Chefchouen to Merzouga: The Sahara, Berbers, and Camels

March 11, 2023

It has taken a while, but the Morocco we’ve seen on television and movies has arrived. This is the Sahara Desert.

In one day, from Chefchouen to Midelt, we experienced many different environments. Green fields, rolling hills, olive groves, pine forests (with monkeys!), mountains, snow, and finally desert.

In the middle of Midelt, on a somewhat busy side street filled with different shops, we found a nearly new, beautiful two bedroom apartment to rent for the night.

The apartments were built in 2019, just before Coronavirus, but due to the pandemic, they sat mostly empty for the past three years.

There was a nice area just off the street to park our bikes.

The third-floor apartment had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living and dining room, and a large modern kitchen.

We walked to dinner in Midelt, passing through more small side streets before emerging onto the main street. We had been referred to a traditional Moroccan restaurant, which turned out to be a great choice. The waiter was great fun, and the food was very good. Most every night, we’ve had some version of tajine, a North African specialty named after the conical pot in which it is cooked. There are various versions, including chicken, beef, “meat” (usually lamb or goat), or vegetable tajine. The meat is usually covered in vegetables or sometimes dates or prunes, and cooked in the tajine dish. It’s all been very good.

The next morning we continued on to Merzouga. The ride into Merzouga is pure Moroccan desert. The town sits at the edge of Erg Chebbi, a series of sand dunes. It is very much a tourist destination, and to be honest, that’s why we’re here. Merzouga allows tourists to experience a desert Berber camp, or at least the “Glamping” version of it, without worrying about becoming lost in the Sahara.

On the way to Merzouga we passed villages that seemed like the typical “oasis”…a patch of palm trees and green grass on the edge of a river, with the typical adobe-looking buildings.

Approaching Merzouga, the dunes of Erg Chebbi rise up behind the town.

It’s easy to spot camels and camel tours in this area.

Guests have a choice of how they are transported to the tent camps: you can ride a camel for a little over an hour, or take an ATV, or ride in a 4WD vehicle (about 15 minutes). After sitting on the bike for six hours today, we decided to take the fifteen minute truck ride to the camp, figuring that we might have a chance at visiting the camels at the camp.

On the way to camp

Our camp for the night

Typical Berber tent?

Um, maybe…if the typical Berber tent has a porcelain sink, a shower and USB outlets at each bedside.

These chairs made for a great photo. They’re actually on top of this dune so you can sit and watch the sunset.

The camp provided snowboards so we could slide down the dunes.

Funny how the Old Guy always seems to be the first to try these things…

On the way to dinner after a long, full day.

Another great meal, this time in a tent.

Chicken and vegetable tajine.

After dinner we sat around the campfire, as the locals played drums and sang Moroccan songs for us. Then they handed us the drums and let us give it a try. Marcin, being a drummer, was a natural. I also met Chase and Kevin, two great guys from Texas, who just happened to be sitting next to me.

Diana got to ride a camel. Check another bucket list item.

As I’ve said, everyone here is incredibly friendly.

Climbing the dunes at sunrise.

Marcin, checking out the camels just after sunrise. There’s nothing to tie your camel to in the desert, so the Berbers have an interesting method of making sure they stay put: they bend one of their front legs at the knee, and tie it bent with a rope. Three legged camels apparently don’t go anywhere.

After breakfast, we loaded up and headed back to town, back to the bikes and on to the next adventure.

2 thoughts on “Chefchouen to Merzouga: The Sahara, Berbers, and Camels

  1. Does Ramadan affect you? I worked with many that went to Saudi and it wasn’t too bad. Different culture and different customs.

    • Sorry, really late seeing these comments and responding. We left Morocco the day Ramadan began, so we missed out Though we were told that many restaurants and businesses were open to tourists and non-Muslims.

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