An Idiot’s Guide to Trekking the Sahara

The Sahara is the world’s largest desert and one of the harshest environments on the planet. It engulfs large sections of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia. The main gateway to the Moroccan portion of the Sahara is at Merzouga.

Leaving behind downtown Marrakech
Leaving behind downtown Marrakech

The hustle and bustle of downtown Marrakech can be a draining experience at times, and it is often a good choice to try and plan a day trip or an overnight trip to a new scene – and what better place than the nearby Sahara Desert?! It takes nearly a whole day on the bus from Marrakech to Merzouga, but from there you can access the Sahara at Erg Chebbi, which is a glorious group of sand dunes.

The journey from downtown Marrakech will be in a 4X4 like this one
The journey from downtown Marrakech will be in a 4X4 like this one
The vast and legendary desert can be a lonely place
The vast and legendary desert can be a lonely place

The Sahara’s northeasterly winds can reach hurricane level and often give rise to sand storms and dust devils. Many people imagine the Sahara as dotted with sand dunes, and the desert does have its share of ergs, which are large areas of shifting sand dunes, with some of some of them reaching 590ft. However, most of the Sahara is characterised as rocky hamada, a type of desert landscape that has very little sand and is made up of primarily barren, hard, rocky plateaus.

Bedouin tents await you
Bedouin tents await you
Camel treks are the main reason for a Sahara tour from Marrakech
Camel treks are the main reason for a Sahara tour from Marrakech

There are so many tour operators that you can contact both online and in Marrakech that will provide you with a trip of a lifetime to the Sahara. I used a company called Desert Majesty. You should plan to spend as long on the Sahara trip as you can afford, as the shorter tours may not give you enough (or any) time to see the real parts of the desert. You can see sand anywhere – you want to see SAND DUNES! For around 800-100 DH, you should be able to get a 3 day/2 night excursion, which includes lodging in the desert (maybe in Bedouin tents), at least one camel ride, and most meals are included too.

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Try not to think of the searing heat from the sand – just let the camels do all the hard work!

Camels, most often associated with the Sahara, were introduced to the desert around 200AD. These camels are not just here for the purpose of giving tourists a ride up and down the dunes! Their advantages over the horses include soft feet so they can move quicker through sand, and they have the ability to go for up to 17 days without food or water! It was in that Sahara where I had my first ever camel ride (well, that I can remember anyway!) and it was a weird experience. Camels are very docile creatures and they move elegantly with passengers sitting on them…much different to a horse ride.

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A chance to immerse yourself in Tuareg culture and hospitality

The cultures of the Berbers and the Tuaregs are fascinating, and hopefully your trip to the Sahara will last long enough for you to witness it first hand. Maybe smoke some shisha, watch the sun go down, and even partake in a traditional Moroccan belly dancing routine! Enjoy it before it’s over, as the hassle of Marrakech awaits you when you return…

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One thought on “An Idiot’s Guide to Trekking the Sahara

  1. i’ve had the opportunity to explore the sand dune area of inner mongolia in northern china once. and it was real nice. i can only imagine how much better it would be at the sahara desert.

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