Have you ever been to Africa? Of course safari’s and animal spotting are unique there, but what about a visit to the Sahara? The north of Africa has many countries that provide access to these unique stretches of sand aka deserts.
As you could have read in my previous blogs about our stays in Fez and Chefchaouen in north Morocco we had a wonderful 8 day vacation a few weeks ago road tripping through Morocco. Although this country is well known for Marrakech, its unique culture, architecture and other exciting cities, it’s also one with formidable mountains and behind that quite a stretch of desert around the border of Morocco and Algeria.
We booked a guided tour from Marrakech through the Atlas mountains all the way to the desert in the south east of Morocco. This is more than a 2 days drive and impossible without a good tour guide and overnight stays. There are a lot of specialized tour companies offering these trips including transport and accommodation, and even overnight desert stays. I would recommend to find the best one for your needs in advance by looking for Tripadvisor reviews.
In this blog I will show you our experience of the desert and all the attractions and sights around it through many of my personal pics.
(Remember to click on the small pics to see the full version and description)
I can definitely recommend a tour like this if you want to experience the real heritage and culture of Morocco, instead of only visiting the more well known cities and sights.
After a long drive through the Atlas mountains and passing by the Dades valley and unique Moroccan villages, about which I will tell you more in upcoming blogs, it was amazing to wake up in the Sahara desert of Merzouga, with sunrises and views like these.
Merzouga is a small village in the south east of Morocco, only 50 km from the Algerian border, and very close to Erg Chebbi desert; a small part of the Sahara.
Erg Chebbi dunes and Berber visit
The experience of the desert was really special to me! Although this part of the Sahara is not big the sights and colors are no less impressive! The dunes of Erg Chebbi are up to 150 meters high in some places and altogether cover an area of 50 kms from north to south and up to 10 kilometers from east to west bordering Algeria.
The colors of the desert are so diverse and have many shades, dependant on the time of day, area and weather, truly a magnificent sight!
It was also very special to visit a original nomad tent in the middle of the desert and drink Moroccan tea here with a true Berber! Unique to see how these people live in solitude, survive and provide in their every day needs and move on again after a while.
Berbers are indigenous to North Africa and this ethnic group calls themselves “free people” or “noble men”. Nowadays most Berbers live in north Africa and mainly Libya, Algeria and Morocco.
Ait Ben Haddoud Village
But on your way to the desert you will pass by many Kasbahs and original Moroccan villages well worth a visit as well. Ait Ben Haddoud is probably the most famous one, due to the fact that it’s listed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and several films have been shot there, including: Jewel of the Nile, Prince of Persia, The Mummy and Gladiator.
This fortified village is situated along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech and split in 2 parts. Most inhabitants live in more modern houses in the village on the other side of the river, but there are also still 4 families living in the ancient village.
Inside the walls of the city there are many Kasbahs which are the perfect display of the original earthen clay architecture, frequently used in Moroccan buildings.
Atlas Film Studio’s
These studio’s are a bit more touristy and less original, but are still nice to visit as they show the movie sets which were used to film many iconic movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven and give you a good idea of how film sets are built and used to display ancient villages and cultural scenes.
Overnight desert stay and camel safari
In Merzouga close to the edge of the dunes a number of hotels offer camel trips into the desert. You can also book an overnight stay in a tented camp several kms into the Erg, which makes you feel completely surrounded by nature and huge sand dunes.
The ride to the camp by camel is fun, but bumpy, so not recommended if you have back problems. Because of the proximity to the city the ride is not long though and brings you into the middle of the dunes with wonderful views like these:
We stayed in a luxurious desert camp, which meant we had our own tent which was quite large and had a normal bed, our own bathroom and a real Moroccan dinner included. Looking for falling stars during night fall while lying on top of a sand dune was truly unique and so romantic.
But experiencing a sunrise in the middle of these mighty dunes is also such a special experience and something I will never forget!
Next to that I can recommend visiting some Kasbahs as they are unique to Morocco and display the country’s heritage and original architecture very well.
We visited one of the oldest Kasbahs of Morocco from the inside as well:
A Kasbah is actually a type of medina, or fortress and a place for the local leader to live and protect himself when a city is under attack. To have a Kasbah was a sign of wealth of some families in the city. The Kasbah is a clay-stone constructed building with high walls without windows with a walled courtyard, usually with a tropical or vegetable garden.
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I hope was able to convince you of the beauty of the Moroccan desert and surroundings. I would love to hear what you think of my desert pics and tips, just leave a reply below…