Merzouga

Travel Guide Africa Morocco Merzouga

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Introduction

Merzouga is a village in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, on the edge of Erg Chebbi, a 50-kilometres long and 5-kilometre wide set of sand dunes that reach up to 350 metres. Most visitors come here to take a camel safari into the dunes, and to get a taste of remote (tourism-influenced) Berber life. The local population is mix of Arabs and Berber, which are generally welcoming and friendly. Although especially in and around Merzouga far more than usual people will display a touting behaviour and try you to sell a tour or a place to stay.

In general, it needs to be remembered that the dunes barely present an authentic Moroccan landscape. Many tourists come here, ride the camel and bring pictures back home, making people believe that this is what the desert looks like south. However, riding a camel through the dunes and staying in a tent there is nothing authentic about it - it is a touristy facade. Having said that the region is nevertheless beautiful and interesting, and even the regular stony desert is impressing in itself.

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Sights and Activities

Camel Safaris

Almost certainly the reason you came here in the first place, and by far the best way to experience the dunes. After taking you into the village to buy a proper head scarf to protect you from the sun, you'll be thrown on a camel and lead off into the desert. Meals, water, tents, etc should all be taken care of by your leader, but naturally you'd want to confirm this when you do your negotiations beforehand and make sure you're very specific, and ask lots of questions. Speaking of negotiations, do your research before coming (ask other travelers in Marrakech, etc., for recommendations and for what they paid), and be prepared to bargain very hard... the industry here is smooth and deceivingly vicious. On the first night, most groups end up at a pre-setup camp circle at the base of some large dunes, where the various tour operators have their Berber tents set up. Dinner will be cooked here, perhaps some music played, and you can frolic on the sand dunes under zillions of stars. If you're only on a 1-day trip, then you'll wake early, have some tea/breakfast, and head back before it gets hot. Others will hang out during the day, beating the heat in the tents all day, and either spend another night here or venture further out beyond the dunes and stay with a berber family, where you'll then set out to return early on the third morning. A few operators have their own private camps that will offer a more remote experience, ask around if this is what you seek. This provides a more intimate setting with fewer people and noise where you can relax and enjoy the stars. Cost a little bit more but worth it. Also check to see if showers are included after the camel trek.

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Getting There

By Plane

You can also fly to Ouarzazate from Casablanca, then continue to Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.

There are also weekly flights into Errachadia, about 2 hours north of Merzouga by car.

By Car

From Marrakech, drive east to Erfoud (2 days drive, stop for the night in or near Ouarzazate). From Fez, drive south to Erfoud (1 day).

From Erfoud, continue south 14 km to Rissani, carry on through the village and follow the road southeast for 40 km to Merzouga. The road has been asphalted to Merzouga, and also to Taouz, a southern military border town (foreigners cannot cross here). The short access roads (1- or 2-km long) from the main road to the hotels alongside the sand dunes are normally not asphalted, but well maintained. There is now an asphalt road to Hassi Lybed, a smaller village about 4 km before Merzouga.

By Bus

From Rissani to Merzouga, a grand taxi or van is 12-15 dirham and goes about every 30 min. If you don't want to wait for other people to fill your grand taxi, pay 60 dirham. If you arrive before sunrise (if you come in the 06:00-07:00 bus from Fez) you might have to pay up to 100 dirham for a grand taxi.

From Erfoud to Merzouga, a grand taxi is 25 dirham, every 1-2 hr.

If you're continuing on to one of the small villages nearby, such as Hassi Labied, the usual tourist price is a fairly steep 50 dirham (total, not per person) for the 5-km drive. Beware that overnight buses may sometimes arrive more than an hour early, putting you in Merzouga before sunrise. If this happens, you may find yourself with no cabs available, so be prepared to wait for someone to arrive.

Supratours buses from Marrakech and also from Fez have one daily trip each that end in Merzouga village, for 160 dirham. CTM only goes up until Erfoud and Rissani.

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Getting Around

The only way to get around Merzouga is on foot. It's fairly small and easily walkable, but you'll likely want to avoid the midday heat.

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Eat

Most people eat meals at their lodge, but a few basic restaurants are scattered around the town if you are in need.

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Sleep

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are plenty of Cybercafes in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.

Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.

Post

Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 31.1106
  • Longitude: -4.0187

Accommodation in Merzouga

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This is version 20. Last edited at 12:27 on Apr 9, 21 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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