Discover the Natural Wonders of Merzouga
Watching a spectacular sunrise or sunset over the Saharan sand dunes at Merzouga in Morocco is an awe-inspiring experience which really needs to be seen to be believed.
The Erg Chebbi sand dunes are the largest and highest in Morocco and the town of Merzouga is the perfect base from which to explore the wonders of the desert. A surprising amount of mammal, reptile and bird life can be found in the desert all year around. Reptiles include Algerian sand lizards, Berber skinks and a variety of snakes. Mammals such as gerbils, desert hedgehogs, desert foxes and field mice are abundant, as is the scarab beetle which leaves its distinctive trail in the ever shifting sands. Bird watchers can expect to see bird species such as the Kittllitz’s plover, ruddy shelduck, Egyptian nightjar, the Arabian buzzard and falcons. In the spring a lake forms near Merzouga, which attracts flocks of pink flamingos – a stunning sight. A variety of migratory birds use this area as a stop over on their journey.
A camel trip is one of the best and least intrusive ways to see the dunes, although tours using 4X4 vehicles and quad bikes are available. Visitors can experience a camel-backed adventure lasting a few hours, or if you really want to get the full effect of being at one with this unique environment, take a two or three day tour by camel, camping out and living like a nomad. As you ride your camel into the sunset, the waves and waves of sand dunes bathed in shades of orange, bronze and gold by the setting sun are a sight that won’t easily be forgotten. Sunrises are equally spectacular and you definitely won’t want to miss seeing this sight – so don’t sleep late!
Visitors to Merzouga can also arrange to visit a Berber family home, watch and help them prepare a traditional meal, which usually includes home-made bread, cous-cous and tagines. A tagine is the name of the pot that the meal, also called tagine, is cooked in. A traditional tagine pot is made of heavy clay, which is either painted or glazed. The pot has a base, which is flat and circular with low edges and a large cone, or dome shaped cover, which rests inside the base. The cover is designed to allow condensed steam from the food, to return to the food. Once the food is cooked, the cover is taken off and the base is used for serving at the table. Tagine dishes, usually consisting of some type of meat with vegetables and a savoury or spicy sauce, are slow cooked on a stovetop at low temperatures resulting in an aromatic, tasty meal with very tender meat. Meals are commonly finished off with a cup of mint tea.
When you are next planning a vacation, why not travel to Morocco and include a visit to the exquisite sand dunes and the exotic town of Merzouga in the Sahara.