Our second and third days of the trip were dedicated to Merzouga, home of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, where we camped out for the night. The Erg Chebbi dunes are Morocco's highest sand dunes, and they're a mere 10 kilometers from the Algerian border. As the dunes are just miles of sand, we rode camels as transportation, not even for leisure! Luckily, these rides coincided with the Saharan sunset and sunrise.
Once we arrived at camp, we chose our tents and set off to hike up the dunes before dinner. Hardest. Thing. Ever. I mean, take the hardest workout you've ever done and multiply that intensity by ten. These are the highest dunes in Morocco, after all.
Some of the guys reached the peak fairly quickly, but Zaira, Kerridwen, and I seriously lagged behind, taking multiple breaks. It seemed like we'd never make it and weren't advancing higher, so reaching the top was such an incredible feeling. Sure, we had miniature sand dunes in our shoes and were completely out of breath, but the stargazing and jokes and games and laughs made it all worth it.
|c/o Zaira García|
After our nighttime dune hike, we ate (a well-deserved) dinner of tajines and clementines around the fire. Meanwhile, the men in charge of the camp sang and played instruments. It was such a lovely time, and I wish I had more photos but it was too dark. There's some footage of the music at the bottom of this post, though!
After spending half the night laying under the stars, playing truth or dare like middle schoolers, sharing a bottle of wine, and laughing as if we had no care in the world, we slept for just a couple of hours before our 6:00 a.m. wake-up call. We quickly gathered our belongings, moved out of the tents, and rode our camels to the bus back to Marrakech, all while enjoying the sunrise.
The video below combines clips from the landmarks and camping excursion, giving an excellent snapshot of the trip as a whole.
The company we used was Marrakech Rouge Hostels, and I'm going to be honest, I wasn't totally thrilled. We were under the impression that all meals were included, but learned that this only meant breakfast and dinner; when we contested that at the pre-departure meeting, the guy called us "dishonest people" just trying to take advantage of them. Additionally, all guides are supposed to be included, but we were charged 25 dirham for the Kasbah Aït-Benhaddou tour. Granted, that's maybe 2,50€, but still. And the restaurants they took us to for lunch were relatively expensive. Whereas you can easily find a tajine for 30-40 dirham in Morocco, they took us to restaurants that charged us up to 110 for the meal. That's a lot of money for a traditional Moroccan meal.
The tour also felt unorganized. We didn't have a trip leader, rather a bus driver, and different guides met us at the different locations. There was no one really in charge, which made me feel a bit uneasy. I never felt unsafe, rather that I was on my own with 16 other young adults in the middle of the desert.
Regardless, I still enjoyed the tour and would recommend it, as long as you're aware of some of the hidden costs up front.
Have any of you ever done a desert tour?