Our destination today is a place called Zmila, which is a mother dune, in the form of a camel hump, that holds its baby dunes under the shade of the huge rocky hills next to the mountains east of M’hamid.
This place is magical, especially when you witness the desert from the top and you catch the sunset from one of the surrounding hills.
You will depart around 8:00 from your camp together with the camels like one unified nomadic caravan crossing the hamada (the landscape of large, barren, rocky plateau.) Suddenly you will notice in the distance the illusion of a wall in the middle of a plateau of earth. The image of the wall in the middle of nowhere will raise hundreds of questions on your mind about what is going on there but by the time you reach it you will notice that it is a marabout, a holy shrine of an ancient desert tribal institution that is respected by nomads at large.
I am Nomad, your storyteller, and I will tell you the 3-part story about the man, starting as a small child lost in the Sahara Desert to becoming a great master who gave birth to eight children. Each child gets to institutionalise tribes on different lands in the Sahara including Mali, Algeria and Mauritania.
After visiting the shrine and enjoying the amazing stories of Sidi Naji, we will turn into the east toward Zmila, and now the hiking will take a strictly direct route with a break in the middle. The way to Zmila is full of tamarisk trees, dunes and nbak which are old tamarisk trees that wear a shoe of sand due to the tangle of their fallen twigs. While you are walking, you will have the chance to collect memories in fossils that are buried in the dunes all over the route to Zmila.
After hiking long distances on soft land, our Walking with Nomads camp will finally reach Zmila and your magical picnic lunch on a traditional carpet under the shade of a tamarisk tree next to the dune.
Once you have rested, your walk will continue, but this time on top of the hills to enjoy the Saharan landscapes from the top and also trace the lost artefacts of elder nomads who lived in this area hundreds of years ago. The graveyard made by rocks and the dilapidated Kasbah of Oulad Zbiir are your destination after trekking through the rocky blue hills.
The fallen kasbah represents a small castle on top of the hill built 300 years ago but has been neglected due to the disappearance of the tribe that once lived inside it. The tour to this kasbah will be combined with many lessons on the history of the tribe and its system of dominating the Draa Valley.
Later on, and after enjoying your trip from the top you will walk again down the hills to enjoy nomads’ stories and spiritual music.
Today, the trekking is for longer than the first day and we expect to catch the sunset on the top of the father dune, Erg Zahar. The local name for this dune is “The Screaming Dune.” It is located south of Zmila and southeast of M’hamid and it is a totally remote place. Both the shape and the colour of the dune are reasonable reasons to have a night here.
It is the most admired dune by those who are looking for a sense of romanticism. The furthest dune of Zahar has a breath-taking view especially when you find yourself on top of its highest point.
On the way to reach Erg Zahar you will find yourself walking in the middle of a lush valley full of desert plants and trees whilst enjoying the view of the blue desert mountains to your east and a series of dunes to your west. While you are hiking inside this valley you will get the chance to see many desert birds in the valley fields and probably wild camels in their natural home.
After a long straight walk on desert scrub your eyes will be in searching for something new and here it comes – the Marabout of Sidi Omar and its ancient architecture is there for you. The shrine itself in buried inside the dunes which make it more special.
After having a peaceful break in the shade of the Sidi Omar shrine and enjoying some tea and snacks, we will cross the undulating dunes of Zahar and walk together with the camels up and down on the back of the teenager dunes from the middle to reach the highest point of Erg Zahar.
Unique dunes with dramatically different shapes will be in front of you to hike in order to reach the other side, but what is not expected is how you will feel after you see the surrounding dunes from the top of the furthest dune Zahar.
Today the destination is the famous Erg Chegaga, the highest sand dune in Morocco. It is 60km from M’Hamid and therefore in our second day we will take one of the longest walks a trekker can ever have in the planet of desert, which is to trek for the first half day at Erg Smar region and have lunch there and later at the middle of the day start hiking toward the valley next to Chegaga where we will set camp.
But the way to get there from Erg Zahar, cannot be done in the blink of an eye. It is more a challenge of patience and endurance as we walk within very open terrain before meeting the great dunes of Erg Chegaga.
We start our hiking today by saying goodbye to the father dune, Zahar and walk together with the camels upon a plateau toward Draa Valley, the longest valley in Morocco and an ideal provider of water to M’Hamid Sahara.
The route is totally mysterious as you never know what to expect to see starting from the Draa Valley that holds much life on its banks including a forest of tamarisk and plants passing by the farming land on its western side by Erg Smar.
After enjoying lunch at Erg Smar, our caravan will depart again to the far away dune of Erg Chegaga. The journey to Erg Chegaga dunes will be such a lovely dream because you are far away from everything there. After the first few hours of walking towards the great dunes of Erg Chegaga, the first huge dune you will notice is Laabidliya. The name of this dune means “the slave”.
Your camp tonight will be in the quiet valley next to the dunes away from the tourists which like to gather at the highest point.
We will wake just after sunrise and after a nourishing breakfast, we will load up the camels and set off across a variety of colourful rocky terrain, leaving behind us the great sand sea of Erg Chegaga.
Lunch will be at one of the most beautiful valleys in M’hamid Desert, which is the Thirsty Valley, a deep sandy valley in the middle of rocky plains. The valley combines big tamarisk trees and sand, in addition to various different type of plants. This is a paradise in the middle of the Sahara.
The Thirsty Valley setting is a melodic desert view that takes the form of a deep, sandy, lush trench It is extremely full of big old tamarisk trees conquered by dunes. When you hike up to the rocky surface, the view is panoramic and you will witness the charm of the desert,.
The rest of today’s trekking will be done on earth hills and rocky plains. The view after crossing this terrain will be more prolific as you first spot the remote dunes of Bougarn. The name of these dunes means “the horn” and you will see that they actually look like a horn when you stare at them from a distance.
At the end of the day we will set camp next to this dune with a romantic setting of the pure white dunes above you and the Thirsty Valley beauty behind you.
Bougarn to lbour
After breakfast, camp is stuck. Today’s trek will take its way through a burial land that was once the provider nomads agricultural systems. This is a land that desert tribes have separated based on a systematic dividing whereabouts each tribe dominates its own valley and practices farming inside it.
Lunch will take place just before the Camel Feet region and then after enjoying the shade, another journey starts towards Lbour. Don’t be surprised here to find many camel herds in their natural home.
Overnight camp will take place at Lbour , next to nomads and their camels.
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