Travel Day: Towards the Sahara

Travel Day: Towards the Sahara

Travelling southwards towards the Sahara, the landscape is wide and flat until, on the far horizons, the surrounding mountains of the Atlas and the Jbel Ougnat are seen.

Long, linear settlements are passed through and the Moroccan ‘theatre’ continues with people at café tables, children leading donkeys, herders sitting on rocks as their flocks graze, school pupils walking to school, small vegetable stalls, nomads with tents on their way to a new area of pasture and people riding side-saddle.

Artesian wells appear like giant mole hills on the flat landscape; 2-3m high and with a diameter of 3-4m. Sunk to harvest the water from below ground, as water tables have fallen and droughts have increased, they have become abandoned. The few remaining active wells are well known to the desert nomads as they lead their animals between grazing lands.

Sand dunes now encroach the road and threaten to engulf it. Attempts to stabilise these moving dunes can be seen, as interwoven palm branches have been placed amongst the sand to attempt to hold it in place.

The bustling market town of Erfoud has the usual fascination of organised chaos of traffic and people on the streets. Erfoud is the ‘fossil capital’ of the world and there are dusty, noisy, outlets all around where fossils are prepared and value added for tourist and world-wide trade.

As well as the official market, many small, informal ‘stalls’ are seen, set up by individual farmers with a little surplus to sell. A perfect opportunity for your group to buy their colourful headscarves for the desert. There are various ways to tie these scarves for certain conditions e.g. for intense heat on calm days and against the dust on windy days; these will be demonstrated by your Moroccan courier.

By early afternoon, the 100m tall sand dunes of Erg Chebbi are now very close. Soon the massive dunes are growing on the horizon, viewed across a hamada desert floor of wind-polished, black basalt stones. They soon dwarf the buildings of Merzouga town and the outlying hotels. Welcome to the Sahara!

It’s then time to ride off across the Sahara, on your camel towards the mighty sand dunes, to ascend a high crest and wait for the sun to set. After sipping some mint tea and sampling some small pastry delicacies at your hotel, it’s time to mount up and go. And for the truly adventurous, viewing the sunrise from the hotel’s roof terrace is well worth setting your alarms for!

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