Merzouga, the village of dunes

Merzouga is the so-called Pearl of the Desert in Morocco, very popular with tourists the world over and the most important tourist destination of the Moroccan Sahara.

This small village, located next to the Er Chebbi dunes, is found in Southern Morocco in the valley of the Ziz River, 50 kilometres from Erfoud and 130 from Errachidia.

Merzouga, the village of dunes

Merzouga is the so-called Pearl of the Desert in Morocco, very popular with tourists the world over and the most important tourist destination of the Moroccan Sahara.

This small village, located next to the Er Chebbi dunes, is found in Southern Morocco in the valley of the Ziz River, 50 kilometres from Erfoud and 130 from Errachidia.

 

The Dunes

The Merzouga dunes are the most impressive in Morocco, 20 kilometres in length and 5 across. Some dunes are over 100 metres high and they have orangey-coloured sand from the Sahara. Around the dunes is a green palm grove, a unique, impressive oasis which stands out against so much orange.

In the rainy season, from February to March, lagoons form, like the Daya Tamda, where numerous birds gather, notably the exotic pink flamingo. For this reason, Merzouga is also a tourist attraction for those who love wildlife, since, in addition to the lagoon birds, in the surrounding area you can enjoy the rich wildlife of the desert, with reptiles like lizards and vipers and mammals such as foxes, mice and jerboas.

The abundance of water in the rainy periods also favours crops, which have made the area famous for the production of early fruits like melon and watermelon which are exported to the rest of the country and to Europe.

The best periods to visit Merzouga are spring and autumn, since in summer the heat is suffocating and in winter the cold is very intense at night.

 

What to see in Merzouga

Merzouga is one of the most visited tourist spots in Morocco, especially for adventure tourism and for this reason it has a wide range of quality hotels, hostels and riads, in the style of the kasbahs, built from adobe, with the insides decorated in Saharan Moroccan style and equipped with air conditioning. They're like a beautiful oasis in the middle of so much aridness. They have beautiful gardens with pools and are the perfect place to cool down and escape from the world.

These hotels are complemented by permanent campsites located in the small oases, which offer accommodation in tents to sleep out in the desert. They often liven up the experience with delicious dinners, dancing and Berber music. Some even have free Wi-Fi.

The campsites are usually reached by camel and one of the most interesting activities is climbing the dunes at dawn or dusk on camelback to enjoy the views. At night the star-filled sky is also a sight to see.

Merzouga is a very well-organised place where there are companies that offer day trips like 4X4, camel, horse and quad bike rides, etc.

The large amount of fossils that can be found in the region is another attraction of the place.

And every year, at the feet of the Erg Chebbi, the Festival of Merzouga takes place to celebrate the region's natural beauty. Local and international artists attend the festival where Western culture and the ancient Sahrawi culture come together.

 

Desert routes

Around 10 kilometres to the east are the mines of Mfis, where lead and zinc are extracted, and around 6 kilometres to the south is the town of Khemliya, inhabited by the descendants of slaves originating from Sub-Saharan Africa and who practice the famous Gnawa folklore.

You can also visit the kohl mines and the French labour camps in the Sahara. The mines of kohl were exploited by the French until they ceased to be profitable. They are very well-known because Arab women use kohl dust for eyeliner.

To the south is the oasis and town of Taouz, an area rich in minerals and rock paintings.

Along these routes are the last nomad people who live out in the desert searching for the best places for their cattle to graze.