Hassi Labied and Erg Chebbi

Once again we woke up inside a bus, but the landscape outside is quite different. There seemed to be a seemingly endless nothingness, broken only by small clusters of buildings every once in a while. Slowly, the bus empties, until only half a dozen tourists remain. The driver pulls up to a small town in the middle of nowhere and announces that we have arrived in Merzouga.

Erg Chebbi
Erg Chebbi with dunes reaching up to 150 meters in height.

We were met with a bunch of touts, something that we are already used to in Morocco. Each one was offering to take us to a hotel, and we ignored the calls, except for one: Hassan Ougnir’s of the La Source Inn, where we made reservations for.

After getting our luggages, we were herded into a Land Cruiser, which we shared with three other girls from the same bus. Turns out Hassi Labied, the village where the inn is located, is five minutes away. There are no roads between Merzouga and Hassi Labied, just a dirt track in the dessert. The bumpy ride did two things to us: it woke us up from the 11-hour ride from Fes, and it made us realize how exhausted we all are.

Erg Chebbi
Peggy was about 50 meter from me, the foot of the dune about 300 meters away. Those small spikes atop the dune? Those are people.

La Source Inn looked exactly as it did in their website. We loved the wide open spaces, and marveled at how spacious our room was. It felt surreal looking out our window and seeing the sand dunes. The trip has taken its toll and soon we were sprawled in our beds and snoring.

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We woke up in the afternoon and when we went out our room, we found out that the other girls ended up sleeping as well. We ventured out the hotel to explore the village with Peggy, one of the other tourist in the bus. It was a quick walk because there really isn’t much to see. It did confirm one thing: there are no stores or restaurants nearby. That’s why the rates for the hotel included breakfast and dinner.

Erg Chebbi
Hassan with the dromedaries for the sunset trek

We headed for the dunes. It was a 10 minute walk to the edge, and when we got there, we realized just how big the dunes were. The Saharan sand is orange and very very fine. Walking and climbing over the dunes takes a lot of energy, as your feet sinks with each step you take.

We watched the sunset and made our way back to the hotel before it got too dark. We were ravenous, having nothing to eat since dinner the night before. Soon we were served bread and soup, followed by a tagine, and capped with Pistachio yogurt and wafers for dessert. There is no television in our rooms nor in the common room, so after dinner, our hosts sang some Berber songs (and telling Berber jokes), and taught us how to play the traditional instruments.

Erg Chebbi
That way to Timbuktu

The following day, we took a sunset camel trek to the dessert. Camel, in this context, actually means dromedary, which only has one hump. We rode to the dessert, the dromedary making good time on the soft sand, walking as if it was nothing. They were pissing and pooping the entire way. True story.

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Our guide pointed to the east and proclaimed that Timbuktu us 52 days away by camel. There was nothing but sand dunes as far as the eye can see. I think I’ll go crazy before the 52 days are up.

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Nina Fuentes

Nina started traveling in 2006, after realizing that her life is going nowhere. Now, she's trying to go everywhere. Read more...

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