Still keyed up from your last trip to the beach? Welcome to another sandy setting, one that’s entirely different from what you’ve come to expect – Erg Chebbi, a colossal sand dune looming up to 150 metres high over the Sahara. According to local legend, a woman and her small child appeared one day, seeking accommodations so they could attend a festival. The villagers turned them away, and the gods promptly punished them by sending Erg Chebbi, a 22-kilometre stretch of desert.
Sitting courageously in the middle of Erg Chebbi is the village of Merzouga, where your day starts with a camel ride, continues with a meal of couscous and tagines, and ends with the sound of Gnawa music. An essential part of any healing ritual, the hypnotic melody created by clapping, clanging cymbals (or “krakeb”), and call-and-response singing has similarities with the blues, and has even found its way into rock star Robert Plant’s repertoire.
Birds such as Arabian buzzards, Egyptian nightjars, and even flamingos find their way to Merzouga. But the real action happens at night, when Algerian sand lizards, desert foxes, and scarab beetles come out of hiding. The sky, a big part of Merzouga’s charm, is an endless black awning, encrusted with a million twinkling stars. It serves as the perfect backdrop to the shifting, dancing sands. Waking up early is a must for you to catch the fiery sunrise, which so many visitors rave about.
When you’re up for it, rent a ski, a snowboard, or a boogie board and surf a different kind of wave. Climbing up the dunes will be tiring, but the exhilarating ride down will certainly be worth it!
Rugs, jewellery, and antiques are among the souvenirs of choice, which you can buy from the native Berbers, whose desert culture has been around for more than four thousand years.