Visit Date: May 4, 2015
After the canyon drive, we will head to Merzouga in the desert.
Todra Valley” drive before Merzouga.
The southern area of the Atlas Mountains is basically a very hot place because it is close to the desert area, but it is located at the entrance to the Todra Valley and is probably a little higher in altitude, so it was very cool last night. So I was able to sleep without a problem though the hotel did not have air conditioning.
Breakfast that day was served outside on the terrace.
And check out. This day, we took a short drive through the “Todra Valley” just ahead, and then headed for the Sahara Desert city of Merzouga. 10 minutes to the north, and the scenery opened up like this.
By the way, this canyon is famous for rock climbers. Some tourists were already climbing in the morning under the guidance of a local instructor. There was a Japanese woman, too.
We want to drive quickly. We’re going to go a little further in. Compared to the Dades Valley where we went yesterday, we didn’t feel like driving along the side of the cliffs as much as the Dades, but the color of the rocks was more vivid here in Todra, and the road was a little better maintained. I guess it is because there are more tourists in the valley here.
However, like the Dades, this canyon was not well maintained after a while, so we decided to turn back at the right time.
The Merzouga Goes for it!
After less than an hour’s drive through the Dola Valley, we return to Tinjil and head further east on the familiar N10. On the way, we took the R702 to the town of Erfoud, and from there we took the N13 to Merzouga. On the way, we had to stop at the town of Tinjil due to stomach problems, but the drive was generally smooth. As we headed toward Merzouga, the scenery on the right side of the road, to the south, became even more desolate. The desert must be just around the corner.
We arrived safely at Erfoud, a transit town, and took the N13 southward. We made a slight misunderstanding in the town of Rissani and took a wrong turn, but we realized our mistake on the way and were able to rejoin the N13.
By the way, the N13 road was built about 10 years ago. Until then, there were no properly paved roads, so tourists used to take 4WDs from Erfoud to Merzouga and then head for the Sahara Desert. After the construction of the N13, many accommodations and Sahara Desert tour destinations were established in Merzouga and the neighboring town of Hassilabied.
The hotel we will be staying at today is in Hasilabit. We are taking a hotel, but we are planning to stay in a tent in the Sahara Desert for an optional fee. We also booked this place on Airbnb. I had already sent an email the night before with an approximate time of arrival, and on the day of my arrival, I received a reply from the person who said that he would be waiting for me at the central square of Hassilabied by turning left at the road before the Afriquia gas station. I was informed that he would be waiting for me at the central square of Hassilabied, so I decided to head there.
As we came to the outskirts of Rissani, more and more desert-like scenery spread out in front of us. There are no buildings at all anymore, just a straight road that goes on and on.
And after about 20 minutes, I saw it, a gas station called Afliquia. But there is no road in front of it?
But if you look closely, you can see the ruts of a car. I decided to go there anyway. It seemed to be a road there (laugh). And after about 5 minutes, we went to the square designated as the meeting place. I opened the window and looked around, but I couldn’t find anyone who looked like a host right away. In the meantime, I was approached by a few touts, but I’m used to them by now, so I tell them clearly that I have a reservation and turn them away.
While I was doing this, a person who seemed to be my host finally arrived. He knew my name, and I told him my host’s name too, and apparently this person turned out to be my real host. I told him that I would leave Tinjil at 11:00 and arrive at Lissani around 13:00, but he wandered around Lissani and delayed my arrival for another hour, so he made me wait for a long time in the heat. I am sorry….
Our host’s name is Hassan, and he led us first to his hotel in Hasilabit.
First of all, we were guided to the lobby and welcomed with mint tea. This is already a standard welcome ceremony. The mint tea here is made by pouring a lot of mint leaves into unfermented Chinese tea, and then adding a lot of sugar sticks. Pouring it from a high place and making it frothy is also a unique custom.
He asked me if I wanted to stay here tonight or in a tent in the desert, and I told him I wanted to stay in the desert. Then he told me that it was hot and we would leave in the evening, so I should relax here until then.
We were also told that we could use the hotel room even if we didn’t stay there today, so if we wanted to take a shower, we were free to do so. I was also told that I could use the shower in this room after I came back from the tent tomorrow, which was very helpful. Here is the entrance to the room.
So I took a shower first, and waited for the evening while cooling down in the hotel lobby. In the meantime, we talked with the hotel manager, Hassan, and his brother (apparently). Hassan used to work in a hotel in the city, but after working there for a few years, he came back to this area and started to run this hotel and desert tours. That was three years ago, I heard. So to say, it was an entrepreneurial venture. After all, the opening of the N13 highway must have had a big impact on the number of tourists who came to visit the area.
He showed me his Facebook page and TripAdvisor page and explained how many Japanese, Koreans, and other oriental people have visited this hotel in Hassan. Apparently, he is involved in a wide range of online services related to travel. I contacted him through Airbnb, but he told me that most of his bookings come from TripAdvisor. I think it might be easier to advertise on the Internet in an emerging country like Morocco, where there are no existing ties.
While we were talking about it, it was evening before we knew it. Then, a camel appeared out of nowhere. After arranging our gear and luggage for an overnight stay in the desert, we climbed onto the camels. Actually, it was my first time to ride a camel. When I stood up, I was a little surprised because it went to the top at once more than I thought, but it seems to be no problem if you get used to it.
The width of the railing was a bit small, making it difficult to support myself with my hands, but I didn’t feel any pain in my hips, which was often pointed out. Then we left the city of Hasilabit and slowly headed towards the desert. (continued)