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[[Image:Merzouga_Morocco.JPG|thumb|300px|Street in Merzouga]]
'''Merzouga''' is a village in the Sahara Desert in [[Morocco]].
Merzouga is the biggest village in the region, and built near the largest ''erg'' (sand dune) in Morocco - a 50 km long (North/South) by 5 km wide swathe of sand that reaches a height of 350m. As a result of these dunes, the village has developed into a popular tourist destination.
The local population is almost entirely Berber, a most hospitable people who make visitors welcome.
==Get in==
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 South-East 40 km (24 miles) to Merzouga. In recent years, the roads have been asphalted to Merzouga and on to Tauz, a southern military border town. The short access roads (1 or 2 km long) from the main road to the hotels alongside the sand dunes are normally not asphalted.
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.
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 21hs bus from [[Fez]]) you can pay up to 100dh for a grand taxi to Rissani
You can also fly to Ouarzazate from [[Casablanca]], then continue to Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.
==Get around==
Rent a quad (sand-buggy) or a 4x4. Hike. There are no local busses. There are taxis from Merzouga to Rissani and back, but they don't do other routes.
Tour operators can arrange 4x4s or SUVs with driver/guides from Marrakech or Casablanca and back.
Sunrise/sunset over the dunes. Folk dances and black G'naui music.
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.
[[Image:Camel_train_near_Merzouga.JPG|thumb|right|Camel train near Merzouga]]
[[Image:Berber children selling dolls in Erg Chebbi.jpg|thumb|right|Berber Children selling dolls in desert]]
*Overnight camel trips in the nearby Erg Chebbi (sand dunes).
*Hire a 4x4 and drive around the dunes.
*Sand skiing
*Visits can be arranged to Berber homes to see how they live, watch them prepare home-made bread and cous-cous or tagines, eat with them and drink mint tea.
===Visit the Sahara===
For day or overnight trips to the sahara you have 3 main options:
* 4x4
* Walk
* Camels (dromedaries)
====By camel====
The camel option seems to be the "better" (more connected with the environment than the 4x4 and less effort than walking). All the hotels can arrange this trips, and they get a share from what you pay.
There are different excursions, spending 1, 2 or more nights in the desert. Most trips departing from Merzouga stop in the same oasis for the first night, so it may be crowded depending on the season. You will sleep in tents, with blanket-floors and your guide will cook dinner for you while you go to see the sunset (if you reach the top of the huge dune there, that is).
Then, if your excursion was 1 night, you will be woken up to see the sunrise (which is on the "other" side, so you don't have to climb the dune), drink tea and go back.
If you are going to stay one more night, you'll leave the oasis and continue.
Take in mind:
* Pay around 300dh/person/night
* For some weird reason, sleeping 2 nights is more expensive (300dh*2 + 200dh). Bargain hard.
* Talk in advance what is included and what's not: food, water, blankets, how far are you going, etc.
* Each guide cooks for just his group, so if you want to eat something special, maybe you can pay a few dirhams more and have a tastier meal (standard is chicken tajine)
* What you can do the 2nd day varies from guide to guide: visit some mines, a Berber village, the Sudanese-music-village near Merzouga. For more informations and good services just ask HASSAN camelman of SAHARA 's hotel:
[,0,4985269.story?coll=orl-travel-headlines ''When the Sahara Calls''] at
*Fossils in various designs, vases, plates, bowls, wine goblets, tables, ashtrays,
*Berber rugs, jewelery, antiques, can be purchased at the local Berber co-operatives - ask for an explanation regarding the history and the meaning of the rug designs.
*Mint tea
*Bottled water
There are about 50 small hotels of varying categories along the sand dunes and in Hassi Lybed, about 4 km from Merzouga. A nice one is:
* '''Haven La Chance Hotel''', Hassi Lybed, ph ''+212'' 355-77269, ('' [mailto:[email protected]  [email protected]]'') [] - A modern, comfortable hotel with ensuite toilets and showers in most rooms, and Berber tents for the more adventurous. Singles / doubles with in-suite toilet and shower start from 25€ / 50€ with half board. The owners also run a tour company that can organise tours around Morocco for individuals, families and small groups.
* <sleep name="Chez Julia" address="" phone="Tel 035 – 57 31 82 Mobil 070 – 18 13 60" email="" fax="" checkin="" checkout="" price="Rooms starting at 130dh" url=""></sleep>. Spotless clean, very friendly french/english/german speaking staff, great meals (tajines can be shared). Super recommended!
==Get out==
*[[Marrakech]], [[Fez]] and [[Casablanca]]

Revision as of 14:18, 23 August 2007