Sunday, June 20, 2010

Traveling through Morocco: Gorges du Dades, Gorges du Todhra, Merzouga, Erg Chebbi

Ait Ben Haddou to Gorges du Dades
After enjoying the sunset at Ait Ben Haddou and a nice breakfast at our hotel we hit the road towards the Gorges du Dades.
The road leads mostly through desert sometimes interrupted by huge oasis along the Dades River. We stopped for the market in Skoura and in the ‘city of roses’ El-Kelaa M’Gouna. Honestly none of these little cities offered a lot to us. Although it sounds romantic when you read that El-Kelaa M’Gouna is the world capital of rose oil and rose water, it is not spectacular: an oasis with some Kasbahs nearby and a busy main street.
The landscape changes in Boulmane. Driving to the north from Boulmane leads through a beautiful green valley with several Ksars or Kasbahs, strange rock formations and then finally the very narrow canyon of the Dades River (‘Gorges du Dades’).

Scenes from the canyon of the Dades River (‘Gorges du Dades’)

Gorges du Dades to Merzouga
The first stop this day leads to the Gorges du Todhra, the canyon of the Todhra river starts just a few kilometers north of the city of Tinehir with its wide oasis. We drove the Todhra valley further north, to the impressive, most narrow part of the canyon where it is quite crowded due to bus tours. Further north the landscape is nice although not so spectacular: a clear river with fresh water winds through the mountains.
After a picnic at the river we drove back to Tinehir and then through the desert towards Tinejdad. Tinejdad is a dusty desert village, but it offers two jewels: One is the beautiful garden and museum with all kind of collectibles of Said Ouadou in the center of Tinjdad on the main street. The other is also prepared by Said, some kilometers west of Tinejdad, he restored a group of mineral water springs in the middle of the desert. The area around the springs is decorated with typical goods and tools from the nomads and farm people of the region.
Further eastwards towards Erfoud the desert changes, it becomes sandier and some kilometers before Erfoud the first small dunes appear.

Merzouga – Erg Chebbi
We staid two nights in Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi region. Our hotel (Hotel Kasbah Mohayut.) offered us a nice room in the hotel for one night and arranged the tour to the desert with dromedaries (some call it just camels, although there is a difference) and the night in a tent as well.
If you don’t want to explore the dunes during the hot day, but you want to do more than just hanging around on the pool I can recommend the Dayet Sri, a big seasonal lake and the ‘Depot des Nomads’ if you are into shopping of traditional goods from a scarf through lamps to carpets.
In the late afternoon when the temperature was more moderate – even in April it was far beyond 30°C during the day – our tour with the camels started. We were a group of about 10 tourists and two guides; it took us about one and a half hour to get to the tents in the middle of the dunes. Arrived at the dunes we watched the sunset, had a simple but nice diner, enjoyed the stars in the sky and talked at the campfire. The tents were equipped with real, proper and quite comfortable beds. After the impressive sunrise we went back to the hotel were the breakfast was served and we could take a shower.
It was quite impressive to ride through the dunes and I would recommend to everybody to do such an excursion.

Ride on the dromedaries

Colorful dunes in the Erg Chebbi

Next: N'kob, Val du Draa, Kasbah Tamnougalte, Marrakech
Or see the Morocco slide show for more pictures.

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