Africa

Road Trip from Fez to Erg Chebbi: Across the Middle Atlas into Sahara Sand Dunes in Morocco

The day-long winding drive between Fez (nestled between the Rif and the Middle Atlas Mountains) and Merzuga (in the Moroccan Sahara) was the most spectacular, rich and visually diverse road trip I have taken so far.

In a single day, we went from cedar-oak-pine clad forests and flower-carpeted meadows in the highlands, past snow capped mountains and crystal clear aquamarine lakes, through rugged and stark gorges, and along deep, fertile and lush oasis valley clad in date palms – finally into the desert, with its magnificent rose pink and golden yellow sand dunes.

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Leaving the imperial city of Fez early in the morning, we headed on to the Middle-Atlas Mountains through the winding and picturesque mountain road.

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We passed through the small town of Immouzer, into the charming mountain resort town of Ifrane for a short coffee break. Ifrane felt more European than North-African.

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Leaving Ifrane, we headed into the Cedar forests, stopping briefly on our way to buy some freshly plucked succulent cherries from a wayside vendor. Passing through the cedar forests, we had a brief and delightful encounter with the friendly Berberry monkeys.  The Berberry monkeys are very special in that they are the only primates north of the Sahara on the African continent and are also the only monkey/macaque species found outside of Asia.

We then proceeded to Azrou, where we briefly met up with our wonderful tour operators – Thomas and Fazia (owners of Journey Beyond Travel – JBT).

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From Azrou, we made our gradual descend to the town of Midelt, and thereon through the spectacular Ziz Gorge, to Errachidia and then Tafilalet, in the heart of the expansive Ziz valley. Their our local coordinator from JBT, Abdul Karim Tata, took us on a short walk through the rich agricultural valley filled with date palms, pomegranates, figs and small farmsteads. That was followed by a sumptuous, freshly made traditional Moroccan lunch at his village home.

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From there, after a brief post-lunch nap under the shade of trees, we continued our road trip further south to Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi region of the Sahara Desert.

We spent the night in a desert camp tent, under the dome of stars, surrounded by the spectacular Erg Cheebi sand dunes.

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I have done many beautiful road trips in different parts of the world and none have come even close to the one between Fez and Merzuga in terms of diversity of geographical features, colors and textures, spectacular contrasts and hauntingly beautiful vistas.

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