A rockstar? An exotic dish? No! It’s actually a desert in Morocco. TS intern Prerna Bidalia will tell you more.
According to local legends, the Erg Chebbi sand dunes were sent by God as a punishment for turning away a weary traveller. It is believed that the dunes piled up outside Merzouga, to teach the villagers a lesson so that they never refuse to help a traveller again.
Unlike the olden days, Erg Chebbi is now easily accessible by 4X4 land cruisers. For those who have a little more time to explore the Saharan beauty, camel trekking is also popular. All the hotels along the edge of the Erg Chebbi organise camel treks into the dunes, usually out to semi permanent encampments where you can spend the night. There are cheaper trips also, which only go a short distance into the dunes before heading back to the hotel, but you wouldn’t want to spoil the romance of a sub- Saharan night by spending it with the crowds.
However the best way to navigate around Erg Chebbi is on foot with a Arabic and English speaking local guide. This way you will see and learn more than just the dunes.
Whether you go camel trekking or choose to explore Erg Chebbi on foot with a travel guide, you have an equal opportunity to explore the flora and fauna of the region. Night time presents an opportunity to catch glimpses of the jerboa, desert hedgehog and desert fox or fennec. Bird lovers will enjoy looking for Egyptian nightjars, desert warblers, fulvous babblers and blue-cheeked bee eaters.
The weather in Erg Chebbi is subject to mood swings. At times it is silent and completely still, but when storms arrive, they create such a hissing sound that it may take you by surprise. If you have long hair, it is advisable that you firmly tie it back. While you explore the desert, ask your tour guide to help you buy those long flowy blue turbans that are endemic to the the local tribes living here. These will help keep your head cool in the summers and warm in the winters.
There is little else in Erg Chebbi except other tourists and a small village with a Saturday souk, but what appeals is the calm and the wilderness.
How to get there:
Erg Chebbi is served by Sale Airport in Rabat, Morocco. Air France and Royal Air Maroc have regular flights operating from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, however Air France usually has long transit hours. The price ranges from INR 63,323 to anywhere near a lakh rupees depending on when you want to travel and what airlines you choose. Sale Airport being around 256 miles away from Erg Chebbi, you will have to book a local cab to take you to your hotel.
Where to stay:
You can check into the lovely Kasbah Hotel in Erg Chebbi which provides you with picture perfect views of the large sand dunes. Other amenities include an indoor pool, along with patios that overlook the Sahara. A single room with patio starts from INR 12, 124 per night.
If you’re looking for rooms which combine typical Moroccan features along with modern comforts such as air conditioning, try out the Kasbah Mohayut which is set in the foothills of the high dunes of Merzouga. The hotel also features a restaurant with a lovely terrace that allows you to take in the beautiful, star-studded Saharan sky. However a room here will cost you slightly more at INR 16, 165.
Know ‘more’ before you go! Check out these links for exploration options –