The Shades of Desert – Morocco

Morocco welcomed us with warm wind, smells of spices and the calls for prayer sounding from several minarets. I had, for the very first time, stepped onto another continent.

We were sent off, cramped into a tiny piece of a Suzuki, pushing through the center of Marrakesh. Our GPS had obviously an identity crisis of some sort, so we experienced some of the most frightening traffic moments of our lives. We drove through the darkness, through Medina, the heart of Marrakesh. Or so we thought. The narrow streets were busy, crowded with people, bicycles, donkeys, horses and what ever you can imagine. All just moving to random directions, at random speed. When ever someone notices that you are a lost tourist, you will be offered help. Few quick advises and immediate request for money. Somehow not the region you want to stop and spend time at.

After a lot of chaotic slalom through traffic and quite some fear and panic, we made it out. We found ourselves on the N9, driving towards Ouarzazat, it was pitch black. No streetlights, no reflectors of any sort, so it was still pretty stressful to drive. We were lucky to have our first hotel located right at the side of the road.


This was our hotel. Half of it was taken away by the river. Good thing it was dark when we arrived, so we could not see the mess it left behind.

We had our dinner and a bit of wine before admiring the clear, starry sky and heading for bed, to rest for the first full day of Morocco.


The morning came and we headed for the Atlas mountains. First passing through a few villages in a valley. It was a lot less nerve wrecking to be on the move in the day light, compared to the darkness the night before. We had to stop often to take photos, since the scenery had a habit of changing into new and beautiful things after every corner. The good thing was, that we were in no hurry. It was a trip of 300 – 400 km across the High Atlas scheduled for that day.


The N9 from Marrakesh towards Ouarzazat is very touristic, and the road is lined with all sorts of sales huts. People are selling mineral stones and pottery, all sorts of handcrafts and of course food. We stopped by a smaller hut and bought maybe the best freshly squeezed orange juices I have ever tasted.

Our hotel numero dos was situated close to one of the famous gorges, in the village of Tinerhir, or Tinghir. That hotel was a very nice place to stay. Located in a back alley, almost inaccessible by car, hence very peaceful, and we were the only  guests. The owners of the place were the friendliest people we had seen so far during the trip. After visiting the Toudra gorge and the city of Tinghir, we sat for a moment with them. Playing some songs with a guitar and learning things about Morocco and the Berber culture.


Our room! @ Auberge Chez Aissa – Tinghir


Fresh Moroccan mint tea.


The street leading to the hotel.

Next morning, after a hearty breakfast we were off again. Headed for the Sahara desert, the heat and the dunes. Merzouga was the village we were aiming for. Having heard that it had been built only for tourists made us a bit suspicious on what we would be finding there.


Road slicing the desert.


The clouds repeating the pattern of the hills.


Short climb on top of a hill of sand rock gave a nice overview on the desert.

Slowly moving down from the mountains, the landscape turned more and more into desert. I was completely surprised how many different shades there could be in the desert. Late in the autumn, there are even bits of green in the dusty brown, black, orange, even pink ground. We also got to learn quickly, that when ever you are approaching a town, there will be a growing amount of litter, scattered over the desert. Such a pity.


I guess we were close by a village.


If you survive the traffic….


…Keep in mind, that there still are camels to come!

We got the first glance of the high sand dunes early in the afternoon. We knew we were almost at our next destination, nested right at the foot of the dunes.  We found again a very nice hotel, run by a friendly Spanish lady. We settled in and she guided us to the dune and showed us where it was easiest to climb, leaving us to it.


Contrast was the word of the day.


Lounge in Berber style, can be found from Riad Merzouga.

The dunes faced us majestic. They were surprisingly high, smooth piles of sand. Glowing in the sun with deep orange with shades of pink and gold. We started to look for our ridge to climb, after dogging the Bedouins selling camel rides and pushing a jeep full of Dutch people free of sand.






The short moment before darkness.

It was soon clear, that that particular dune was filled with all sorts of touristic attractions. Camels, sand buggies and motorcycles were all over the place. As well as a band, stuffed into an oasis. Not something we wanted to see. Never the less, the dunes were impressive and the setting sun kept giving them new colors, while the evening approached.


A word on Berber kitchen: Marvelous!


That night we took the advantage of the terrace on the hotels roof. There was almost no light pollution present, so we decided to try and capture the desert stars.


Under these stars I am leaving you this time. Next post will be covering our return journey, through the desert, oases and mountains. Hang on there!


8 thoughts on “The Shades of Desert – Morocco

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