September 13, 2002 – Merzouga




Finally we arrive in Rissani at 6:30am. I didn’t sleep well during the trip and a lot of false guides woke us up at each stop to promote their tours in the desert. But that’s only a beginning.


In Rissani, I have to meet the 2 Italians because they finally took the night bus to reach the dunes and I also have to meet a Moroccan Tayab who is working at the Panorama Hotel that is linked to Erg Chebbi auberge, a place I really want to stay in. Tayab is there when the bus arrives but he suddenly disappears after a few minutes… As a result like the other tourists in the bus we are taken in charge by a group of Moroccan very well trained. It seems that there is a kind of connection with a lot of intermediaries. The bus driver stops the engine just in front of a café where you can have a breakfast. In this café other men show you that the only possibility to reach Merzouga and the dunes is to leave with them just after 7am unless you want to wait until 2pm in Rissani and instead of driving you to all the auberges and hotels in the area you are forced to go to Lahmada auberge. When there you realize that you must stay there because the distances are very long between each auberge or hotel. That’s the plan... Furthermore, the price to pay to reach the auberge is depending on your nationality, your face, I paid 20 DH but others paid 10 or 15 DH or even 30 DH.


In the minibus we are 2 Belgians, 4 Spaniards, 1 English and myself. The arrival in front of the dunes is a magic moment, they are so huge and with such a beautiful color.



At Lahmada, I choose like Jack to sleep on the roof with the natural air conditioning system whereas in the rooms the temperature will be higher and uncomfortable. It is only 8am but the staff of the auberge is very pushy to force us taking one of the numerous tours they propose. As Jack says, “come on, we are here for the whole day so give us a break and come back later with your tours”. Many of us were upset by the staff attitude as the first tour starts only at 5pm so in 9 hours!!! The tours are also very expensive between 300 DH and 1000 DH and I am sure that the prices depends on the customer’s face.


The price of a bottle of water doubles there but that’s normal we are far from everything so we have to pay 10 DH. A solution is to fill an epty bottle with tap water using purifying pastilles. We order a simple mix salad and we spend a lot of time playing backgammon, talking or simply having a rest inside the auberge because outside it is too hot.


Around 3:30pm, the wind lifts the sand and the sky clouds over preventing the sun to reach us. I seize the occasion to walk outside and with a keffieh on my head like a Palestinian terrorist I decide to reach the Erg Chebbi auberge where the Italians should be. On my map the auberge does not seem to be very far from my location but I quickly notice that many auberges or hotels are forgotten on the map and some Moroccans tell me that the auberge is far from here but no problem I will reach it. Walking conditions are pretty severe with all that wind and the sand around me but thanks to the keffieh and sunglasses it will be ok.


En route, a Moroccan on a motorbike comes to me and he starts talking. Quickly I understand that he only wants to sell me some rocks, I am laughing because the spectacle is unreal, we are in the middle of nowhere and I just meet the only merchant in the area!!!



It is also the end of school time and I pass many pupils on bicycle going home. Some of them on motorbikes propose me to drive me to Erg Chebbi auberge against some Dirhams but I decline, I am here to walk the distance. On my way, I see to camels eating some leafs in a tree, the sand does not disturb them at all.



The auberge Erg Chebbi


Erg Chebbi hotel is very well located just next to the first dunes (the sand is here at just 20m from the door) and there is no other auberges before the village of Hassalbied. The view is great on the highest dune of the Erg. The auberge is huge and there is a swimming pool right in the middle. The owner shows me the place and I visit nearly all the rooms that are wonderful (prices are between 100 and 300 DH a night) but, for travelers like me, you can sleep on the roof for 20 to 30 DH. I talk a lot with Saïd, the boss, because the Italians are not there!!! Saïd is very kind because he offers me to drive me back to Lhamada on his motorbike, that’s really nice.



Back there, Jack is not well at all, he caught a cold and I meet our last visitor of the day Satoshi, a Japanese guy who started his trip in Japan in December 2001. He traveled with the Orient Express to Moscow and then Europe, after he went to former Yougoslavia. He is in Morocco for 5 weeks and after he will reach Middle East, former USSR Republics and finally China to end there his trip, what a program and some nice pictures I am sure.



Tonight I go to bed very earls because we planned with Satoshi to climb the highest dune in front of us to see the sunrise tomorrow morning. So it implies a wake up at 4:45am!!!


Main expenses of the day :

Minibus Rissani – Dunes of Merzouga: 20 DH

Night in Lhamada : 20 DH on the roof

Drinks (water, soft drinks, tea …) + lunch meal: 40 DH




Other travels (Syria, Jordan, Egypt, USA...)




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D1 : Luxembourg – Paris – Casablanca

D2 : Casablanca – Rabat

D3 : Rabat – Meknes

D4 : Meknes – Volubilis – Meknes

D5 : Meknes - Fes

D6 : Fes

D7 : Merzouga

D8 : Merzouga – Tinehrir

D9 : Tinehrir – Ouarzazate – Marrakesh

D10 : Marrakesh

D11 : Marrakesh – Imlil

D12 : Imlil – Toubkal refuge

D13 : Refuge – 4167m –Tizi Ouanoums

D14 : Tizi Ouanoums – Amsouzert

D15 : Amsouzert – Azib Likemt

D16 : Azib Likemt – Tacheddirt

D17 : Tacheddirt – Imlil – Marrakesh

D18 : Marrakesh – Essaouira

D19 : Essaouira – El Jadida – Tangier

D20 : Tangier

D21 : Tangier – Chefchaouen

D22 : Chefchaouen – Casablanca

D23 : Casablanca – Paris – Luxembourg




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Last update : December 2002

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