Sahara - every kid knows the name of this huge desert in Northern Africa. When I was planning on visiting Morocco, I made sure to include the Sahara on my itinerary.
Lost in the desert
My entry point into the majestic dunes of the Sahara desert was the desert town Merzouga that I reached with a night bus from the city Fez in northern Morocco. When I arrived in Merzouga, it was only 5 in the morning. Tiredly stumbling out of the bus, I was trying to find the way to the hostel that had been recommended to me, so I started walking from the bus stop into the direction that my phone pointed me to. The street lights were getting less and less and after some minutes, I found myself in the middle of the desert. There were no street lights left around me and I desperately stared at the blue position indicator on my phone that was on top of the red "hostel" pin.
So what had happened? When I am travelling, I rely on the Maps.me app on my phone for navigation which mostly has very accurate maps and information available offline. Well, mostly; Since Maps.me fetches its data from Open Street Map where anyone can contribute, there can be incorrect information. In my case, there are a hostel and a desert camp with the same name in Merzouga, but the hostel I was looking for was not on Open Street Map yet...
Lost in a desert town
Since the hostel was obviously not at the point where it should have been according to my map, I made my way back to the bus stop. It was still totally dark outside and there was nobody around, so I was happy to find one last tout left who drove me in his jeep some hundred metres to his hotel.
The next morning, the owner of the hotel was gone, so I paid and left my luggage at the restaurant next door. With the sun burning on my head and strong winds blowing Sahara sand into my face, I wandered through the village looking to find some sort of travel agency to organize an overnight trip into the nearby desert. But there was nothing there and I found myself wandering in a village, where nobody spoke much English nor Spanish and nobody showed any interest in selling me a trip to the desert. I could not believe this was supposed to be the tourist town Merzouga. To make things worse, the restaurants next to the hotel where I had stayed the night before had closed and I was unable to get to my backpack.
Time for a plot twist
After some time, I finally had the idea to make my way back to the bus stop where I had arrived the night before, and at daytime, this murky street turned out to be a busy place framed by tourist hotels, hostels, and restaurants. The hostel I had been looking for some hours before turned out to be only metres away from the bus stop and in front of the hostel I met the four Brazilian backpackers together with whom I had explored Fez two days before. They were about to leave for a two-day trip into the desert, so without asking further questions or comparing prices, I booked the same trip at the hostel and an hour later I found myself sitting on a camel looking on the majestic dunes of the Sahara desert.
If you were wondering what happened to my locked up luggage: The amazing owner of the hostel had managed to call the owner of the restaurant to get my backpack back.
Colours of the desert
We were a group of 15 backpackers on camels which turned out to be really great since they were all amazing people. After some time, we got to the oasis where we were going to spend the night. We were all happy to have the bumpy ride coming to an end, but it turned out, that the hardest part of the trip was still ahead of us: Climbing the huge sand dune to watch the sunset. If you have ever tried to walk up a sand dune you will know what I am talking about; The sand makes it really hard to get up and the strong winds were not improving the situation. However, the view from the top totally made up for that and watching the colours of the majestic dunes slowly change during golden hour was one of the most amazing sunsets I have seen on my travels.
We spent a really fun evening around the campfire and got up early the next morning to watch the sunrise over the dunes. After that, half of the group left, but I had booked a second night in the desert, so me and the rest of the group made our way into the black desert, which turned out to be way less beautiful than the sand dunes. We visited some local nomads and had lunch before we left for another oasis in the afternoon. The whole day was really relaxed, and as much as I had loved the company of the big group the day before, I was happy to be able to take some steps away from the group and enjoy the vast wideness of the desert by myself. We had another fun evening playing cards and sitting around the campfire and the next morning, we got back to Merzouga and I spent the day in the hostel which turned out to be a really amazing place. I really enjoyed my touristy trip to the Sahara and am now off to explore the sourroundings of Tinghir.
The camera I used to capture this photo is a Nikon D5500 (APS-C) with a Nikon 10-20mm F4,5–5,6 and a Nikon 18-140mm F3.5-5.6 lens; some photos are captured with my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S8).