White Sun of the Desert – Merzouga, Morocco
Every trip I take has a main goal, a place I want to get to the most and from which I expect great emotions in advance. This time it was the desert. I dreamed of seeing golden-orange dunes and breathing in the dry air of the Sahara.
My favorite country has packed so many wonderful places into a small area – the ocean, the mountains, and the desert.
And even though most of the desert is dry cracked soil,
and the sand dunes, called ergs, are only a small part of it, you can still get high from being in a real, unique, largest desert in the world.
In Morocco you can see barchans near 2 places – Zagora and Merzouga. But Zagora is more difficult, while in Merzouga the sands start right behind the village. The erg near Merzouga is called Erg Shebbi.
So I took a bus from Tingir to Merzuga. The bus was late. It’s a five-hour ride. There are a lot of people, there are ubiquitous Chinese. When it got dark and the stars lit up, I lay down on two seats facing the window, put headphones with music in my ears and drove towards my dream, admiring huge bright African stars outside the window.
Instead of 21.00 we arrived at 22.00. My caring friend Munir called my hotel back in Tingira and informed about the bus being late. The owner promised to meet me. By the way, many tourists got off the bus in the village of Hassilabied, where Erg Shebbi is also nearby.
He met me and another girl, Natalie from Australia. We were then put in the same 2-bed room, even though we had booked beds in a shared room. While walking from the bus stop to the hotel, I literally could not take my eyes off the black night sky, studded with stars the size of my fist. I have not seen such bright and large even in the mountains at an altitude of more than three thousand meters. An amazing and unforgettable sight!
In the hotel AUBERGE CHEZ JULIA our host immediately treated us with mint tea and began to offer tours on camels in the desert. A daily tour with overnight stay and meals costs 550 dh (55 euros). Very persistently so offered, but I managed to refuse. I will walk on the sands and myself, there is no need for a guide, camels I dislike – not the most convenient mode of transportation, and housing I have and here paid for, why he idle for nothing. Natalie agreed to the tour and the next night I was alone in my room.
The room is not bad. The cold, of course, is terrible, so we were given 3 wool blankets. The hardest thing is to get warm, then sleep normally. I’m looking on Booking right now, the prices at this hotel have gone up a lot. In January 2017 a place in a shared room cost 5-6 euros and now it’s 18!
Took breakfasts in the hotel, they are good and hearty. The bread was the freshest, the boiled egg was still hot, and those little yogurts were very tasty. Breakfast cost 30 dh (200 rubles).
After breakfast I went to the store, bought a 1.5 liter bottle of water and set off into the sands. At the end of the village there is an arch from which the road leads to the barchans. They seem huge even from this distance! I even wept at such beauty. It was as incredible a sight for me as a skyscraper is for a local Bedouin.
I don’t know the height of the biggest dune, there is information on the Internet that the dunes are up to 160 meters high. This one, right in front of the entrance, is by far the highest. A Berber in a blue djellaba and a yellow turban immediately attached himself to me. I didn’t fall for offers to ride camels, he just walked behind me and pestered me with questions. And I climbed happily up the ridge of the barchan.
I must say, it is a very difficult thing to do, not only because of the steep angle of ascent, but also because of the softness of the sand. I would lift my foot 30 cm, and it would slide down 25 cm with the sand. And that’s how I progressed at a snail’s pace. Water is the most necessary thing. I was first in a sweater, then stripped down to a T-shirt. The air temperature was about 20 degrees. Periodically rested. From each step there were sand scrambles.
At one point I wanted to take out my phone for a photo, but it wasn’t in my pocket! I look back and it’s lying about 10 meters down. It fell out when I was sitting down. And then Bara (that’s the name of a Berber who dressed up as a desert dweller – a Tuareg), who was already walking ahead of me, ran downstairs and brought me my phone.
Finally we are at the top. The view opens up all the way to the Algerian border, which is only 50 km away.
These smooth curves of sandy passes!
This barchan is gigantic! If you think about how many grains of sand it is made up of, you can go crazy because there is no name for that number. Just take a look at the photo:
Where the little man is going, it is not the bottom of the barchan, it is a pass (in mountaineering parlance). And I am on the neighboring pass. And Merzuga is about 160 meters lower.
Feelings from the ascent are like from conquering a mountain peak. But unlike a mountain peak, where you can climb, write a note and go down, here you can sit for hours. You can take off your shoes, sink your feet into the not very warm January sand, clench a handful of it in your fist and pour out a grain of sand at a time, run merrily down and then climb up again
.Bara taught me how to tie my turban. Real Tuaregs leave only their eyes open.
I asked Bara where to get a good meal and he recommended a place on the main street. I don’t remember the name, but it was right in front of the house where the bus ticket office is:
The prices there are more or less cheap compared to other cafes and there is a terrace. By the way, I once forgot my wallet in my room and discovered it when I wanted to pay for dinner. The waiter let me go to get it without any problems, he didn’t even take a deposit.
I walked back to the hotel through a palm oasis:
Here’s the front of my hotel:
The hotel has a nice terrace too, I sat there, basking in the sun because the room is as cold as it is at night.
There are a lot of hotels in Merzouga for such a small village. In the street, playing children shout “Bonjour, Madame!” and smile.
And in the evening I went to the barchans again to admire the sunset. The desert is even more beautiful in the pre-sunset rays.
A few people take observation positions higher up, someone on camels going to the camp with an overnight stay, someone passed by in a jeep:
The shadows lengthen:
Here just recently someone has left a mark:
And Sunny and I take pictures in this beautiful scenery:
After sunset, it took me another hour to get to the village. You go on and on and on, and you go far away. So that the only landmark – a 15-meter tower near the trees – becomes barely recognizable. Be vigilant, citizens! Don’t go far away.
I wanted to see the sunrise, but I changed my mind about getting out from under the warm blankets into the cold. The sunset, I’m sure, is still more beautiful. On the second day I also walked on my own, again climbed the giant dune, but this time by traverse, so it was easier. At the same time with me far away on one of the ridges a figure was crawling upwards. It was really crawling on all fours.
Today it is cooler and windy. The most striking thing about the desert is the wind-artist. How does he do it?
By the way, there are not only loose and soft barchans, there are some with dense sand on the windward side. It is a pleasure to walk on them. And also here you can go deep into yourself, no one will interfere or disturb you.
The white sun of the desert is really white!
But in the evening it is already very cold and I even wore a hat.
During these 2 days I also went to the lake with migratory birds. I made sure it was dry (it fills up in late winter after the rains). Practiced haggling (managed to get the price of a Moroccan suit down from 180 to 100 dh).
Bought a ticket for the morning bus. As I wrote earlier, the plan was to go to a new place – Bumalne Dades, but I went back to my beloved Tinghir. The bus goes once a day to Marrakech, leaving at 8am.
In general, the desert completely met all expectations and even exceeded them. There you realize that nothing can be more beautiful. At least at that moment. And I still remembered these happy 2 days many times, when I shook out the Sahara sand from the pockets of my sweatshirt and sneakers. This place should be seen by everyone. What I sincerely wish you all!