To the south and east of the Atlas mountains, the climate becomes very hot and dry. This is where Morocco’s deserts begin. Quiet, scarcely populated and sheer endless in size, the south of the country contains few settlements and even fewer urban centers.
Separated from the busy cities on the coast by mountain ridges, the Moroccan desert is hugely different from the country’s north. The Sahara in general and the Moroccan desert in particular largely consist of so-called Hamada – rugged, barren plateaus with little sand. Relentless winds blow away any grain of sand, leaving behind bare rock and boulders.
Morocco does, however, have two regions that conform to the mental image most Europeans have of the Sahara Desert: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. The Arabic word Erg means “dune field” and describes vast, flat areas of the desert containing sand dunes created by the wind, with little or no vegetation.
Both Ergs are in the south of Morocco, surrounded by rocky Hamadas, both offer impressively beautiful sand dunes of up to 150 meters (500ft) in height. It is hard to imagine any journey to Northern Africa without a little excursion into the Sahara as it can be found here: the desert in its purest of forms! A seemingly endless sea of sand dunes stretches to the horizon like a heaving ocean, with a hot wind gently stroking it, playfully shaping waves, combing the ridges, always creating new shapes with its hungry breath. Just as the ocean, the desert is forever changing.
Reaching the desert is easiest from Marrakech. The 560km (350 miles) to Merzouga, one of the gateways into the Sahara, provide the traveler with ample time to get an impression of the country and its people. It is also a great opportunity to see the contrasts in the landscapes from the mountains to the desert.
Erg Chebbi is the smaller, yet, due to its approachability, better known sand desert. It is roughly 50km in length and 5 -10km in width. Erg Chigaga is, at 40km in length and 15km in width, a little bit bigger than Erg Chebbi. Since it is more difficult to access, it is generally considered to be the wilder of the two Ergs.
At dusk the Sahara offers a truly magical experience. When the day comes to a close and the colorful spectacle begins, the desert unfolds its full calming and enchanting power. Sahara sunsets are a sight to behold!
The desert show does not, however, end with the sun’s disappearance: When the weather is good, you can easily get lost in the incredible star-studded night sky, counting the falling stars. The sound of silence in the desert at night completes the experience and is something that will stay with you for a quite a while.
If this has whetted your appetite, if you want to experience the Sahara’s magic yourself, then NOSADE offers you the best of Morocco’s deserts in a familiar atmosphere: Yoga Retreats in the Sahara, Desert Excursions, Desert Hikes and Treks to / from Merzouga into Erg Chebbi.