Merzouga is a village in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, on the edge of Erg Chebbi, a 50km long and 5km wide set of sand dunes that reach up to 350m. Most people are here to take a camel safari into the dunes, and to get a taste of remote (tourism-influenced) Berber life.
The local population is mix of Arabs and Berber, and generally welcoming and friendly.
From Marrakech, drive East to Erfoud (2 days drive, stop for the night in or near Ouarzazate). From Fez, drive South to Erfoud (1 day).
From Erfoud, continue South 14 km (11 miles) to Rissani, carry on through the village and follow the road Southeast for 40 km (24 miles) to Merzouga. In recent years, the road to Merzouga has been asphalted and also to Taouz, a southern military border town (foreigners cannot cross here). The short access roads (1 or 2 km long) from the main road to the hotels alongside the sand dunes are normally not asphalted, but well maintained. There is now an asphalt road to Hassi Lybed, a smaller village about 4 km before Merzouga.
From Rissani to Merzouga, a grand taxi or van is 10/12dh. If you don't want to wait for other people to fill your grand taxi, pay 60dh. If you arrive before sunrise (if you come in the 9pm bus from Fez) you can pay up to 100dh for a grand taxi.
Beware of guides in Rissani or Erfoud who offer to take you to Merzouga for 5 dihram each, but instead strand you at their auberge 20 km north of the village. If you decline their offers of camel rides and lodging, it is often quite difficult (and expensive) to make your way back to town.
You can also fly to Ouarzazate from Casablanca, then continue to Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.
There are also weekly flights into Errachadia, about 2 hours north of Merzouga by car.
Tour operators can arrange 4x4s with driver/guides from Marrakech or Casablanca and back.
The only way to get around Merzouga is on foot. It's fairly small and easily walkable, but you'll likely want to avoid the midday heat.
Sunrise/sunset over the dunes. Folk dances and black G'naui music. Visits to villages near Merzouga inhabited by Senegalese musicians and dancers such as Khamlia can be arranged with some guides, ask at your hotel.
- Animals – see the ducks, and in early spring, flamingos, on the Dayet Srji salt lake, just west of Merzouga. There are many other species of birds (ruddy sheldrack and Kittllitz's plower during the spring migration, Tristram's desert warbler, the Egyptian nightjar, the arabian buzzard and falcons), and the desert sparrows are unique to this region and can be seen all year round. There are also reptiles (Algerian sand lizards, Berber skinks and snakes), mammals such as gerbils, desert hedgehogs, field mice and desert foxes, and scarab beetles. In the morning, you can often see their tracks in the sand. Brown scorpions can occasionally be seen, but they come out at night and tend to avoid humans.
Camel train near Merzouga
Berber Children selling dolls in desert
- Camel Safaris. Almost certainly the reason you came here in the first place, and by far the best way to experience the dunes. After taking you into the village to buy a proper head scarf to protect you from the sun, you'll be thrown on a camel and lead off into the desert. Meals, water, tents, etc should all be taken care of by your leader, but naturally you'd want to confirm this when you do your negotiations beforehand—be very specific, and ask lots of questions. Speaking of negotiations, do your research before coming (ask other travelers in Marrakech, etc for recommendations and for what they paid), and be prepared to bargain very hard.... the industry here is smooth and deceivingly vicious.
On the first night, most groups end up at a pre-setup camp circle at the base of some large dunes, where the various tour operators have their Berber tents set up. Dinner will be cooked here, perhaps some music played, and you can frolic on the sand dunes under zillions of stars. If you're only on a 1 day trip, then you'll wake early, have some tea/breakfast, and head back before it gets hot. Others will hang out during the day, beating the heat in the tents all day, and either spend another night here or venture further out beyond the dunes and stay with a berber family, where you'll then set out to return early on the third morning. A few operators have their own private camps that will offer a more remote experience, ask around if this is what you seek.
It is also possible to tour the dunes on ATVs, but this is highly discouraged.... You're destroying the beauty of what you came to see in the first place, and severely ruining the remote experience that most people are here enjoying on a camel.
Most people eat meals at their lodge, but a few basic restaurants are scattered around the town if you are in need.
There are about 50 small hotels of varying categories along the sand dunes, and most of them own camels or can at least arrange your trip into the dunes.
- Complexe touristique de Merzouga, B.pn 49 merzouga centre taouz cercle rissani (500 m from the centre of merzouga), ☎ +212.535576322 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . it is the nearest hotel to the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Mr Sadoq and his qualified staff will make sure that your experience is unique, and put under your disposition all our services: Hotel, Restaurant, Snack, Bar, Terrasse, Piscine, Bivouac, and Excurtion with 4x4 or Camel.42 rooms including suites and a royal suite are under your disposition. €25 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
- Les pyramides hotel, Ksar Merzouga 52202 BP 41 Errachidia MAROC, ☎ +212.67013.7673 (email@example.com), . Located right on the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Ali and his staff will host you night and day, 24 / day to give you the best service €20 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
- Auberge Berberes, ☎ +212.6810.3178 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Located right on the edge of the dunes, offering single, double and triple rooms. €20-30 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
- Auberge du Sud, ☎ +212.66121.6166 (email@example.com, fax: +212.3557.8631), . On the edge of the dunes, all rooms come with private bathroom. Swimming pool, camel safaris. €15-40 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
- Auberge Oasis, Hassi Labiad, ☎ +212.66173.9041, . 15€.
- Auberge Sahara Hotel, Ksar Hassi Labiad, ☎ +212.3557.7039, Mobile:+212.6676.6355 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +212.3557.7303), . Clean hotel in a oasis at the edge of erg chebbi sand dunes run by flexible staff. Swimming pool, restaurant, free parking, and a variety of accommodation options including camping under palm trees. Camel safaris and various trips around the area can be arranged.
- Chez Julia, ☎ +212.3557.3182, Mobile +212.7018.1360. Spotless clean, very friendly French/English/German speaking staff, great meals (tajines can be shared). From 130dh..
- Dar el Khamlia, Ksar Khamlia, ☎ +212.7091.4351 (email@example.com), . Dar el Khamlia is just outside of Merzouga, offering lodging for those who like to be more near the local people. Comfortable rooms, meals included. Camel trekking into dunes, excursions by 4x4, pick up at airport Errachidia, Ouarzazate or Marrakesh.
- Desert Fish, ☎ +212.7208.5113. Right next to the sand dunes. A bivouac with a space to eat and relax and very nice, comfortable Berber tents. The place is managed by some very friendly, young boys. The Berber tents are nice and clean, there are three good showers, the food is good, they play live Gnaoua music after dinner.
- Haven La Chance Desert Hotel, Hassi Lybed, ☎ +212.3557.7269 +212.6859.9340 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Modern, comfortable hotel right next to the sand dunes and palm trees. Most rooms are en-suite, Berber tents for the more adventurous. Singles / doubles with en-suite toilet and shower. The owners also run a tour company that can organize tours around Morocco for individuals, families and small groups. €25-50 with half board.
- Hotel Yasmina, ☎ +212.3557.6783 (email@example.com, fax: +212.3577.4071), . Yasmina is located right on the bottom of the dunes of Erg Chebbi, on a hill with great views of the dunes. Pool, on site restaurant and camel safaris. from €20-45 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
- Ksar Bicha, ☎ +212.5355.77113 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +212.5355.73410). A traditional, family-run kasbah with views of the dunes from the roof terrace. En suite rooms arranged around two plant-filled courtyards. English, French, Spanish, German and Italian are spoken. (31°06.438,W004°00.635)
- Les Portes du Desert, ☎ +212.7369.4601 (email@example.com, fax: +212.3557.7930), . A comfortable hotel decorated in a mix of Arabesque, Andalusian and European styles. Pool, on site restaurant, and camel safaris. €26-50 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
- Morocco Sahara, El Bourki Lhou, Hassilabied, ☎ +212.1560.5886 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Made-to-measure camel trekking and tours of the dunes and wadis, sleeping in furnished traditional Berber tents. Camel tours of from 1 to 8 days and more, in groups or individually with a sensitive and knowledgable guide/camel driver from a traditional nomad family. Sleep in Berber and Tuareg encampments or in seclusion. Tailored service. Comfortable clean tents, some with sprung mattress beds. Great traditional food.
- Nasser Palace, Ksar Hassilabied, ☎ +212.7078.0028 (email@example.com, fax: +212.3557.8010), . Nasser Palace is a hotel with swimming pool and spa located on the dunes of Merzouga. 20 rooms with private toilets, bivouac and camel trekkings on Sahara dunes. €25-45 per person including breakfast and dinner.
- Hotel Nomad Palace, Ksar Merzouga 52202, ☎ +212662191244, . Hotel Nomad Palace is located outside Merzouga, on the way to Taouz, before Khamlia. Comfortable, quiet, with terraces, swimming pool, restaurant, all rooms with private bathrooms,suite with king size beds. Half board included. Camel treks, 4x4 tours and pick up form any airport. Other tours can be arranged.
- Riad Aicha Hotel, Ksar Hassi Labiad, bp;51 Merzouga Errachidia maroc fax:00212 0535577986 Mobile: 00212 71153311, firstname.lastname@example.org
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