The Erg Chebbi desert is one of the top tourist attractions in the whole of Morocco, and although we generally avoid the tourist zones, we don’t want to miss out on this famous pile of sand. Luckily, most visitors flock to Merzouga, so we decide to give that little town a miss and instead try and find a quiet spot on the northern side of Erg Chebbi. We are on a piece of land, far away from any hotels or houses, just us and the sand dunes and a couple of other quiet campers, who we invite for a shared meal the first evening.
We’re up early the next morning, out to catch the sunrise and the changes of light on the sand. I am bowled over by the beauty of it all, the interplay of wind, sand, light and shadow that creates such beautiful images.
Later in the day, we meet Naji who takes us on camels to a little camp in the dunes where we stay the night, to experience the famous star-studded sky and the silence. On our way back out, we hook up with a French family who have stayed in a separate camp only a few hundred yards away from us, but hidden by the rolling dunes. Their father, Moroccan by birth, left for France as a young adult. Now he’s here, taking his wife and three children, none of whom speak Arabic, on a romantic trip into the desert. So why haven’t the children learnt their father tongue? The wife and children claim that the father didn’t want to speak Arabic with them. I wonder what is behind this… maybe the pain of moving from here where, as a young adult, he saw no prospects. Maybe he moved to Europe hoping that this would solve all his problems, only to be faced with a whole other set of problems. We talk to him about the emotional toll of leaving his family behind in Morocco when he came to France. Family here means a whole different thing than it does in Europe. It was hard being on my own, I worked and studied, I made my home there and created my own family but moving to Europe came at a price.
I wonder if speaking Arabic to his children early on would have opened too many painful memories. But maybe now the time is right for them to explore this part of their culture and have their father support them in it.
Back to the desert. I have fallen in love. There is not much to say, you have to go and experience it yourself. We will leave you with a whole lot of pictures that say (or should I say sing/dance?) more than words could do. They were mostly taken in the mornings, when the rising sun best illuminates the incredible, naturally sculpted landscape – light-shadow on wind-sand. Enjoy!
Click here to see the first lot of our desert photos
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