Merzouga is a small village in southeastern Morocco, about
35 kilometers southeast of Rissani, about 45 kilometers from Erfoud, and
about 20 kilometers from the Algerian border.
The village is most famous for Erg Chebbi, a Saharan erg, and it is for this reason a part of the itineraries of many tourists visiting Morocco. Merzouga also has the largest natural body of water in Morocco.
In 2006 Merzouga experienced devastating flash floods, displacing 1,200 and resulting in some deaths.
Merzouga is a village in the southeast of morocco
, and built near the largest erg (sand dune),
50 km long (North/South) by 5 km wide swathe of sand
that reaches a height of 350 m. As a result of these
dunes, the village has developed into a popular
The local population is Arabs,blacks and Berber,very hospitable people who make visitors feel very welcome.
Marrakech, drive East to
Erfoud (2 days drive, stop for the night in or
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 road to Merzouga has been
asphalted and also to Taouz, 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 but well
maintained. There is now an asphalt road to Hassi
Lybed a smaller village - located about 4 km before
reaching village of Merzouga.
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. There are also weekly flights into Errachadia- about 2 hours north of Merzouga by car.
Rent a quad (sand-buggy) or a 4x4. Hike. There
are no local busses. There are taxis from Merzouga
and Hassi Lybed 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. Visits to villages near Merzouga
inhabited by Senegalese musicians and dancers such
as Khamlia can be arranged with some guides, ask at
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.
- 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:
- Camels (dromedaries)
The camel option is the best option (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
...60% of tourist viiting Erg chebbi sand dunes do
that at least once.
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.
- Prices are to be bargained hard, it has been reported that travellers payed between 300dh and 600dh/person/night. You loose face if you don't bargain.
- There are different options: Some hotels arrange large groups while others provide an intimate setting in an oasis in the dunes for just your party. What is described below appears to be for large groups...few hotels have their private bivouac/camp ...more quiet/peace such as hotel SAHARA only this hotel's clients spend nights there at the edge of a very big dune where you can sleep at night in summer under sky full of stars...do not need to get up early and climb to the top to see sun rise next morning.
- For some weird reason, sleeping 2 nights is more expensive. The reason is that Lunch is included if there is more than 1 night's travel. That explains the difference in price.
- 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)Depends on your camel man.
There are about 50 small hotels of varying categories along the sand dunes and in Hassi Lybed, about 4 km from Merzouga.
- Hotel Ksar Bicha Merzouga, merzouga desert, ☎ +212 35577113 , fax: +212 35573410). Hotel set in the sand dunes of Merzouga. Information on rooms, location, rates and dromedary excursions throughout the southern region of the country The Riad provides professional services in Airport transfers between (Marrakech ,Errachidia, Ouarzazate, Fes )and Merzouga desert. journeys to other cities in the great south of Morocco.
- Haven La Chance Hotel, Hassi Lybed, ☎ ''+212'' 355-77269, 212 68599340. 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 in-suite toilet and shower €25-50 with half board. The owners also run a tour company that can organise tours around Morocco for individuals, families and small groups.
- SAHARA Hotel and Bivouac, Ksar Hassi labiad.Merzouga 52202 (Tel/fax:0021235577039), ☎ Mobile:0021266766355. Clean hotel in a oasis at the edge of erg chebbi sand dunes run by flexible staff offering to guests differents kinds of lodging depending of their choices and budgets(basic rooms,double rooms, suites,berber tents,terrasse,...)swimming pool,restaurant ,prking for free and camping place under palm trees.Many different desert activities are also organised such as:cameltrips,trekking,tours by 4x4 around erg chebbi sand dunes,tours tothe lake,villages,oasis,..
- Morocco Sahara, El Bourki Lhou, Hassilabied, Merzouga, ☎ ''+212 15605886. 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.
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