Camel Excursion through the Dunes – Merzouga, Morocco

About 4 hours from Tinerhir and the Todra Gorge through a hot, flat desert of not much interest lies the Erg Chebbi sand dunes that glow a pinkish orange against the black volcanic floor.

Most everyone says that the best way to see the dunes and experience the desert is on an overnight excursion by camel to one of the oasis camps. Our camels and guide, arranged by the guesthouse, arrived just after 4PM and after sorting out a small mix-up on whether the bottle of wine we had arranged with the owner of the guesthouse was actually in the pack or not, we departed for the two hour journey through the dunes to the camp.

It’s a gorgeous time of day to be out in the dunes. The soft evening light casts longer and longer shadows across the sand. The temperature is near perfect with a soft warm breeze. The camel ride is, however, horribly, horribly uncomfortable and I have to hold on for dear life every time we descend a dune. Don on the other hand is perfectly balanced on his beast. It turns out not all camels (or camel saddles) are shaped the same and some are much more comfortable than others.

Photographing the ever changing light across the dunes atop a camel is also challenging. Holding on with one hand while trying to take a picture with the other as the dromedary bounces you around is less than ideal for taking clear pictures.

The dromedary path generally crosses the lower and harder packed sand, making the first part of the journey not as picturesque as the second half when we are fully immersed in the dunes.

We arrive at the Merzouga Oasis Camp at about 6:30PM. There are a number of camps situated in an oasis area on the east side of a very large dune, which means that to see the sunset you need to climb most of the way up, not an easy task, especially if you are short on time.

After sunset guests go back to the camp site where they are served the dinner organized by their respective hotels. The food, however, is actually cooked at the camp. For us they had prepared a mixed meat and veg tagine served with bread and the wine we had arranged to bring.

The sleeping quarters are Berber tents with rugs on top of the sand and cloth walls.  Mattresses placed on the floor make a comfortable bed. You are given clean sheets to make the bed. Blankets are also provided. It’s best to bring a flashlight as the only other lighting is by candle. The toilet is where ever you can find a spot out by the camels.

The temperature dropped throughout the night and except for the occasional braying of the camp donkey and the gusting wind the night was quiet.

We were awoken shortly before daybreak to watch the sunrise. A short walk up any number of hills in front of the camp affords great sunrise views. Never have I seen turquoise in a sunrise.

After a quick tea we pack up and head home. Again a gorgeous time of day to be out in the dunes. Bouncing around again on the dromedary the photos, however, are less than perfect.

April 1, 2013

For links to all the posts in this series see the Morocco page.