Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Sep 9, 2012 5:23 AM Last Post By: khamlia
Nov 2, 2011 5:36 AM
Erg Chebbi and Erg ChigagaBecause many travelers are wondering about this two Ergs, I'll try to give here a description of both Erg Chebbi and Chigaga. Since I know better Erg Chebbi than Chigaga is even more accurate that description. Will be grateful if someone corrects or adds to the description of Chigaga. Erg Chebbi, as I said, I know well so I stand by what I have described.
Sand dunes Erg Chebbi are the highest dunes in Morocco and can be found in the south east of Morocco near the Algerian border. It's extraordinary natural formation, where the plateau with small black stones reminiscent hamada rises suddenly hot sand up to 150m, length is approximately 25km and 10km wide, but just near Merzouga where they are only 5-8 km wide.
At the foot of the dunes are a few small villages. But between Hassilabiad and Merzouga unfortunately are now many hotels, guesthouses larger or smaller, etc. Therefore, if you wish peace and no tourist, stay before or after these villages.
You can go to the dunes on a camel and sleep in a small oasis in a Bedouin tent, watch the sunrise and sunset, walk, climb up to the highest dune, etc. If you have quad or 4x4, then you can also try riding the dunes. You can also sky there. You can stay in the dunes for several days, riding on the camel from one oasis to another, learn more about life there, see desert lizards, etc. Since the dunes are clean without dust, have they a wonderful colour, which changes from orange to gold, red to yellow, but also grey to white when the weather is changing, and the storms.
Between the dunes Erg Chebbi and the Algerian border living nomads, who lives mainly on sheep, goats and camels, but also on to weave the cloths of camel hair for Bedouin tents, and on tourism. You can walk around the dunes (with 4x4 only), small oases, the mostly dry riverbed, where you can find fossils. On the road you will see wells and after a while you will come to M'Fis, mineral mines where mine is still working quite primitive. It is a very interesting place to visit and people who works there are happy to show how the work is done. Afterwards, the trip goes to the old abandoned French village where you can get an idea of how it was during colonisation.
Near the dunes is a really Saharan lake Dayet Sriji where comes various birds, incl. flamingo. If of course does not rain for some time, which happens more often then the water dries up and then it is just sand without water, flamingos searching water elsewhere.
Few kilometres from Taouz you can see the beautiful mountains Kfiroun where you find the old stones with engraved paintings. These you can reach by ordinary car, but if you want to go longer, you need a 4x4.
To explore the whole area of Erg Chebbi around, you need to have 4x4. Although there is a tarmac road until Taouz town for to explore the surroundings it is not enough. Some piste is passable by ordinary car, but not everywhere. It takes more days to explore the area around the dunes.
The whole area actually starts already in Rissani, the last major city of about 40km west of Erg Chebbi. Rissani itself is very interesting. From 8 to 14 century it was a separate kingdom, known as Sijilmassa, prosperous of the caravan routes. There is now a museum, very interesting market - souk, interesting in that it is not tourist souk, but for the people living there. 3 times a week is the market with sheep and donkeys. There is also a tourist route, besides about 5 thousand date palms, passing through and around hundreds of smaller Kasbah, it take about an hour to drive.
And the area ends right with Taouz town, which is about 65 km from Rissani and where is the end of asphalt roads. From there you can continue south just with off-road (it is possible to go by normal car but a little difficult anyway).
If you have 4x4 car, you can go from Rissani or Erfoud to Erg Chebbi only on the piste and enjoy all the way in the desert. The road is really beautiful and interesting. On the way you find smaller sand dunes but they are not so nice because they are dusty while Erg Chebbi is clean and beautiful. The whole area is fundamentally worth more than just one night for to sleeping in the sand dunes.
The size of the area around the sand dunes Erg Chigaga is hard to guess if you are not land surveyor. In all cases to reach the dunes from Zagora, M'Hamid and Foum Zguid and from what I heard, among other things so the distance is about the same from all those places. The entire area adjacent to the Algerian border and the Algeria is located about 70-80km from M'Hamid.
You can or to ride camels or with 4x4 car, but with a normal car you can not. Asphalt ends just in M'Hamid. You need to be careful because lots of desert tours goodwill promise you a nice camel trip from Zagora, but Erg Chigaga are a good 4-5 day away. If you're going for 1-2 nights from Zagora by camel, you will not see the sand dunes, just rocky desert, which is uncomfortable for a camel ride and not so pretty.
The simplest and best is to start in M'Hamid, both for camels and 4x4 I learned when I was there. You go through the rocky desert, occasionally over sand dunes not higher than 1m. Approx. 7 km after M'Hamid, is a small Erg called Mezouaria. Someone says that there somewhere is also high sand dunes 20km long, 200m high, Erg Ezzahar. But I have never heard and not seen, only read once in the description of one tour company so you should take it with a grain of salt sometimes and it is perhaps to attract tourists only.
There are a few oases around, it is also there a real Saharan lake Iriki, but it is dry now without the water. On the way in you can see camels, of course, gets and sheep, and if you're lucky even nomads. But unfortunately there are not now so many there. Some Germans built there a few years ago a small school for nomadic children, but it is closed now because just nomad absence and perhaps even teachers did not want to live there anymore.
By 4x4 you go about 2 hours (40km) before you get to Erg Chigaga and it is about 30-40 km long and 10-15 km wide, I was told. As we approached the dunes we went through some bushes and plants and it was like a forest, almost, I do not remember the name, but the bushes are poisonous and dangerous to the eyes in case one takes in both the plant and then the eyes.
The highest sand dune, dune Lhabidia or also known as La Gran dune, it is actually 120m high. Though many guides say that it is 300m high and a recent traveler was told that it is up to 350m high. But that does not match reality, this myth begins on Erg Chigaga and ends with perhaps 200m high sand dunes of Erg Ezzahar. Another traveler who does not listen to guides, but have their own opinion, he says of Erg Chigaga: I have affectionately renamed Erg Chigaga to the "Disney Dunes".
There are only campsites, no hotels, they are either only in M'Hamid or Zagora or Foum Zguid.
Somewhere near Zagora are also some old paintings of the mountain, but I had only heard, not saw.
Nov 2, 2011 6:19 AM
Nov 2, 2011 8:00 AM
Nov 2, 2011 10:22 AM
Nov 2, 2011 1:21 PM
Nov 2, 2011 1:52 PM
Nov 2, 2011 3:17 PM
Nov 5, 2011 9:11 PM
7Thanks for the info about Chebbi and Chigaga. We are planning to take our 22 month toddler to a 2 night desert stay from Ouarzazate. Based on your experience, let me know your opinion about traveling with a toddler. I understand it is our personal preference but just trying to get an idea if the trip makes sense or know.
Thanks a lot in advance!
Nov 6, 2011 2:36 AM
Nov 6, 2011 6:55 AM
Nov 18, 2011 3:04 AM
10For to see both Ergs a little you can look here:
Aug 30, 2012 5:27 AM
11Thanks, Khamlia. This is really helpful.
We are planning a trip to see the desert. We were told that in Erg Chebbi, there are many Auberge built right in the desert, trying to attract guests, so, from the highest dune, which is about 150m, you have a great view of the hotels! You can hardly get the solitude, the remoteness, the vast expanse of sand, the open night skies with no ambient light ... From Chebbi. Are these all true?
Aug 30, 2012 8:57 AM
Aug 31, 2012 2:06 AM
13Unfortunately there are many hotels, most between Merzouga and Hassilabaid (just there is this 150m high dune and I don´t know if it is great view of the hotels, I prefer a great view of the sand dunes :) ).
So as I wrote in my review of the Erg if you want to get more of the solitude, you have to stay outside this area. You can find more quiet places just 10-20 km after Rissani, you see anyway on the way many signs to hotels but they are not so tight, or you can go to village Khamlia, there it is still only one hotel (but how long, one other is on the way to be finished, uch) and it seems not so much because it is hidden near one mountain so it melts together. Even this sparse village which I like so much is a little bit away from sand dunes so there you can find your peace. I do it.
The sky at night and the stars are wonderful, beautiful, I not find right word for that. It is as thousands of stars hanging together from the sky to the earth. Can look at them the whole night and have not enough :) And the moon .... and color on the sand ... color, both at night and day
P.S. scorpions are nice to look at, they go so proudly but they scare me anyway. I heard you can not die if they bit you, but it is not nice to be bitten LOL
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