Erg Chebbi – Sahara Desert. March 5-6, 2024

Finally, we arrived at the edge of Erg Chebbi, one of the eastern sections of the Sahara Desert located in Morocco. 30 kms in length, Erg Chebbi is renowned for the colour of its sand dunes, which reach heights of 160 m in places. Incidentally, a couple of days ago there was a story on BBC about “star dunes” and, in particular, one in the Erg Chebbi, the base of which was determined to have formed 13,000 years ago.

We were booked at Sanmao Desert Luxury Camp, one of a number of these camps on the edge of the dunes, offering tent accommodation with king-sized beds, electricity, private bathrooms and showers. We elected to take the 1-hour camel trek to our camp, rather than the jeep option, which was a great (if somewhat uncomfortable) experience! Although we were aware of people riding quad vehicles out on the dunes, it was a peaceful and transportative experience and the dunes became even more golden towards sunset. Lois did object, however, when our camel driver seemed to assume we would wait out on the dunes for another 1 1/2 hours until sunset!

After recovering over the ubiquitous glasses of mint tea, we tramped up on the dunes (snowshoes might be useful here?), hoping the gathering clouds would still permit us a desert sunset. Unfortunately, the clouds prevailed. We returned to the camp dining hall to enjoy a traditional Moroccan meal of olives, dates, bread, vegetable tagine (with cheese), vegetable couscous and fresh fruit. On the way to the camp, Khalid had asked if we wanted to buy wine to bring to have with dinner. This we shared with another Canadian couple from Waterloo. Later, we were treated to drumming by an open fire.

Paul ventured outside in the middle of the night to find a clear star-studded sky. Lois regretted having decided to stay snuggled under the quilt when he returned to tell her this! The next morning, it was cloudy again, so we missed the sunrise, but the colors of the dunes were no less impressive.

Returning to Merzouga by 4×4, we were surprised to be invited into a hall decked with the flags of Africa to watch an impromptu performance of Gnawa music by local artists. The music is characterized by instrumentation with heavy iron castanets known as qraqab or krakeb, and a three-string lute known as a hajhuj, guembri or gimbri, or sentir. For us, three young men sang and played the castanets, accompanied by an electrified gimbri and a drum. It was wonderful to hear live the kind of music that we have been listening to on our road trip so far, via YouTube, thanks to Khalid.

2 thoughts on “Erg Chebbi – Sahara Desert. March 5-6, 2024”

  1. The camel ride and the night in the desert sound amazing. And, your pictures are excellent.

  2. It all looks spectacular, I had read the article about the star dunes which was fascinating .
    Great photos as always— what a lot of sand!!x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *