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Merzouga, Morocco

Hike Erg Chebbi in Morocco

6.2 Miles Total - 656.2 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Jason Nugent

The Sahara desert is vast, but not empty. In fact, it is teeming with life, and the people who live in and around it are wonderful, gracious, and kind. Getting out to Erg Chebbi - or any dune really - for sunrise will change your life.

Morocco is a country full of contrasts.  In the North, it is decidedly Mediterranean.  Towards the central regions, as you head into the Atlas mountains, you will feel as though you are in a Central or Eastern European mountain country, and then on the southern side, the vast Sahara desert appears and things change yet again. This guide is about the area south of the Atlas mountains, near a village called Merzougah, and the Erg Chebbi sand dunes.

If you decide to do this, your journey will probably begin in Casablanca where you will take a train from Casa Voyageurs train station to Meknes. From there, grab a bus to Erfoud, along the N13, which winds south and then up through mountainous terrain. The Atlas mountains are a region so different from the rest of Morocco that you will swear you stepped through a portal and ended up in a Swiss mountain town.

On the other side of the Atlas mountain range lies a traveler's first glimpse of the Sahara.  Morocco borders the desert, and there are small villages dotted throughout the area that exist, quite literally, on the edge of the world.  Shifting dunes, winds, climate change, roads that vanish into nothing.   Merzouga is one such village, and for this adventure it is the base from which you will hike into the desert..  Accommodations will be simple, often just a sleeping bag and a foam pad spread out on the roof of a git owned by a local family.

When you are ready, head out to Erg Chebbi, a series of very tall dunes close to Merzouga. Bring lots of water, proper protection against the sun, and if you are in any way not comfortable with navigating large open spaces on your own, hire a local guide.  They are enthusiastic, very knowledgeable, and will make sure that you see the best of what the area has to offer.  Erg Chebbi is 5 kilometres from here, and quite impossible to miss since they are the tallest dunes in the region, reaching heights of 150 meters and lengths of more than 20 km.   The hike will take several hours on foot.  The return hike will be easy to follow since your foot prints will no doubt be behind you unless it is windy.

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