Merzouga & Moroccan Desert

Merzouga and Moroccan DesertSeptember 12, 2019 (one night)First off… many desert tours do not go all the way to the desert with sweeping sand views for miles. Be mindful of this and ask to see photos of exactly where the tour will take you.If you want to go to the “real” desert, it is quite the trek. Approximately 8 hours from Fes or 12 hours from Marrakech, it isn’t easy to get to. If you are starting from Marrakech, you will have to do a 2 night trip as you won’t make it to the desert in time to catch the sunset. Coming from Fes allowed us to visit for just one night.So worth it.Being vegan, it is important to me to not join into any activities promoting animal tourism. Because of this, I was prepared to take the night bus from Fes to Merzouga and explore on my own as all the tours I had researched included camel rides. When in Fes, we found a tour agency that was able to put together a vegan friendly desert tour for us. For the price, it was ulikely we would have been able to plan this desert trip for less.We paid 1300 MAD each (plus driver tips) and it included a private driver to Merzouga with stops at some beautiful spots along the way (would have missed this on the night bus!) as well as hotel accommodation for one night, a sunset 4×4 tour of the sand dunes in the desert, a 5 course vegan dinner, breakfast buffet, and transportation to Marrakech (direct to our riad) with stops along the way.We actually only spent about 14 hours in the desert taken up with the 4×4 ride, eating and sleeping. We thought we’d regret not spending another night but this was sufficient as there isn’t much to see or do besides the sand dunes. We were offered the opportunity to stay in one of the luxury base camps but chose a hotel instead. The hotel was absolutely stunning with a beautiful pool and comfortable room except… the sewage smell from the bathroom. I thought it might kill me in my sleep. I am going to guess that the desert doesn’t have amazing plumbing as it is so remote and this could be an issue in other hotels.The drive to Merzouga included stops in Ifran (the Switzerland of Morocco, where the king vacations) as well as the Atlas mountains (pack a sweater, it gets cold!) We also stopped to look at monkeys and donkeys along the side of the road and the obligatory stop at an overpriced tourist restaurant for lunch.Shortly after we arrived and checked in, we were shown how to wrap scarves around our heads to protect from sand and were whisked off in a 4×4. We visited a local hangout where our 4×4 driver explained they play music at night and then watched the sun set from various beautiful spots in the desert.Although we didn’t ride camels, we did have the chance to hang out with them at their base camp.The following day we left quite early after a breakfast feast at our hotel. The drive to Marrakech was LONG and stops were less frequent. We did stop for awhile at Todra Gorge which was stunning and reminded me a lot of a Moroccan version of Squamish, BC.Random tip: if you are into geodes or scarves, you will have ample opportunities to purchase these on the way to/from Merzouga on the side of the highway for a cheaper price than in the medinas.We arrived in Marrakech quite late so grabbed some roti before relaxing on our riad rooftop patio for the evening. Our desert trip was a lot of driving for a short time in the desert, but totally worth it.

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