Morocco

May 2009

Part 7: Erg Chebbi & Rissani

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Rissani to Erg Chebbi (May 10th, day 13)

After a long day of driving we arrived in Rissani and went in search of the hotel Yasmina, which lies near the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi and which I'd read good things about. Getting there involved driving 12km across rocky desert, with little plastic markers showing the way. It shook our car terribly, and we'd have turned back if the owner of the hotel hadn't happened to pass us in his 4x4. I drove very slowly to spare the car, and he kept driving in front of us, apparently eager to get some customers.

It took us more than half an hour to get to the hotel, and when there he gave me a pitiful look and said that by driving faster (about 40kmh instead of 20) the car would have trembled much less. Oh well.

Driving towards Erg Chebbi at the edge of the desert. There are the first dunes of Erg Chebbi, and another hotel similar to ours.

The sun set as we arrived. At night I went out with the star map my sister had given me, eager to watch the spectacle in the sky here in total darkness, but the wind was blowing so hard that I couldn't hold my binoculars still, so I quickly gave up.

Erg Chebbi (May 11th-12th, days 14-15)

Desert walk

The next morning we set out for a walk in the dunes, but since we'd slept quite late it was already very hot and there weren't much shadows. Behind the hotel lay a half dry lake which we walked around.

Need more water Dry earth by the lake These tiny frogs were hopping all around the lake by the thousands, we had to be careful not to step on them.

While Lotte played with the frogs I set out to climb one of the highest dunes.

Camels resting between the dunes. In the middle there's me climbing the dune. It was a much longer walk than it looked from far away.

When I reached the top of the dune I walked along its back for a while and then descended back to the lake. I had to stop every 20m because the sand was literally pushing my feet out of my shoes, but I couldn't just take off the shoes because the sand was way too hot to walk on.

View from the top of the dune beyond the dune Walking down from the dune.

In the afternoon we just relaxed by the hotel pool - the reason we'd picked this hotel.

The pool in hotel Yasmina.

Camel trip

In the late afternoon we set out on our camel trip. We'd go a little distance into the desert by camel, sleep in a Berber tent, and come back in the morning. Very touristy but Lotte really wanted to ride a camel :) Btw I know they're really not camels but dromedaries but I'm too lazy to type that.

We were teamed up with a French couple and a Berber guide, who lead the row of camels to his camp. The ride took about an hour. With the sun almost setting the dunes were taking ever deeper hues and casting long shadows, creating a lovely landscape.

Lotte and me on our camels. Lotte, me and the guide projected on the sand. Staring at the sun.
Erg Chebbi near sunset Erg Chebbi near sunset Erg Chebbi near sunset

Camp

The camp lay at the foot of a very high dune which we climbed after dropping our stuff in the tents. Climbing in the soft sand was very tiring.

Climbing the dune, below is our camp

At the top the wind was blowing sand across the dune, a typical sight in any sandy desert.

Top of the dune. Balancing walk across the back of the dune. Lotte crawled on hand and knees here but I censored that picture :) Us on top of the dune.

After enjoying the sight for a while I tried running down the dune, much like I'd run down the volcano El Misti in Peru. The sand here wasn't nearly as soft as the volcanic ashes had been over there so I couldn't run as fast, but it was still fun and the others soon joined in. Here's me ruining my camera the exact same way I ruined my previous camera on El Misti :)

At night the guide prepared dinner for us, which we ate on matresses under the open sky. I had hoped to see the stars tonight but it was cloudy and there were only a few to see, nothing like the spectacle of a completely clear sky in complete darkness, damn.

We got another spectacular sight though. The French guy saw something move near our matresses, so I took my flashlight and chased after it. It was a big, big spider, easily the biggest I've ever seen even in captivity. I didn't believe it was a spider though since it looked so asymmetric, so I ran after it with my flashlight to identify it, but it ran really fast and soon disappeared between the tents.

What we saw was a "Camel spider", which is not a real spider but a different kind of arachnid, so I was actually right. Still it has a nasty bite so luckily it ran away. Here are some pics from the internet.

Two camel spiders, caught by American soldiers in Iraq. A clear pic of a camel spider.

We didn't see our little friend again, but we had good laughs scaring each other with the prospect of it coming back while we were asleep.

Camel ride II

Next morning we woke up with the first daylight.

Waking up in the desert.

After a short walk the guide had prepared the camels and we were on our way back. We took a different route and since the sun was very low the landscape was once again at its prettiest.

Erg Chebbi after sunrise Erg Chebbi after sunrise
Erg Chebbi after sunrise Erg Chebbi after sunrise

After breakfast in the hotel we jumped in the car and drove off. This time Lotte wanted to drive the 12km across the stony desert. Since women have no sympathy for cars, she drove twice as fast as I had. The hotel owner had been right, that did make the car tremble less.

Still I felt afraid.

Rissani (May 12th, day 15)

The town of Rissani lies some 20km from Erg Chebbi. It's not a tourist spot but has some nice sights of which we checked out a few.

The Zawiya Moulay Ali ash-Sharif in Rissani An old trading post next to the Zawiya, now used to house widows. Not for small people

Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim, an abandoned palace, was a bit hard to find and seems to get very few visitors. We had the place to ourselves and it was one of the few places where we weren't harassed by locals. Unfortunately we didn't run into the caretaker who could have let us into the crumbling palace halls, but even so it was well worth the visit.

The outer walls of Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim Children asking for candy Wandering inside the compound of Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim
Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim Gate closed Crawling out the back

We had lunch in the town of Erfoud and then visited Ksar M'Aadid, a fortified village just north of Erfoud.

Erfoud Mosque inside Ksar M'Aadid A street in Ksar M'Aadid

Here we were harassed by locals so much that we just hurried around the place and quickly drove off again. By now our patience with this had run out completely. To be clear it's always just a few people, but there's enough of them to spoil the fun of visiting a place.

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Vivien Sat 13 Nov 2010 @ 21:36
Beautiful photos and well narrated travelog. It gave us a good preview of the trip we planned for this April. We are planning a twelve day trip to Morocco following a similar itinerary. Thank you for sharing.

Curtis Reynolds Wed 28 Jul 2010 @ 04:20
Great photos... However I lived in Morocco in 1973 and my photos are also impressive. Give me a little fed back.


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