From Mhamid to Erg Chegaga
Leaving Ouarzazate, the road from the South reaches the lush Drâa valley, near Agdz, and extends for about 200 km beyond Zagora.
In Mhamid, the bitumen gives way to the tracks in a Saharan environment. To get to the erg of Chegaga, you must first descend this great Drâa valley, lined with beautiful palm groves, old ksour and ancient kasbahs, as far as Mhamid, to the desert’s gates.
Situated amidst a rocky environment 60 km from Mhamid, there are only two completely opposite ways to reach these large dunes. In vehicles, the choice of a 4 × 4 is absolutely necessary and the accompaniment of a local guide strongly advised.
This journey through these desert landscapes takes 2 hours, at most. The enthusiasts of nature and of slow slowness will prefer the nonchalance of a dromedary’s back.
Such a trip lasts from a few hours to several days, interspersed with pleasant “bivouacs” under a sky largely dotted with stars. On the way, it is possible to visit and stop at the sacred oasis of Oum Lâalag distant about 50 km and protected by a large earthen enclosure.
Being close to the Hamada of the Drâa and the Algerian border, a stay in the erg Chegaga already allows to grasp, in a strong and simple way, this part of the Sahara.
This imposing erg stretches for about 40 km and 15 of width, some of its dunes reach 300 m height.
It remains less frequented than the erg Chebbi, its small cousin of the south-east, due to its relatively difficult access and keeps a still wild and authentic beauty due to its imposing surface.
Permanent camps are set up there to spend nights under the traditional tents of the nomads: the khaïmas. Sand baths are beneficial for osteoarthritis, rheumatic neuralgia and other low back pain.
Contrary to what one might think, the very hot sand does not cause any burning. The air circulating between these grains transferring the heat received by the solar rays into the body.
Erg Chegaga practical
In summer, temperatures are more than 50 °C during the day, it is necessary to protect yourselves from the sun’s onslaught by covering arms and head, and conversely, the nights are always cool in the desert.
Tourist and travel agencies offer guides and drivers, organizing tours and meals in the dunes of erg Chegaga.
They are recommended for fighting rheumatism and are practiced during the summer. After plunging into the warm sand , the body is completely covered, leaving the head alone in the open air. You’ll spend about 45 minutes like this, and will be supervised by a nurse (most of the time). The fitness process is underway. Be careful though, all this is heavy work for heart.
From Zagora to Foum Zguid
Cave sites also dot the surrounding area. In the great plain stretching from Zagora to Foum Zguid, near Wadi Feijaa and Tizi Guettara there is a site where, on sandstone slabs, one can admire engravings representing elephants, gazelles, heads of beef.
The adventure can also continue towards Foum Zguid and the Djbel Bani along the Iriki depression. Two tracks pass a little to the north, separating at the sacred spring Abd Er Rahman.
The most northerly of these tracks passes through the Zaouïa Sidi En-Nebbi, where you can admire an old marabout. The second, more southerly, runs north of this old lake dried up through beautiful views.
Not long ago, this place still received the waters of the Drâa river that crossed it before joining the Atlantic Ocean. Now the Iriki has become a desolate lake, where ergs and regs intersect.
This unique place, little frequented by mass tourism, was declared a national park in 1994 to protect or local fauna like hyenas, gazelles, bighorn sheeps, reptiles, which are still staying there.
But also to reintroduce species like ostriches with red neck, Oryx, addax who had deserted the shores. Nevertheless, it still harbors certain migratory birds and pink flamingos, due to the particularly rainy winters, which bring a little freshness to this vast expanse where the grass once covered the banks.
Sacred Oasis of Oum Laalag
Source of freshness in the heart of the hamada at 55 km to the west of M’Hamid and 12 km from the dunes of Chegaga extends the oasis of Oum Laalag on almost 15 hectares. It’s strangely surrounded by a wall but still accessible by a main entrance. It’s also possible to spend the night and to eat under one of the nomad tents.
Plateau of Iriki on the way to Foum Zguid
Surrounded by a rocky desert, Lake Iriki, down of an imposing plateau, is now totaly dry. From time to time some come to the “kite-buggy”, a small tank, with three pneumatic wheels, towed by a giant kite. Iriki is a virgin and arid plateau with a magical landscape.
Tracks to reach Foum Zguid
The plateau of Iriki is crossed by two tracks connecting Foum Zguid. They separate at the sacred source of Abd ed Rahmane.
A track passes to the north by the oasis of the Zaouïa Sidi Abd in Nebi where you can admire an old marabout. The other runs farther south along the depression itself. The oases of the Zaouïa Sidi Abd in Nebi and the sacred oasis Abd ed Rahmane are havens of freshness on this 200 km long trail that connects Mhamid with Foum Zguid.
Small villages with almost no tourists, large dunes posed in the reg down of Djbel Bani, a convivial place for bivouacs and to discover the true life of the Saharan desert of the Moroccan Southern.
The erg Lehoudi is about ten kilometers from Mhamid. It was conceived naturally as a dune cord. Its forms continually change with the strong Saharan winds.
Sleep in the dunes of Chegaga
In the heart of the dunes, nomad tent camps welcome travelers who want to experience one or more nights in a bivouac. Travel agencies in Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Zagora and Mhamid will take you there in 4×4 and dromedaries.
2 DAYS FROM MARRAKECH
3 OR 4 DAYS
Erg Chegaga – From 40 €
Erg Chegaga – From 180 €
Erg Chegaga – From 30 €
Mhamid – From 10 €
Mhamid – From 22 €
Mhamid – From 25 €