Merzouga

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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.

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Points of Interest in Merzouga

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.

Dayet Srji

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About Merzouga

Activities

  • 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 and make sure you're 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. This provides a more intimate setting with fewer people and noise where you can relax and enjoy the stars. Cost a little bit more but worth it. Also check to see if showers are included after the camel trek.

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.

Food

Most people eat meals at their lodge, but a few basic restaurants are scattered around the town if you are in need.

  • Haven La Chance, Hassi Labaid,  +212.66859.9340. Arrange lunches at Haven La Chance Desert Hotel. Either by the hotel or in the desert itself. Popular is pizza cooked in the sand as the nomads do.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Merzouga on Wikivoyage.

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