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Morocco: Merzouga

A camel and a mud building
There are plenty of camels plodding along the road through the desert

While lazing away the hours in Rissani, I'd been investigating the route to Merzouga, the home to the only genuine Saharan ergs in Morocco (an erg being a classic, sand dune desert). There are two roads to Merzouga, but both are relatively scary. The route from Rissani is the shorter of the two, but sections of it are pretty rough, and in a rented Fiat Uno it's probably not in your interests to try it, unless being stranded in the middle of the desert is your cup of tea. The other route, from Erfoud, is easier to follow, but it's still along rough dirt roads (or pistes as they're known in Morocco) and the guidebooks are careful to sound a note of caution, while still saying that normal cars can reach Merzouga without serious problems.

Mark and two hitchers talking to a man on a bicycle
Taking a break on the way to Merzouga to chat to a local on a bicycle
A donkey in Merzouga
A donkey in Merzouga

Exploring the Saharan Dunes

There isn't a lot of water in the Sahara, and the sign in the hotel made the point pretty succinctly:

Ksar Sania

Water is very precious.

Water is necessary for life.

The desert has a serious lack of it.

It hasn't rained since 1995.

Do not waste it.

Help us to conserve it.

Françoise and Gérard

The dunes of the Erg Chebbi
The huge dunes of the Erg Chebbi

It's obvious just how dry it is in the desert from the speed at which your clothes dry after washing: lie your soaking towel on the roof and the scorching winds will dry it in under 15 minutes, not surprising then you consider the maximum temperature when we were in Merzouga was a whopping 48°C (and the minimum was 27°C, a respectable temperature for a midsummer's day in England).

A view over Merzouga from the roof of a hotel
The view from our hotel roof
A thermometer showing 48°C in the shade
48°C in the shade
Whirlwinds in the desert near Merzouga
Whirlwinds in the Merzouga desert