Marrakech.
There are also some cool sights on the way there, like Ait Ben Haddou, the Hollywood Studio in Ouarzazate, Dades Gorges near Boumaine and the Valley of Roses, which is supposed to be beautiful when in bloom.
We stayed with a very nice Berber man who we had arranged to meet in Hassilabied. He took us into his family’s home and served us tea and gave us a room to put all our stuff. Then we set off on camels!
It took us about an hour to get into the middle of the dunes, a very pretty and peaceful ride on camel back, we only saw two other people on our way to the camp. Once settled, we drank mint tea with BRICKS of sugar and made a delicious dinner of tagine and harira, a traditional Moroccan soup with a tomato base. MMM.
We climbed to the highest dune for the sunset and then watched the stars slowly appear. It was the new moon while we were there, so the the sky was pitch black and the stars absolutely incredible. Made a fire, played some drums and contemplated life.
Woke up to the sound of “SUNRIIIIIIIIISE!” and clambered out of our beds to watch the new day wash over the sand dunes. Wiped our sleepy eyes, climbed on to the camels and left our night in the desert behind us.
The only thing I wish is that we had more time in the desert. Because we got lost on our way there and had to spend the night, we ended up only being in the desert for about 16 hours or so, which was not enough for me. The trip was great but it definitely felt rushed and we spent a LOT of time in the car. If you’re making the trip from Marrakech to Merzouga, I would suggest taking more than 3 days to do it because you’ll spend around 2 of them driving.
All in all though, an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. If you have the chance to go to the desert, I can’t recommend it enough.