A Night at Erg Chebbi, the Sahara

Sah 01Tonight we stay at the Morocco Key’s permanent camp in the desert.

Erg Chebbi is the edge of the Sahara. We drive out from Rissani across the rocky plains, the road stretching out, seemingly forever, with only vague outlines of mountains marking the horizon. As we drive a new set of mountains appear in the distance, orange and vague, rising from the pale grey plains. As we get closer, we realise they are sand dunes, grand and majestic. Sand begins to build on the rocky plain, small ripples forming into waves coalescing into small dunes. It is an incredible transition. Black stones pit the early sand dunes creating a bizarre contrast while the horizon becomes filled with giant waves of pure, burnished sand.

We drive along the edge, between the black desert and the dunes of the Sahara, making our way to the end of the road where we will meet our guide for the camel trek. Today we are greeted by Brahim with four camels, and are joined by an Italian couple.

It is late afternoon and already deep shadows are forming over the dunes. Brahim and the camels snake through and over the dunes offering spectacular and ever changing views. To our west, they rise massively and to east they form a sea stretching to the Algerian border. The sands are patterned by the wind, each dune as unique as a fingerprint. There are ridges where you feel like you are travelling a camel highway while others feel isolated.

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We stop along a high ridge and dismount. Brahim sets some carpets and from here we will watch the sun set in the valley between two very large dunes. Sunset is an exquisite time in the Sahara. The sands change colour, from reds and oranges to pale cream, the intricate details fading with the light.

With the sun fallen behind the dunes, we made our way East to the camp through an increasingly eerie landscape. In the fading light perspective began to shift, distances hard to infer, heights hard to discern. Brahim knew the way, and it makes you wonder how the Berber accomplished this in the first place.

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We are welcomed to the camp by our hosts in full dress. They guide us along a path made of carpets to the dining tent which is large and beautifully adorned, easily capable of seating twenty people. We take tea before being shown to our tent. The tent is incredible – it looks fully lined, has a comfortable king sized bed, and even has electricity, plumbing and piping hot water! This is desert luxury at its finest.

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We settle in for the night and take our meal – Soup, Salad, Roasted Vegetables, Tagine, and fresh fruit – before joining our hosts by the fire where they are playing Gnauwa music. As the drums beat I gazed upon the clear night sky, admiring the constellations in the orientation of our ancestors. What amazed me most in this star gazing was how desolate it felt when compared to the skies in remote Australia, as though the stars, while plentiful, somehow seemed smaller and less intense.

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The following morning I arose with the dawn to see the sun rise over the Sahara, the colour of the sand changing subtly every few minutes as the earth rolled and the golden orb flared across the desert. We breakfasted on a dune, with a wonderful panorama setting the mood. We rode our Camels back along a similar track to the previous day, admiring the textures, like fingerprints, of the sand, a gentle breeze riding the crests of the dunes, small curls of sand dancing along ridge and valley.

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Riding a camel over the sands is an incredible meditative experience and it is easy to get lost in the sensations, physical and visual, and absence of sound. An hour is all we get before once more we hit the road.

Erg Chebbi, Camel trek, Morocco

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Other Experiences in Morocco:


Marrakech to Imil
The Route of a Thousand Kasbahs
A Walk in the Dades Gorge
The Middle Atlas
Northern Morocco and Gouffre du Friouato



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