Upon venturing to Erg Chebbi, situated near Merzouga, I embarked on a round trip. During this expedition, I took the opportunity to delve into the discussion surrounding whether Erg Chebbi is genuinely a part of the Sahara Desert—an inquiry that has intrigued me. As humans, we possess an inherent desire for absolute certainty about our whereabouts. This inclination is particularly pronounced now that we have access to GPS technology, which can be harnessed to validate our geographical coordinates.
Reflecting on my own sojourn, the journey commenced with a 4 am awakening at the Erfoud hotel. Awaiting me was a 4×4 vehicle that would transport me to the vicinity of Merzouga, perched on the cusp of the desert expanse. Opting for a camel ride, I traversed the sands to reach the elevated dunes. Scaling their heights, I perched myself atop a crest, eagerly anticipating the break of dawn. As the sun’s first rays illuminated the landscape, I cherished the enchanting sunrise alongside a cherished companion.
Morocco boasts two expansive Saharan ergs, which are vast regions of sand dunes sculpted by the force of wind. One of these is Erg Chebbi, while the other is Erg Chigaga, situated near M’hamid. To precisely pinpoint their locations, I consulted both Google Maps and Google Earth.
Merzouga, a focal point for local tourism, rests on the fringes of these dunes. Various tour companies present the opportunity for camel expeditions originating in Merzouga and venturing deep into the desert. These captivating journeys, often spanning several kilometers into the erg, effectively distance travelers from the village, rendering it invisible on the horizon. The towering dunes of Erg Chebbi ascend to heights of around 150 meters at select points. Collectively, this expanse spans a breadth of approximately 50 kilometers from north to south and extends 5–10 kilometers from east to west, tracing the contours of the Algerian border. In proximity, the most substantial town is Erfoud, situated some 60 kilometers to the north, while the city of Rissani lies approximately 40 kilometers away from Merzouga.
Stretching beyond the reaches of the human eye, Erg Chebbi presents an unending expanse of sand dunes, their hues transforming with the shifting light. The experience becomes truly monumental when embarking on a camel excursion to the towering dunes, anticipating the sunrise as it gradually bathes the distant sandscapes in its glow. The journey involves transitioning from a 4×4 wheel drive to venture into the desert, shifting to a camel ride to ascend the dunes’ heights. Then, retracing the path, one returns to the camel rendezvous point and reboards the 4×4 for the trip back to the hotel.
Geographically and in terms of political boundaries, while Morocco may not be wholly situated within the Sahara Desert, it resides in close proximity. The extent to which the desert sands have migrated over the years, enveloping parts of present-day Morocco, remains an intriguing query. However, one undeniable certainty remains—the vista of endless sand dunes is a spectacle that can be witnessed without necessitating a month-long expedition into the heart of the desert. Today’s modern traveler can capitalize on Morocco’s strategic positioning to engage in a multifaceted adventure, encompassing camel rides, nocturnal desert camps under the starlit sky, and the awe of witnessing both sunrise and sunset. This, in turn, becomes an integral part of the broader epic journey through Morocco.
In the realm of sunrise encounters, I took the liberty of dressing in the garb of a Star Wars Jedi, adding an extra touch of mystique to the experience.
Ultimately, our ultimate aspiration revolves around attaining an “unforgettable Sahara desert experience.” In reality, the panoramic vista of the boundless desert tends to exhibit striking similarities regardless of the location—be it in Egypt, China, or elsewhere. Therefore, the key lies in meticulous planning to fashion an extraordinary journey for your family and cherished companions. Crafting an exceptional travel adventure that can be shared with loved ones stands as the paramount objective and holds the greatest significance.
Following an extensive exploration into the realm of the “authentic Sahara Desert,” I find myself pondering whether I truly align with the adventurous spirit required to venture deep into its heart. This involves eschewing tourist hubs and embracing the harshness of the desert, confronting sandstorms, and confronting the monotony of unending sand dunes day in and day out. It dawns on me that I might not be the traditional adventure seeker in this context. Perhaps, as a contemporary traveler, I seek a distinct type of travel encounter—one that is uniquely epic and divergent from the conventional.