NIGHT UNDER SAHARA STARRY SKY IN MERZOUGA – ERG CHEBBI
When you think of Morocco, you immediately imagine these cliched images of camel caravans
crossing the ocher dunes of the Sahara at sunset. This is exactly the kind of picture that this trip to
Merzouga reserved for us at the gates of the only Saharan Erg in Morocco, Erg Chebbi.
Our road trip through southern Morocco from Marrakech to Merzouga is coming to an end. The
trip turned out to be a compendium of crazy landscapes and enriching encounters, certainly one of
the most beautiful road trips to do in Morocco. We are now in Merzouga, a small, windswept
village at the gateway to the Sahara. The travelers who come here all hope to see these Regs
flooded with light, these Wadis invaded by sand, and of course these majestic ocher dunes that
make us dream so much. I have this special connection with the desert. Maybe I was a Bedouin in
another life, which would certainly explain my choice of being a travelholic today. After visiting
the Thar Desert in India, the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the Ocucaje
Desert in Peru, and the Simpson Desert in Australia, the time has finally come to discover a tiny
little part of the largest hot desert in the world: The Sahara.
Discovering Erg Chebbi in Merzouga
Erg Chebbi in the Tafilalet valley on the outskirts of Merzouga is, along with Chigaga, the only
Saharan erg in Morocco with immense sand dunes (150 meters high on average). For centuries the
region of Merzouga has been a real crossroads between the civilizations of the African desert.
From the terrace of our Kasbah hotel, we can already see the first sand dunes with voluptuous
shapes stretching out towards what seems to be infinity. The desert calls us. Mama Africa is
calling us. As soon as the overwhelming heat subsides, we get on our camels for a 2-hour camel
trek in the desert to reach our camp at the foot of the Erg Chebbi dunes.
My Dromedaries Caravan in the Merzouga Desert
Our dromedaries slowly entered the desert in single file, slowly and swaying. The play of
shadows on the sand dunes mesmerizes me and almost makes me forget the discomfort of my
mount. I feel alive again in this virgin wild nature that does not lie. Sand dunes stretch across the
horizon regardless of borders. Over there, somewhere is Algeria, but the dunes and the wind pass
through the countries. In the middle of this space which seems infinite, we feel infinitely small.
We lose all our bearings the better to find them. It’s only the present moment that matters. The
past is immediately swept away by the wind like the footprints of our camels on the sand. I think
of those nomads who chose this simple, decluttered way of life in an environment that seems so
inhospitable. What an incredible display of resilience and endurance! Two hours and a few aches
in the buttocks later, we are far from Merzouga. Our Berber tent camp is located in the hollow of
a monumental sand dune which serves as a natural barrier.
Sunset over the Dunes of the Sahara
Not a minute to lose. You absolutely have to climb to the top of this dune so as not to miss any of
the sunset experience. Easier said than done. For every step we take in this quicksand, we take
two steps back. You end up getting on all fours to get to the top. Challenge met. We are out of
breath, soaked in sweat, very silted up, but our efforts are rewarded by a magnificent spectacle of
light on these mounds permanently sculpted by the wind. The dunes light up with golden shades
before igniting in red, fuchsia, pale pink, a whole palette of shapes and colors drawn by the last
light of day. With our small group of friends, we suddenly feel the urge to sing at the top of our
lungs. The sound echoes endlessly, but no one can hear our wrong notes, except perhaps our
camel drivers who must by now be quite used to the euphoric reactions of visitors to Merzouga.
Night in the Camp under Starry Sky in the Middle of a Dune Ocean
Back to the camp, a tagine washed down with mint tea welcomes us. Our hosts then take out
“Guembri” (a kind of three-string guitar), “Djembé” (drum) and “rattlesnakes” (kind of castanets)
for a small concert of traditional music and songs, the opportunity to try these funny instruments
and share some giggles. Before bed, we climb back up to our dune in the dark to admire the sky
riddled with stars and shooting stars. Never has the Milky Way been so brilliant, far from the
visual pollution of big cities. Stretched out on the sand in this silence and this absolute darkness, I
think of this immense desert that surrounds us and all that it conceals of the unknown, to what it
once was, an ocean or perhaps a savannah where prehistoric species still lived. More than a simple
absence of noise, the silence that reigns sharpens all our senses and our perceptions and plunges
us deeply into the present moment. Eyes open or closed, it almost seems to touch the sky.
Of course, the Sahara only offers uniform sand as far as the eye can see … It is always bathed in
conditions of extreme boredom. And yet invisible divinities build for it a network of directions,
slopes and signs, a secret and living musculature. There is no more uniformity. Everything is
oriented … And as the desert offers no tangible wealth, as there is nothing to see or hear in the
desert, we are forced to recognize, since interior life, far from it. sleep, is strengthened there, that
man is first animated by invisible solicitations. Man is ruled by the Spirit. I am worth in the desert
what my gods are worth.