Merzouga

Classic images containing silhouettes of camels strolling across sand dunes come to mind during discussions about Morocco, and the excursion that allows for such photography comes from Merzouga, the itty bitty town not far from the Algerian border. Camel rides across the Saharan Desert with the berbers may be not just the highlight of Merzouga, but perhaps all of Morocco.IMG_0033

Even the twisting drive from Fes to Merzouga over the mountains through high desert towns offered fantastic views of North African country.

Before we arrived at our hotel/motorhome park of choice, we made a wrong turn and ended up getting stuck in a sand pit just outside the entrance.  With the help of several locals and two shovels, we were able to dig ourselves out after 1.5 hours beneath the midday sun.  A flat tire also added to the “fun.”

Finally after all the driving, digging, and tire-changing, we showered and settled into our 40 DH ($4.13)/night hotel-campground, Kanz Erremal Sarl.  All hotel amenities were available to campers (showers, bathrooms, beautiful lobby, wifi, pool), making our “camping” experience a pampered one.  Not far from the pool were views of the Erg Chebbi dunes, Morocco’s largest sand dunes, along with dozens of camels that could be heard regurgitating and chewing throughout the day and night.

Many tourists seem to opt for the 1 or 2-night camel ride excursion, but with our extremely limited time in Morocco, we only had time for the quick sunset or sunrise ride, a 1-hour sample of camel trekking.  Dozens of hotels lined the road leading to Merzouga, offering camel tours with competitive prices: 150 DH ($15.57) for the sunrise or sunset tour, or 400 DH ($41.51) for the 1-night tour.  After our misadventure for the day, we decided to do the sunrise tour in order to relax the rest of the afternoon.

I’ve always preferred sunrises to sunsets–fresh and calm air, refreshing silence, and fewer people.  Despite there being crowds that swarmed the sunset tours, Chris and I ended up being the only people for the sunrise ride!  We spent about 20 minutes riding camels across the dunes, parked the camels, and walked up a steeper dune to watch sunrise.  As we waited for the new day’s light to make its way in, we watched the stars gradually fade away from the velvet sky and the dunes glow a golden crimson–practically a spiritual experience.

By the time we remounted the camels, the sun was high enough to cast our shadows across the dunes, painting the perfect image to photograph.

And a quick 20 minutes later, we were back at the hotel with plenty of time to continue our road trip across Morocco.IMG_20160415_072954

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