Embarking on a Moroccan Sahara Desert tour and discovering its captivating beauty! From dunes of golden sand to, an endless night sky full of stars, camels roaming through the landscape – a visit to Morocco is an unforgettable experience. Capture that unique feeling in this one-of-a-kind desert adventure!
The Sahara desert is regarded as the most interesting place to visit despite its size. The calmness of the rose gold Moroccan sand dunes is unlike any other.
Having toured Morocco on countless occasions, we can attest that the country is worth exploring. During our journeys, we experience the best Moroccan desert travel with the help of the best team of natives, making it the highlight of our Morocco journeys.
The Mighty Sahara: Exploring the World’s Largest Dry Desert
The Sahara desert is the largest hot desert in the world, covering an area of approximately 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers). It stretches across much of North Africa, including the countries of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia. In comparison, the United States of America has a land area of approximately 3.8 million square miles, which means the Sahara Desert is slightly smaller than the entire land area of the United States.
And the Sahara is the second largest desert in the world, behind only the polar ice caps in Antarctica. It is also the driest desert on Earth, with some areas receiving less than half an inch (1.3 cm) of rainfall per year.
Despite its harsh and unforgiving environment, the Sahara is home to a surprising variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive in extreme conditions. Some of the most well-known species include dromedary camels, sand cats, fennec foxes, and addax antelopes.
How big is the Moroccan Sahara?
Moroccan Sahara represents a relatively small portion of the total area of the Sahara Desert, accounting for less than 7% of the desert’s total surface area. The Moroccan Sahara covers a large part of southern Morocco and has an area of approximately 252,000 square miles (652,000 square kilometers).
The desert landscape is breathtaking, with vast expanses of sand dunes, rugged mountains, rocky plateaus, and lush oasis valleys. The shifting sands of the desert create mesmerizing patterns and shapes that change throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. At sunrise and sunset, the colors of the desert transform, with the sand dunes taking on hues of gold, pink, and red.
Who are the people who live in the Sahara Desert?
The people who live in the Sahara Desert Morocco include various indigenous groups such as the Berbers, Touaregs, and Bedouins.
The Berbers, also known as Amazighs, are the largest ethnic group in Morocco, and they have a strong presence in the Sahara region. They have their language and culture and have inhabited the region for thousands of years.
The Touaregs, also known as the Kel Tamasheq, are nomadic pastoralist people who are well-known for their distinctive clothing and lifestyle. They are known for their expertise in riding camels and navigating the harsh desert terrain, and they have traditionally traveled long distances across the Sahara with their camels.
The Bedouins, on the other hand, are nomadic Arab people who have been living in the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa for centuries. While they are not indigenous to Morocco, some Bedouin communities live in the Sahara region.
All of these groups have unique cultures, traditions, and languages, and have contributed to the rich diversity of the Moroccan Sahara Desert.
Who are the “Blue Men”?
The “Blue Men” of the Sahara Desert are also known as the Tuareg people. They are a nomadic group of Berber people who live in the Sahara region, including Morocco. They have been given the name “Blue Men” due to the indigo-colored veils they wear that protect them from the harsh sun and sandstorms. The Tuareg are known for their unique culture, including their distinctive clothing, music, and intricate jewelry. They have a long history of trading and have traveled across the Sahara Desert for centuries. Today, the Tuareg people still maintain their traditional way of life and are recognized as one of the distinct cultural groups of the Sahara Desert.
Are there nomads in the Sahara Desert?
Yes, there are still nomadic communities living in the Sahara Desert. These communities have a long history of living in and adapting to the harsh desert environment, and they continue to maintain their traditional ways of life, such as pastoralism and trading. The Tuareg and the Bedouin are some of the well-known nomadic groups that can be found in the Sahara Desert. However, due to various factors such as urbanization, climate change, and political conflicts, the number of nomads in the Sahara has decreased in recent years.
Morocco Sahara Deserts: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga
What should you decide about your Sahara Desert trip? There are mainly two deserts in Morocco where tourists go on a safari: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga.
Visiting Erg Chebbi
Erg Chebbi is an incredible desert located in southeastern Morocco, near the town of Merzouga. This vast sea of golden sand dunes spans over 50 kilometers and offers breathtaking views of the desert landscape. Erg Chebbi’s towering dunes, which reach up to 150 meters in height, create a mesmerizing landscape that is unlike anything else in the world.
The colors of the sand change throughout the day, from a pale yellow in the morning to a fiery orange at sunset, creating an ever-shifting canvas of beauty. Visitors to Erg Chebbi can enjoy a range of activities, from camel trekking across the dunes to sandboarding down the steep slopes.
At night, the clear desert sky provides a stunning backdrop for stargazing, as the bright stars twinkle against the dark expanse. The beauty and wonder of Erg Chebbi make it a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Morocco.
Visiting Erg Chigaga
Erg Chigaga is another incredible desert located in the southwestern part of Morocco, near the town of Zagora. This desert is less visited than Erg Chebbi, but also majestic.
Erg Chigaga’s sand dunes reach heights of up to 60 meters, which are still impressive, but lower than those found in Erg Chebbi. Nonetheless, Erg Chigaga remains an incredible destination for desert lovers, with vast stretches of golden sand that create a surreal and peaceful atmosphere.
The desert’s remoteness and quietness are perfect for those seeking a peaceful escape from the bustling cities such as Marrakech. Visitors can explore the desert on a camel ride or 4×4 tour, hike through the dunes, and even spend the night in a traditional desert camp to experience the silence and tranquility of the desert.
What sand dunes will I see in the Merzouga Desert?
If you visit the Merzouga Desert in Morocco, you will see the spectacular Erg Chebbi sand dunes. These dunes are the most famous and frequently visited sand dunes in the Merzouga area, and they stretch over 50 kilometers in length and up to 5 kilometers in width. The dunes are known for their towering height, which can reach up to 150 meters in some areas.
The sand dunes of Erg Chebbi are not just impressive in size, but also in their unique colors, which change throughout the day depending on the position of the sun. The dunes appear a pale yellow color in the morning, a bright orange color in the evening, and a deep red color during sunset.
What is an oasis?
An oasis is a fertile area in the desert, typically surrounding a spring or well. It is a rare and valuable resource in an otherwise barren and arid environment. Oases can vary in size, from small patches of greenery to large tracts of land that support entire communities.
In the desert, oases often provide a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, many of which are adapted to the harsh desert environment. They can also be important resting points for migratory birds and other animals.
Oases have been essential for human survival in the desert for thousands of years. They have been used as sources of water and food, as well as meeting places for traders and nomads. Many traditional desert communities, such as the Berbers of North Africa, have developed sophisticated systems of irrigation to cultivate crops and maintain their way of life.
Overall, oases are vital and precious resources in the desert, providing a sanctuary of life and beauty in an otherwise harsh and unforgiving environment.
The depth of water in the Morocco Sahara Desert can vary widely depending on the location and geological formations. In some areas, water can be found close to the surface, while in others, it can be much deeper.
In general, the water table in the Sahara Desert is quite deep, and it can range from a few hundred meters to over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) deep in some areas. However, there are also areas where water can be found at shallower depths, such as in oases, where the water table may be just a few meters below the surface.
It’s also important to note that water is a scarce resource in the Sahara Desert, and finding it can be a challenge. Many communities rely on traditional methods of water collection and storage, such as digging wells and building cisterns, to ensure a reliable supply of water.
What are the best things to do in the Sahara Desert?
The Sahara Desert Morocco offers a unique experience that combines adventure, culture, and stunning scenery. Here are some of the best things to do in the Morocco Sahara Desert:
1. Take a camel trek: a camel ride is a quintessential Sahara experience. Riding on a camel through the desert allows you to immerse yourself in the vast expanse of sand dunes and appreciate the quietness and beauty of the landscape. Never miss a camel trek!
2. Watch the sunset and sunrise: watching the sunset and sunrise in the desert is an unforgettable experience. The colors of the sky change rapidly as the sun sets, and the same happens in reverse when it rises.
3. Explore the dunes: the Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga dunes are the most popular ones to explore in Morocco. You can go sandboarding, sand skiing, or simply run up and down the dunes.
4.Visit a nomad camp: Morocco Sahara Desert is home to many nomad families. You can visit them, learn about their culture and way of life, and enjoy a cup of tea with them.
5. Camp in the desert: camping in the desert is a unique and amazing experience that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the Sahara.
6. Stargaze: the Sahara Desert is known for its clear skies and amazing stargazing opportunities. At night, the sky is full of stars, and you can even see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
7. Visiting an oasis: oases are lush areas of greenery that are surrounded by dry desert landscapes. These areas are home to many different types of plants and wildlife, as well as traditional Berber communities. It is a great way to experience a different side of the Sahara Desert and appreciate the resilience of the local communities that have been living in these harsh conditions for generations.
8.Visiting khol mines: Kohl is a traditional eye cosmetic that has been used in the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years. The kohl used in Morocco is made from a natural mineral called galena, which is mined from the Sahara Desert. Visiting the kohl mines is a unique opportunity to learn the importance of kohl in traditional Berber communities. You can witness the process of mining, refining, and grinding the galena into a fine powder, which is then used to make kohl. You can also interact with the local miners and learn about their way of life.
Is the Sahara Desert only dunes?
The Sahara desert is not just sand dunes, it also includes other landscapes such as rocky mountains, vast plains, salt flats, and dry riverbeds known as wadis. There are also volcanic mountains, canyons, and plateaus that create unique and diverse landscapes. The desert is home to many different plant and animal species that have adapted to harsh conditions, including acacia trees, cacti, camels, gazelles, and desert foxes.
Additionally, there are numerous oases scattered throughout the desert, which are lush green areas with palm trees and freshwater springs that provide a stark contrast to the surrounding arid environment.
What are the best months to visit the Sahara Desert?
The best time to visit the Sahara Desert depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to do. Generally, the ideal time is during the cooler months of October to February when temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F) during the day and can drop significantly at night. This makes it more comfortable for activities such as camel trekking and camping in the desert.
However, if you’re looking to witness the beauty of the desert’s changing colors and enjoy some outdoor activities like sandboarding, then the months of March to May and September to November are great options. It’s important to note that during the summer months of June to August, temperatures can soar up to 50°C (122°F) making it quite challenging to explore the desert.
Glamping: Sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert
Not all Sahara desert tours are the same! Experience the ultimate luxury camping experience in the heart of the Sahara Desert.
For those seeking a lavish desert experience in the Moroccan Sahara, we recommend staying at a high-end desert camp in the heart of the Sahara Desert. These camps provide an abundance of comfort and elegance, making for an indulgent and satisfying experience amid the stunning Moroccan desert landscape. With deluxe amenities and services such as gourmet dining and king-size beds, visitors can truly unwind and immerse themselves in the unique culture of the region. Whether it’s relaxing in the lavish accommodations or exploring the desert on a camel ride, a luxury camp provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience in one of the world’s most breathtaking natural settings.
Imagine sleeping under the twinkling stars, with the gentle breeze of the desert lulling you to sleep. These glamping tents offer all the comforts of a hotel room, with plush beds, cozy blankets, and private en-suite bathrooms. Wake up to stunning desert views and enjoy a traditional Moroccan breakfast, made with fresh ingredients sourced from the local markets.
Spend your days exploring the vast desert landscapes, hiking towering sand dunes, and soaking in the warm sun. In the evening, gather around the campfire and share stories with fellow travelers, while sipping on traditional mint tea. This is an experience like no other, and we invite you to join us for an unforgettable adventure in the Sahara Desert.
What is the traditional food from the Sahara Desert?
The traditional food of the Sahara Desert is largely influenced by the Berber people who have lived in the region for thousands of years. Due to the harsh conditions of the desert, the food is typically hearty and filling, made with locally sourced ingredients that are available in the region. Some of the popular traditional foods of the Sahara Desert in Morocco include:
- Taguella is the Tuareg people’s staple dish in the Sahara, which takes the form of a flatbread. This disk-shaped bread is made from wheat flour and cooked by burying it underneath hot sand and charcoal from a small fire.
- Tagine is a popular dish in the Sahara desert of Morocco, and it is often served in traditional Berber households and restaurants. Tagine is a slow-cooked stew that is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The pot has a cone-shaped lid that allows steam to circulate and cook the ingredients slowly, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish. Some common ingredients used in tagine in the Sahara desert include lamb or goat meat, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and dried fruits such as dates or apricots. Tagine is often served with bread, such as khobz, a traditional Moroccan flatbread, or with couscous. In the Sahara desert, tagine is often cooked over an open fire or on a traditional charcoal brazier called a “kanoun,” which gives the dish a smoky flavor. It is a beloved dish in Morocco, and it is often considered a symbol of Moroccan cuisine.
- Couscous is a staple food in Moroccan cuisine, and it is commonly eaten in the Sahara desert. It is a type of pasta made from semolina wheat and is often served with vegetables and meat.
- Cereals: Barley is a cereal grain that is commonly grown in the Sahara desert and is used to make a type of porridge called “hssoua”. It can also be ground into flour and used to make bread. Millet is another cereal grain that is grown in the Sahara desert and is often used to make porridge or bread. Corn is not traditionally grown in the Sahara desert, but it is sometimes imported and used to make porridge or bread. These cereals are an important source of carbohydrates in the traditional diet of the Moroccan Sahara desert, and they provide energy for the local population who live in a region with limited access to other sources of food.
- Harira – a hearty soup made with lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and meat (usually lamb or beef). The soup is typically served during Ramadan to break the daily fast, and even harira is not specific to the Sahara desert region of Morocco, it is still widely consumed throughout the country and is often considered a national dish.
- Bissara: in the Sahara desert region of Morocco, bissara is often enjoyed during the winter months when the weather is cooler. It is a hearty and warming dish that provides energy and sustenance for those living in the harsh desert environment. Bissara is a thick soup made from dried fava beans, onions, garlic, and olive oil. The ingredients are blended together and then cooked over low heat with spices such as cumin and paprika, resulting in a flavorful and nutritious soup.
- Rfissa, while enjoyed throughout Morocco, it is a traditional dish that is popular in the Moroccan Sahara desert region. It is a savory and flavorful dish that is often prepared for special occasions and celebrations, such as weddings or religious festivals. Rfissa is typically made with chicken or lamb, lentils, onions, and a variety of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric. It is also flavored with fenugreek, a herb that is commonly used in Moroccan cuisine. The dish is typically served with a special type of bread called “msemen” or “rghaif,” which is a thin, flaky bread that is similar to a pancake. The bread is torn into pieces and then used to scoop up the flavorful broth and tender pieces of meat.
- Madfouna is popularly known as the Berber calzone. It is a type of stuffed bread that is typically filled with a mixture of meat, onions, and spices, and then baked in a clay oven or on a hot griddle. The bread dough for Madfouna is usually made with flour, water, and yeast, and is then shaped into a round disc. The filling is added to the center of the dough, and then the dough is folded over and sealed to encase the filling. The stuffed bread is then cooked until it is golden brown and crispy on the outside, and the filling is tender and flavorful on the inside.
- Meifrisa is a traditional dessert that is popular in the Moroccan Sahara desert region, particularly among the Berber communities. It is a sweet and creamy dish that is often served during special occasions, such as weddings or religious festivals. Meifrisa is made by mixing fine semolina with butter, milk, and sugar, and then cooking the mixture over low heat until it forms a thick, pudding-like consistency. The dish is then flavored with spices such as cinnamon or anise and is often topped with chopped almonds or other nuts. Meifrisa is typically served chilled and is enjoyed as a dessert or sweet snack. It is a comforting and indulgent dish that is loved by many in the Sahara desert region of Morocco, and it is often prepared with great care and attention to detail to create a delicious and satisfying treat.
- Berber omelet: also known as Berber eggs, is a traditional dish from North Africa, particularly popular in Morocco and Algeria. It is a simple but delicious omelet made with eggs, chopped tomatoes, onions, and sometimes peppers and spices such as cumin and paprika. It is usually served for breakfast or lunch and is often accompanied by bread, olives, and tea. Berber omelet is a staple dish in Berber cuisine and is a great representation of the simple, hearty, and flavorful food served in the Sahara desert.
- Fruits: One of the most common fruits in the Moroccan Sahara desert is dates. Dates are a sweet and nutritious fruit that grow on palm trees and are well-suited to the desert environment. They are often eaten as a snack or used in desserts and other dishes. Other fruits that can be found in the Sahara desert region of Morocco include figs, pomegranates, and melons. These fruits are typically grown in oases or other areas with access to water and are harvested during the summer months when they are ripe and ready to eat. While fruits are not as plentiful in the Moroccan Sahara desert as in other regions of the country, they are still an important part of the local diet and are appreciated for their flavor, nutrition, and cultural significance.
- Meats: the population living in the Sahara desert in Morocco has a traditional diet that consists mainly of meat, as it provides a source of protein and energy in a region where agriculture is difficult. The types of meat consumed by the local population vary depending on availability and cultural traditions. Some common meats eaten in the Sahara desert in Morocco include camel, goat, sheep, and occasionally beef. These meats are often cooked over an open fire or in a tagine, a traditional Moroccan cooking vessel that is commonly used for stews and slow-cooked dishes. Additionally, some nomadic tribes in the Sahara desert may consume wild game such as antelope or gazelle if it is available.
- Dairy products are an important part of the traditional diet of the Moroccan Sahara desert, and they are an important source of nutrition for the local population and have been consumed for generatioSome of the traditional dairy products that are commonly consumed in the region would be:
- Camel milk: Camel milk is a staple in the Sahara desert and is consumed by many of the nomadic tribes in the region. It is often used to make tea, and it can also be consumed plain.
- Goat cheese: Goat cheese is a common dairy product in the Sahara desert, and it is often made by local families in their homes. It can be eaten fresh or aged, and it is often used in traditional dishes such as tagines.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is also a popular dairy product in the Sahara desert, and it is often consumed with meals or as a snack. It can be made from camel or goat milk and is usually homemade.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a byproduct of butter-making, and it is often used in traditional Moroccan dishes such as couscous. It has a slightly sour taste and is high in nutrients.
- Butter: Butter is also commonly made in the Sahara desert, often from camel or goat milk. It is used in cooking and also as a spread for bread.
These dishes, among others, are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and offer a delicious taste of traditional Berber cuisine.
FAQ: Planning a Sahara desert tour
1. Is it worth visiting the Sahara desert in Morocco?
Absolutely, it is definitely worth taking a Sahara desert tour in Morocco, as it is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and opportunities for adventure and exploration.
2. What to Pack for a Sahara Desert Tour?
- Motion sickness pills: do not underestimate the winding paths that lead to the desert! You’ll cross several mountains and the Sahara Desert. Motion sickness medication is a friend.
- Snacks: if you’re accustomed to frequent snacking and planning for a long driving day, it’s a good idea to pack some healthy snacks to keep you energized and satisfied on the road.
- During the summer months, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable materials like cotton or linen can help keep you cool in the daytime heat. If you travel in the wintertime, winter temperatures in the Sahara can drop significantly, so it’s recommended to pack layers of warm clothing such as sweaters, jackets, and thermal underwear. Be sure to also bring lightweight, breathable clothing for the daytime when temperatures may rise, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
- Comfortable shoes: Closed-toe, sturdy shoes or hiking boots are recommended for traversing the desert terrain.
Be sure to check with your travel expert team for any additional recommended items based on the specifics of your trip.
3. Can I go from Marrakech to the Sahara desert in one day?
It is possible to travel from Marrakech to the Sahara desert in one full day trip, but it would be a long and tiring journey. The distance between Marrakech and the Sahara desert is around 550 kilometers (340 miles), and it can take between 8 to 10 hours to travel by car or bus, depending on the route and the mode of transportation.
Therefore, it is recommended to break up the journey and spend a night or two along the way to rest and enjoy the sights and experiences of the region. Additionally, there are many interesting places to visit in the surrounding areas of the desert, such as Ouarzazate, Ait Ben Haddou (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the Draa Valley, which are worth exploring.
4. What are the types of accommodation in the Sahara desert?
The Moroccan Sahara desert is a popular tourist destination, and there are several types of accommodation options available to visitors. Here are some of the most common:
a. Desert Camps: These are the most authentic types of accommodation in the Moroccan Sahara. They are usually tented campsites that offer basic amenities such as a bed, a bathroom, and meals. Desert camps can range from basic to luxurious. The most appreciated desert camps are those located in the middle of the sand dunes, isolated from any nearby settlement.
b. Riads: A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a central courtyard. There are some riads located on the outskirts of the Sahara in desert towns that offer a unique experience of Moroccan architecture, culture, and hospitality. Riads are not in the middle of the sand dunes.
c. Kasbahs: A kasbah is a traditional Moroccan fortification, usually made of adobe. There are several kasbahs located near the Sahara desert, which have been converted into guesthouses or hotels that offer a comfortable stay. Kasbash are not in the middle of the sand dunes.
4. Hotels: There are several hotels located near the edge of the Sahara, typically in larger towns or cities such as Ouarzazate, Erfoud, or Zagora. Hotels are not in the middle of the sand dunes.
5. What cities in Morocco are closest to the Sahara desert?
Several cities in Morocco are located close to the Sahara desert. The following are some of the closest cities:
- Erfoud: This small town is located in the eastern part of Morocco, near the border with Algeria. It is often considered the gateway to the Sahara desert and is known for its annual date festival.
- Merzouga: This village is located in the southeastern part of Morocco and is situated right on the edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes, one of the largest sand dunes in the Sahara.
- Zagora: This town is located in the Draa River valley, which is considered the gateway to the southern part of the Sahara desert. It is known for its palm groves and traditional mud-brick architecture.
- Ouarzazate: This city is located in the southeastern part of Morocco and is known as the “door of the desert”. It is a popular destination for film productions and is surrounded by stunning desert landscapes and ancient kasbahs.
- M’hamid El Ghizlane: This small village is located in the Draa River valley, at the end of the paved road and the beginning of the Sahara desert. It is a popular starting point for desert treks and camel rides.
Planning a Morocco Desert tour in the Sahara can seem daunting at first. With so many tour options claiming to be the best, it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin. If you are just starting to plan your desert adventure in Morocco and are wondering how to arrange your travel, you are in luck. This guide provides you with all the basic information you need to make informed decisions and create an unforgettable experience in the Sahara.
While the Sahara Desert offers breathtaking landscapes and unique cultural experiences, it’s essential to keep in mind that traveling in this region can be challenging and potentially hazardous without adequate preparation and guidance. Factors such as extreme temperatures, sandstorms, and limited access to water are just some of the obstacles that visitors may encounter on a desert trip. We recommend that you consider the services of a reputable travel expert and take all necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
You may be wondering about the best way to experience this unique and stunning landscape. One option is to opt for a private Sahara desert tour, where you can have a personalized itinerary tailored to your interests and needs. Private tours can be a great choice for those who want complete flexibility and control over their travel plans.
Alternatively, you may want to consider one of our curated and very unique small-group tours. These group tours are carefully designed by our expert team to provide a unique and immersive experience of the Sahara, with the most knowledgeable guides and carefully chosen activities to give you a deep understanding of this incredible region the whole trip.
Whether you choose a private tour or a small group tour, the beauty and magic of the Sahara Desert are sure to leave a lasting impression on you.