Just deserts or just a desert*? The road to Merzouga, Morocco.

After leaving our hotel with the fantastic view mentioned earlier we made our way further into the Dades Valley and started to climb.  And climb.  And climb.  By the time we made it to the top, we were greeted with another Top Gear-esque mountain road that would make even the the most seasoned driver / maniac’s palms go clammy.

The French built this road around 1934. I think that the construction was directly related to a desire to rally race through gorge. 🙂

After driving through a series of switchbacks covered in burnt rubber one surely will have worked up an appetite, right?  They’ve got you covered.

Our driver said this place isn’t worth the trouble – something about the sheets having a paltry thread count and the marble floors being a tad too chilly in the morning. Just kidding. This place looks awesome.

This hotel / restaurant is directly over the vantage where the last photograph was made.  The view is incredible and induces vertigo immediately.

After making our way back through the Dades Valley, we high-tailed it to the desert with a quick stop in Arfoud, the last town before Merzouga.  Arfoud is interesting – the entire local economy appears to be dedicated to the excavation, processing and sale of fossils.  When V and I finally outfit the house of our dreams we will surely return for a “calamari” fossil shower floor and we know just where to buy it.

Oh yeah.  Arfoud was over 55 degrees Celsius (about 131 degrees Fahrenheit) while we passed through.  Merzouga was even hotter.

We passed through Arfoud and made our way into the desert.  While driving into the desert the landscape changed from scrub and dust to rock and dry dirt and finally to sand.  We passed by an unlucky donkey that was separated from his pack and was long gone before we came upon him.

And the vultures had eaten his face off.
Welcome to Merzouga.

We continued onwards and caught glimpses of towering dunes after about an hour of driving straight through the desert.  Random hotel signs – complete with GPS coordinates, as we were well past the end of all of the roads – advertised pools and cold drinks.  We pressed on.

After driving for an hour through the desert we arrived at the bivouac, a small structure seemingly dropped onto the sand and surrounded by tents.  After settling in, we made our way out to the camel waiting area and I rode off – bareback and bare chested – into the sunset with the grace of the best Berber rider and…


you know what really happened.

After I shook off the sand and pulled myself together, I finally took the whole thing in.

Much more than just a desert, Merzouga and the journey there are worth all of the difficulty, heat and bad tagines along the way.  Oh yeah – these things are HUGE.  Look at how tiny the people and camels are compared to the size of the dunes.

Incredible.  The dunes – just miles away from Algeria and seemingly a million miles away from our old home in Brooklyn – are unlike anything that I have ever seen.  As a photographer I usually run to my camera to record every important event and milestone, though the dunes inspired introspection and thought more so than the desire to make photographs.  We had a fantastic meal at the bivouac and slept under shooting stars in the warm desert night.  We finally made it around the world.

Life is incredible like that.

*Postscript – yes, it is “just deserts” and not “desserts”, though a slice of chocolate cake does sound pretty good right now…

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  1. Leo Picariello

    Love to take my TT on a road rally race on that road!!

    1. I’m ready when you are!

      1. Leo Picariello

        How do I get it there? Can you arrange air cargo tranport?

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